In Honolulu, Nearly Sold-Out Waiea Saves Best for Last

Rippling side of Waiea facing the Pacific Ocean

For the second year in a row, the minute I leave town, Candy decides to throw parties in Dallas’ most expensive and storied digs.  Last month it was Deion Sanders’ Collin County mega-mansion and Walnut Place’s walk down the auction catwalk and into Mehrdad Moayedi’s hands for $36 mil.  Well I’ve had enough. This year, I fought back!  First was Sammy Hagar’s Maui retreat, then Fleetwood Mac alum John McVie’s Diamond Head estate, and now …

Welcome to Waiea where two penthouses kiss the Pacific Ocean for a combined $71 million.  It was here that we met Erik Hinshaw of Hawai’i Life Realtors to view these two staggering properties (the same Hawai’ian Life featured on HGTV).  We?  Yes, coincidentally, Dallas high-rise Queen Sharon Quist with Dave Perry-Miller Real Estate was in town poking around with a client and joined me on the tour.

Waiea contains 174 homes and was designed by 35-time award-winning firm James K. M. Cheng Architects. Move-ins began in 2017 and only a handful of residences remain. The interiors were designed by Tony Ingrao who has offices in Paris and New York and has penthoused the world with polished allure (as you’re about to see).

Sharon Quist and I. (Excuse the halos, I had to play with image to un-silhouette us)

It’s easy to remember these two units.  There’s the 11,433-square-foot Grand Penthouse 36 that’s listed for $36 million on the 36th floor and the 10,515-square-foot Grand Penthouse 35 and it’s listed for $35 million on the 35th floor … call them $3,500 per square foot.  These square footages include a couple of thousand feet of outdoor terrace spaces (each with pool).

However, more separates these units than a floor and a million.  Penthouse 36 is completely finished and move-in ready while penthouse 35 is a shell whose price includes a $2 million finish out allowance.  We spent most of our time in the finished-out Penthouse 36, wouldn’t you?

Floorplan for Grand Penthouse 36

You know what I love about these floorplans? They’re not jogging tracks.  I’ve seen a lot of whole-floor penthouses and they always seem to be a home wrapped around a central elevator bank. It creates a circular layout you can literally run laps around.  Waiea’s Grand Penthouses are different, better.  The top center grey section houses the elevators that open into the unit.  To the right are the living, dining, kitchen and bedroom areas … laid out like a real home. At the bottom edge is the master retreat while the guest rooms are blissfully away on the top edge.

The “Cabana” and pool.

The part to the left of the elevators is essentially the best pool cabana ever. Yes, you have a pool. There’s also a guest suite and a small living, dining, kitchen area with a wall of glass that just slides back for a completely indoor-outdoor experience.  I know, with a space like that you’re thinking, “Who cares about the rest of the home.”  You do …

See? I told you so.  Above is the main gallery that all the living areas open to. Sure, you could have extended each room’s walls to the glass, but that would be dumb. I mean, look at the view. In the right pane you can see Diamond Head. In front of you is Ala Moana Beach Park. The Pacific is everywhere and endless.  But I get ahead of myself.

The elevator doors open and you’re facing a glass wall overlooking the lush green of the Koʻolau Mountains. As the owners of this home, the elevators are yours to command.  When the penthouse calls, it gets an empty car every time. Turning away from the mountains to the right leads you to the first living area and your first taste of the ocean views. Let me say once (although I’m sure I’ll repeat it), the finish-out is immaculate.

In this room, we asked why the walls seem to glow.  You’ve heard of grass cloth wallpaper? Well, this is glass cloth. Tiny glass rods are embedded on wallpaper that catch the light. While that may sound blinding, it wasn’t. We were there in the height of afternoon sun and all we got was a luxurious sheen that brought the walls alive. Sure, you could probably buy a normal house with a leftover roll of the stuff, but wow, what an effect.  Of course the millwork, furnishings and everything were incredibly well-crafted, but sometimes a little thing is a big thing.

Next door is the main living room. Again, the space is made magnificent by the windows. What’s interesting about this home is that while the views are distinctly Hawai’ian, the interior spaces are completely cosmopolitan and international.  If you closed the recessed blinds, you could be in any top notch city anywhere. To personalize this space, I’d change the art and the chandelier, but everything else stays. I wonder if Lasvit’s Supernova or Ice would fit?

Continuing down the light corridor is the combined kitchen and dining room.  Trust me when I say the pictures do not do justice to the stonework in the kitchen.  Rounding the corner from the living room, I literally stopped to drink in the onyx’s coloration. I told Quist’s Ritz Dallas client that whatever countertop/backsplash she had on order for her new kitchen had to be junk by comparison (‘cause that’s how you make friends).

The backsplash is a triple book-matched set of slabs that meet at the edge of the cabinets above the cooktop.  Before we look further, this home loves its onyx. But they’re also smart about it.  Onyx is often quite busy and a whole room would be overpowering. So the designers here use it sparingly to offset stark white to dramatic effect.  What you miss is that if the photographer turned around, you’d be looking out those floor-to-ceiling windows again.

Appliances are Miele and we chatted about that. Howard Hughes vacillates between Miele and my favorite — Gaggenau — in their Hawai’ian projects.  Dallasites are big Miele fans, making me the odd duck.  Behind the kitchen is a quite large laundry room.

Past the kitchen is the master retreat. I call it a retreat because you could fit two normal master “suites” in the space.  The bedroom positions the bed to face the ocean with recessed blinds so you’re not woken up too early as you shake off whatever jet lag you have.  You’ll note that throughout the home the color palate is light. I figure it’s meant to luxuriously fade into the background to allow the views to rightfully take center stage.

Because the views are really the stage, you’re just looking in from the audience … albeit front row center. If you’ve noticed that the windows tend to undulate, you’re right. Also, the windows tip slightly outward giving you a bit of a floating sensation.

The master also has its own terrace facing the ocean.  Because the sun rises on the other side of the building, you won’t need sunglasses to enjoy the morning sun. But in the afternoon when you want to catch the rays, watch the whales or enjoy sunset, you’re there.

Remember what I said about how dramatic onyx was used as a focal point in an otherwise white space?  In the master bathroom, it’s a wall of remarkable green onyx highlighting the bathtub and shower. Shower?  Yes, that glass door you see in back of the double vanity isn’t the shower. It’s a “loo with a view” water closet. Not to worry, around the other side of the vanity is another, more private toilet.  Oh, and as long as we’re on toilets, they’re all Toto Neorest wash/dry/fluff models.

But the loo isn’t the only view here.  The bathtub is literally floating above the ocean as the sun sets on another perfect day.  You see, the master bath faces directly out to the ocean, so no one can see in without a drone.  I really like the onyx here, something Hinshaw said also appeals to the Chinese prospects who have toured the unit … it reminds them of jade.

When you’re ready to get dressed, here’s part of the master closet (it continues through that door in the back). It was here I knew this wasn’t the penthouse for me.  When I go to Hawai’i, I take shorts, T-shirts, sandals and a bathing suit.  If this were my home, the closet would always look empty, like the last day of a really good sale.

Speaking of drones, here’s a shot of the penthouses.  On the left edge is the penthouse 36 pool and cabana.  On the other side of the cabana “box” sits the penthouse 35 pool that faces directly out to the ocean.

But if your own rooftop pool isn’t enough and you want to socialize with the neighbors, there’s an amenity floor that makes Dallas’ Stoneleigh look like a poor cousin (sorry guys). The pool deck has an infinity-edge pool overlooking the ocean with a plunge pool, spa, and reserved, covered cabanas.

Semi-inside, there’s an outdoor resident’s lounge with slide-away glass walls. I bet it’s standing room only during sunset or when ships are passing by seemingly an arm’s length away.

Moving inside there’s another resident lounge that was originally part of the developer’s sales office. Residents liked it so much, they kept it. The zigzag table allows some separation with potential conviviality built-in.

In and amongst the meeting rooms, health center, outdoor children’s playground and the like is the private theater.  I don’t recall ever seeing a grand piano in the Stoneleigh’s media room … better get on that …

I asked Hinshaw who the buyer would be for this home. He said almost certainly an international buyer and almost certainly not as a primary residence. The finished 36th floor penthouse will appeal to a less DIY-focused buyer that’ll be needed for the shell 35th floor home.  In the U.S., outside of a tech billionaire, he mentioned that perhaps the owner of a sporting team might purchase it as a team amenity (because you know, athletes are so underpaid). Hear that Jerry and Mark? Maybe it’s time for Jerry’s World West or The Mav’s Nest.

Top that, Candy.


Remember: When I’m not stirring up trouble in Dallas, Texas or Honolulu, Hawaii for and, I’m off scouting interesting locations for a second home.  In 2016 and 2017, the National Association of Real Estate Editors has recognized my writing with two Bronze (2016, 2017) and two Silver (2016, 2017) awards. If you’re a Realtor with second home clients who’d like me to feature their journey, shoot me an email