Home Improvement: Restoring a Historic Plantation Style Home in Kilauea, Kauai
Buying a fixer upper can be a daunting project, but with a vision, some patience, and a little research, it can be a very creative and worthwhile investment. Here’s our story:
Finding a Kauai Home to Renovate
We were looking for a home. I was 4 months pregnant, ready to nest, and our little studio was busting at the seams. I really wanted to stay deep country in Ha’ena, but things were not looking favorable. My husband and I were hoping to find a long term living situation where he could do home improvements, and I could do my interior design thing, but we were not yet financially in a position to purchase our own home, and finding a rental was proving difficult.
This little rascal was going to arrive soon!
Meanwhile, a couple from Seattle had recently returned home after a quick trip to Kauai. This trip had resulted in a somewhat spontaneous purchase…a simple, 3 bedroom, plantation style home in Kilauea. It was a classic, single wall, old Hawaiian home that had gone into foreclosure and needed a ton of TLC. However, upon returning to the mainland, they began feeling small kine buyer’s remorse about managing this fixer upper project from far away. Had they just made a huge mistake?
The subject house, waiting for a makeover
Back on the rock, (aka Kauai), we decided to branch out our rental search and posted a very detailed Craigslist ad about our ideal situation. Simultaneously, in the Pacific Northwest, the new homeowner was at a local coffee shop with her sister, discussing her recent Kauai home purchase.
She lamented over her situation, wondering how she would ever find the right tenants, who would be able to renovate it, rent it, and keep it nice. Her sister pulled out her iPhone and said “let’s check Craigslist.” It was a serendipitous moment. She contacted us, we met, and here we are, 2+ happy years later…
Factors of Remodeling a Single Wall Kauai Home
The house was built in the 40’s, a humble, single wall, 800 sq. ft home originally designed to accommodate plantation farm workers. My husband happens to specialize in this type of remodel, and had just spent 3 years working on a ranch on the Kohala Coast restoring several homes of this same era and style.
He loves working on these older ranch homes, trying to restore as much as possible to the original, rustic charm, yet adding urban upgrades throughout, resulting in a mixture of old and new. This is exactly what the homeowners had envisioned.
The bones of house were actually quite solid, despite years of termite damage. The beauty of single wall construction is that there are no “hidden spaces” between the interior and exterior walls (hence the name “single wall”). This not only discourages rats and other pests from nesting in the walls, but makes the plumbing and electrical much more accessible.
For example, it became much easier to cut a large opening in the living room wall to create a huge window where a tiny one existed, without worrying about cutting any wires or pipes. This allowed much more light to penetrate an otherwise very dark room.
Living room (Before)
Living room (During) – Opened wall for larger window, floors sanded
Living room (After) – Finished built-in, floors, and paint
Kitchen Renovations – Increasing Counter & Storage Space
The kitchen lacked counter space and storage. My husband installed a butcher block counter space with cabinets below, salvaging some of the wall cut outs from the living room to fill in part of the kitchen wall to match the original style. He also put in a simple, yet functional pantry between 2 existing windows that matched the cabinets. Finally, new tile, paint, and appliances created a polished, clean, country look.
Kitchen (After) – New tile, paint, butcher block, appliances, and cabinet lighting)
New kitchen pantry
Floor Renovations – Restoring the Original Hardwood Floors
The floors were original, and the age and damage was very apparent! They were used and abused, and the dark stain finish only exacerbated the problem of the living room feeling small, dark, and dingy. But we could see the potential and opted to refinish rather than replace them.
Original floors (Before/left); Removed stain, kept the original, natural color (After/right)
The stain on the floor was sanded off completely with a stand-up, drum sander, which revealed the natural, honey-colored wood. Another unique trait to single wall construction is that the baseboards along the floor and along the ceiling are usually part of the structural integrity of the home. Because of this, all of the wall’s edges were hand-done. Blood, sweat, and tears!
Kitchen and Entrance (Before)
Kitchen and Entrance (After) – New floors and baby
Exterior Home Renovations – Adding a Lanai
Finally, we painted the exterior and added a huge lanai.
Front of house (Before)
Front of house (During)
Front of house (After) – With new lanai, paint job, and replanted trees
All in all, we love our home, and so do our landlords, the homeowners! What’s next? The bathroom…
Note to reader…it is important to do your research in this building style before ripping walls down