Diamond Head Duo: Re-Do or Re-Done, The Choice Is Yours

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3165 Diamond Head Road (Unit C highlighted)

Back in 1982, two oceanfront thirds of an acre caught the eye of a developer who created a four-unit community behind private gates. Called Ku’u Makana it’s located in Honolulu at the foot of Diamond Head crater on the island of Oahu.  Each of the four units are identical — 3,536 square feet indoors and another 674 square feet of lanai space.

In the photo above, the demarcation of the units is obvious with the center fireplace chimneys.  No, it doesn’t get cold enough to need a fireplace and you’d likely need the air-conditioning cranked if you used it, but there you go. There are left-right and up-down units.

Currently, the two upper units are for sale – one in need of an overhaul and the other already renovated. Unlike a recent gut job I toured in Dallas, with $1.023 million separating the units, the renovation is more than priced into the deal.

Like many waterfront homes, the view from the street is understated. Walking up Diamond Head Road one can see the driveway flanked by garages at the tip of a U-shaped building. One thing for renovators to pay attention to are the pitched roof lines. Touring the units, you begin to imagine what vaulting the ceilings could bring to the party – a lot.

Thankfully, one of the units has a floorplan. Just above the address numbers is the entry where you walk into a foyer, past a library (bottom) with a pierced wall to capture ocean views before reaching the main living area. In the lower left you can see the corner fireplace and the remaining wall of windows. (I’d have an HOA meeting and see if you could get agreement to remove the fireplaces so the whole wall could be glass.)

Next to the living room (up) is that 674 square foot lanai. You can see in the lower right there’s a white, L-shaped wall that houses a small outdoor kitchen. Behind the lanai is the kitchen with a second dining room beyond. Down the long corridor are the three bedrooms and three bathrooms. The end bedroom is a self-contained suite with kitchenette. Also along the hallway is a staircase leading to the two-car garage.

Even though this floor plan was supplied by the renovated unit, being a serial renovator, I’ll offer my suggestions for the un-renovated neighbor with a mirrored floor plan.  The walls separating the bottom living area and the kitchen and second dining room would be removed. Removing the outdoor kitchen and back kitchen wall and replacing with sliding glass walls would offer tremendous, edge-to-edge views over the ocean (especially if you could ditch the fireplace). Removing the wall separating the kitchen and second dining area would allow for a huge open living/dining/kitchen space the envy of the street.  Remember the pitched roof? Raise the ceilings as far as possible.

3165 Diamond Head Road, Unit C/3

Unit C is was the developer’s personal unit and is currently listed with John Peterson with Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties for $6.975 million. Above is the unrenovated living room which is certainly a great space. The recessed ceiling gives a hint to what could be done jumping the ceiling at least 18 inches.  You can see what I mean about the fireplace – you just wish the windows continued with that in-your-face ocean view. I was in the ground floor unit a few years ago and it’s more of a green view of yard and tropical plants ending at the sea wall. The second floor is all ocean, all the time.  You can see the glass wall that leads out to the lanai.

Looking back towards the front door you can see the library (behind the twin paintings) and front door beyond. Behind the large painting on the right is the outdoor kitchen (imagine that glass) and next to it an alcove with the kitchen behind (imagine the wall gone).

The view from the lanai is as woozy as you’d expect being on the ocean. Hawaii is one of those places where indoor/outdoor living is expected. Sure, the house is air-conditioned, but you you’d only need it slightly more than the fireplace.

Behind the Lanai and next to the living room is the kitchen. See what I mean about taking these two walls out? The whole end of the kitchen would be glass out to the ocean while the other side would be a giant island facing into the living room.

Cabinetry-wise you might think you’re in a pickle when gutting the kitchen. The wood is solid Hawaiian Koa wood and frighteningly expensive. Don’t think of painting it. It’s in good shape and can be refinished, repurposed and added to as needed (the envy of your new Hawaiian friends).

The Koa cabinetry (with solid Koa countertops no less) continue in each of the bathrooms – along with all the crown moulding and baseboards. The best thing to do here in the master bath is to remove the mirrors and soffits and create a more elegant above-counter area. Oddly, the vanities are quite low by today’s standards (who knew we grew so much since the 1980s), so detach then from the wall and raise them. It would further enhance the floating vanity look so popular again today.

In this space, you’re on your own. Very few sacred cows here to preserve. The size and depth of that tub can’t be exaggerated. So strip everything out and put in the biggest tub you can find. Behind the photographer is a walk-in shower plus a toilet and bidet. Ditch the bidet and buy a Toto Neorest toilet and expand the shower to mammoth proportions. Finally, see the way that skylight tilts up? That’s the roof line – follow it and raise the roof.

Sure, I’ve mapped out an extensive remodel, but remember, it’’s $1 million less than the neighboring one. The money is there. But if you’re move-in buyers, let’s see what that looks like …

3165 Diamond Head Road, Unit D/4

Gone from Unit D are the popcorn ceilings (you’d almost pay a million for that alone, am I right?). In the photo above, the photographer is standing with their back to the fireplace looking inwards. You can see the lanai on the left and the library on the right. Those three “picture” frames are actually cutouts in the wall lined with Koa wood – the designers’ way of bringing the ocean into every room possible.

Oops, I almost forgot, this unit is being marketed by Julianna Garris and Pat Choi from Hawaii Life Real Estate for $7.998 million and was renovated within the last handful of years.

The lanai has been painted with new matching tile throughout. It’s a much brighter area and where you’ll spend a lot of time. To the right of part of the outdoor kitchen.  Oh, remember, it’s oceanfront Hawaii, no mosquitos!

Looking backwards you can appreciate the nearly 700 square feet of space – open, but under roof. For those seeking a tan, all units have access to the backyard along with a secure gated entry to the seawall that takes you to the beach.

On the other side of the lanai is the renovated kitchen. You can see that drop down soffit housing the vent is gone with a new vent recessed into the ceiling. The Koa cabinets remain but have been refreshed with all new stone countertops and a prep sink in the island.

Before you think the kitchen looks small, turn around. A ton of storage and all the latest Sub-Zero/Wolf appliances including the oversized, glass-door refrigerator. At the bottom of the island you get a peek at a warming drawer.

Heading into the master bath, the Koa survived (it’s really a thing here, regardless of mainland trends, Koa rules in Hawaii). The sinks and faucets were replaced. But it’s in the wet room that things really changed. Unfortunately there’s not a picture, but you get a taste with the new, light grey stone tile. The toilet/bidet was replaced bu a Toto Neorest toilet and the wall entering from the right is the shower. To the left is an updated bathtub (and child’s swimming pool) below the waterfall skylight.

One last view across the back of the complex. Ahhh…

I would say “decisions, decisions” but like a sledgehammer. I can really imaging having my way with the neighboring unit and really transforming the interior. But most people aren’t like me and in the price band where you’re plonking down $7-8 million on what’s likely at least a second home, you may not want the headache of a remote renovation.

When I spoke with one of the agents, she recounted how one prospect asked about the price. The reply was that down the road they’re about to start construction on new townhouse/flats that will run between $10-14 million. Given that choice, I’d rather do-up one of these in an established and quieter neighborhood. One without the look at me, me, me, flash – until you open the front door that is.


Remember: When I’m not stirring up trouble in Dallas, Texas or Honolulu, Hawaii for Candysdirt.com and SecondShelters.com, I’m off scouting interesting locations for a second home.  In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the National Association of Real Estate Editors recognized my writing with three Bronze (2016, 2017, 2018) 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 sharewithjon@candysdirt.com. Be sure to look for me on Facebook and Twitter. You won’t find me, but you’re welcome to look.