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It Starts with a Wish: Making your Dream Home a Reality

When it comes to building a  home, careful planning is crucial in ensuring your new home meets your needs. That means approaching potential designers and/or builders with a wish-list communicating all the features you want in your new space. While dreaming up your perfect breakfast nook or loft bedroom is a fun part of this process, it’s also important to consider the less glamorous aspects of home-building: is your new home environmentally sustainable? Are you planning to stay long-term? Should you compromise on your loft to make room for a mother-in-law suite?

wish list

With all the decisions facing new home buyers, making a wish-list can feel intimidating. Here’s some suggestions on organizing your thoughts in a way that works for you and your designer.

  • Write down everything you love about your current home. What works right now? Do you love the open layout and want to recreate something similar? Now make a list of everything you’d like to change. Maybe you need more pantry space in your kitchen, or want electrical outlets hidden in the bathroom. Figuring out what makes your current home “almost perfect” but “not-quite-dream-home” will help your designer create a space customized to you.
  • Talk to friends and neighbors who built their home at least one year ago, and ask them what they love about their new space. Was the extra bathroom worth it? What features do they wish they could add now and what “extras” turned out to be unnecessary? From layout to fixtures, it’s great to talk to people currently living in their former “wish-lists.”
  • Be realistic about your budget. You don’t have to know the exact price of every feature or exactly how much it will cost to fully finish the attic. But you should develop a general idea for what is reasonable based on your income, down payment, and the value of nearby properties. If you don’t know this information already, do your homework before meeting with a designer and builder. This is a great time to really reflect and prioritize which parts of your home deserve the “wish- list effect.” If you spend all your time in the kitchen, prioritize those wants over an in-home theater or luxury bath.

Once you’ve made your list, finding the right combination of designer and builder will help you feel confident in building a home that functions well and epitomizes the very best of your wish-list. Contact us today for help in starting the design process!


Three Steps to Understanding Shoreline Building

Building or renovating beachfront properties in Hawaii comes with a unique set of challenges and opportunities. Creating your dream home while protecting the natural beauty of the islands can be difficult, but it is also a chance to build creatively and leave a positive impact on the community. Considering building near the coastline? Here’s our go-to checklist for making the process easier and more convenient.


Step One: Know your land

  • The state of Hawaii classifies all land into four categories: urban, rural, agricultural, and conservation. In most cases, oceanside land is considered conservation property and is subject to additional regulations. Building on conservation land will almost always require a special permit, and often an additional environmental impact assessment through the state. Make sure you, your architect, and your builder are familiar with these regulations and budget both your time and finances accordingly.
  • All Hawaiian beaches are considered public property, which means your building plans will need to accommodate for beach access. Whether preserving a shoreline trail for pedestrians or maintaining a road for vehicular access, be prepared to share your ocean views with the community.

Step Two: Know the basics

Ready to design your dream home? Understanding the ground rules for building a shoreline residence will help you and your architect make the best use of your property. A few things to consider:

  • All new structures must be set back at least 40 feet from the vegetation line or cliff top.
  • Your beachside property most likely falls under dual zoning regulations: urban/residential and conservation. This means you can build a new home on the property, but cannot alter and land deemed a conservation zone, including removing view-blocking trees.
  • Renovating an older home? Older homes may be considered “legal nonconforming” structures, meaning they were built before existing regulations. But any major remodeling will require you to meet today’s standards, rendering some of your plans impossible, or outside the original scope of your budget.

Step Three: Know the exceptions

  • Shoreline erosion and conservation is an increasing priority on the islands, and Hawaii is currently creating an Integrated Shoreline Policy to establish common standards in beach conservation. Some of these regulations make building exceptions for new home construction. For instance, while most regulations prohibit seawalls or other shoreline hardening structures, homeowners can construct a seawall once the shoreline reaches within 20 feet of the home.
  • Private erosion-protection structures can also be built if they improve the aesthetics or efficiency of existing structures and do not interfere with public access or existing recreational activities along the shoreline.

Modern Retro: A guide to modern island architecture with roots in Hawaiian history

We’ve talked about the history of Hawaiian architecture before — focusing on traditional designs that offer a sense of timeless elegance to new builds. But if you’re looking more a more adventurous aesthetic, the latest trends in residential architecture incorporate modern styles while paying homage to mid-century modern design. Featuring different materials, clean lines, and lots of light, it might be time to find an architect who specializes in making your home a contemporary work of art.

This trend might work for you if you like…

  • Non-traditional building materials. Expansive glass walls and windows reinforced by steel and concrete are quickly replacing plantation-style homes with exposed wood and craftsman-style detailing. Used correctly, these materials are often more affordable and practical. More importantly, the emphasis on natural light and open space allows home-owners to truly appreciate the Hawaiian landscape. Led by famed Hawaiian architect Vladimir Ossipoff, modern architecture is quickly becoming the standard in residential construction.


  • Modern aesthetics with a connection to Hawaii’s past. This isn’t the first time Hawaiians embraced modern/minimalist building trends. Reimagining the midcentury modern architecture of the 1950’s and 60’s reminds us of key landmarks on the islands, from the Hawaii State Capitol building with its clean lines to the Hilton Resort’s Rainbow Tower at Waikiki Beach. With modern architecture expanding beyond commercial buildings and into residential design, you don’t need to be building a skyscraper or government building to appreciate midcentury modern’s clean-lines and functionality.

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  • Modern aesthetics with a connection to Hawaii’s past. This isn’t the first time Hawaiians embraced modern/minimalist building trends. Reimagining the midcentury modern architecture of the 1950’s and 60’s reminds us of key landmarks on the islands, from the Hawaii State Capitol building with its clean lines to the Hilton Resort’s Rainbow Tower at Waikiki Beach. With modern architecture expanding beyond commercial buildings and into residential design, you don’t need to be building a skyscraper or government building to appreciate midcentury modern’s clean-lines and functionality.

Ready to find the best architect for you? Contact us today to get started!

Is Condo Living Right for You?

Whether you are considering purchasing a new- build customized to your tastes or investing in an established condo community, there are multiple factors to consider when investigating the condominium market in Hawaii.  From the benefits of a planned community to the potentially high AOAO fees, here’s what to look for in your search for a piece of island paradise.


First, be aware that most lenders in Hawaii require at least a 30% down payment, and interest rates on condos tend to be slightly higher than those for single-family homes. While some condos do qualify for FHA and USDA financing, those loans come with their own requirements, and often prohibit you from renting out your property.

Secondly, it is important to run the numbers and see how much a condo really costs. By law, every condominium development on the islands is required to maintain an AOAO (Association of Apartment Owners) or HOA (Home Owners Association.) As a condo owner, you become a member of these organizations and can help make decisions on how your complex is maintained. However, it also includes a monthly fee, which can be very expensive depending on what services your AOAO offers. Before you buy, make sure you know the monthly fees, and find out exactly what they cover. Some AOAOs only cover basic landscaping and exterior maintenance, while others include utilities and some forms of home renovation.

Another important financial detail? Make sure your condominium association is committed to maintaining healthy financial reserves in case unforeseen repairs or remodeling arise. Significant financial reserves can be crucial if the event of a storm or fire damaging your home.

With all the additional fees and significant down payment, what makes condo living the right choice for many Hawaiians? Great locations, stress-free home upkeep, and the ability to offer viable vacation rentals as a form of extra income.  Due to Hawaii’s housing shortage, new space-saving condominium builds are at an all-time high, offering potential homeowners the ability to live in luxury condos or town-homes with easy access to the beach, mountains, and shopping. And while you might not experience the privacy and quiet of a single-family home, you won’t have to worry about landscaping or home repairs either.

Finally, if you’re buying or building a condo as a second home, securing the right lender and financing allows you to rent your home short-term as vacation lodging, bringing in a secondary income to offset AOAO fees or renovation costs. Already found the perfect condo? Contact us today with help decorating, renovating, or otherwise improving your new home.

5 Surprises to Avoid when Building a New Home

Are you planning on building a new home in 2017? Minimize construction stress by preventing unwanted surprises as you work with architects, contractors, and designers in creating your dream home. Here are five things every potential home-builder should know in advance!


  • Bigger isn’t always better. A dream home doesn’t require endless square footage. In fact, unnecessary space can be a burden, not a benefit. As you consider floor plans, imagine where you and your family will be in ten years. Are extra bedrooms necessary if kids will no longer be living at home? Do you really want to be responsible for cleaning five bathrooms? With the cost of premium real estate on the islands always increasing, it’s smarter to build a well-designed home that suits your needs over a sprawling mansion you can’t maintain long-term.
  • Know the land. Especially if you’re building a beachfront property. Not all soil is suitable for building, especially sandy soil too close to a changing shoreline. Before you purchase the land for your new home, make sure to have the lot professionally inspected by a builder or a professional surveyor to ensure that the soil can support the foundation of your future home. Once the land is approved for building, work with your architect to design a home compatible with the surrounding environment- your home may need an elevated foundation or a lower roof-line in order to maintain the  structural integrity of your new home.
  • Avoid surprise installation costs. Building a hidden getaway far from the noise and stress of civilization? Solitude might increase your building budget, so plan ahead to avoid unexpected utility installation costs. If your building site doesn’t already have access to utilities like electrical lines, sewage, or natural gas, you’ll have to pay for those services to be run to your new home. Don’t ruin your budget before building begins by failing to account for additional utility costs.
  • The “best” materials aren’t always the most expensive ones. You can still build a beautiful and functional home without exclusively using high-end materials. Prioritize where you want to spend your money while cutting costs with alternatives that look and function the same as their pricey counterparts. Quartz countertops are low-maintenance, durable, and just as beautiful as more expensive marble.  Manufactured wood or vinyl flooring saves money and doesn’t warp in humidity. Save the high-end materials on things that truly matter to you and your design aesthetic.
  • Plan ahead. Work with a designer to make design choices in advance, so you don’t stall construction with mid-build decision making anxiety regarding bathroom tiles. Planning and deciding on aesthetic details in advance saves you time and money, and will help you and the builder stay on budget. It may be overwhelming to try and coordinate cohesive design choices before building even starts, but you’ll make better choices when working with your own schedule instead of the contractor’s time-frame.

Ready to find the designers, architects, and contractors for your new home? Contact us today and we’ll help match you with the perfect team.  You can also get started with our r, an easy tool for determining the budget for any upcoming construction project.

Building the Perfect Master Bath

Master Bath Hawaii

Creating a spa-like master bath is a great way to add value to your home, while simultaneously offering you a luxurious and inviting sanctuary from the busy world. At Home Planning Hawaii, we can help you find the right architect or designer to take your bathroom from standard to spa. Our free instant estimator uses an interactive format to help you determine a budget guideline, while matching you with the best professionals for your renovations.

Some things to consider when bringing the spa home:

  • Invest in features that offer the most relaxation based on your lifestyle. Coming home from a long day sitting at your desk in the office? Consider selecting an up-scale shower head with massage features and water-pressure control. Sore after a long run? Let our designers help customize your bath with deep-set tubs ideal for soaking.
  • Balance warm and cool elements for a clean but natural ambiance. Too much stainless steel and hard stone can make a bathroom feel cold and antiseptic. Balance glamorous marbles and shiny fixtures with warmer paint colors, or soft accessories like bath towels and floor mats. If you are planning a major bathroom remodel, consider adding heated floors to your bathroom-your toes will thank you on cooler mornings. Our construction management team can connect you with knowledgeable contractors with expertise in remodeling spaces effectively and affordably.

Master Bath Hawaii

  • Add his-and-her style amenities to make your bathroom not only spa-worthy, but efficient. Double vanities and extra storage space ensures your bathroom always feels neat and orderly, no matter who might be sharing your space. To balance out the occasionally utilitarian feel of a double-sink, add unexpected touches of glamour, such as chandelier lighting or colorful artwork. If your space allows it, consider separating bath and shower areas from the rest of the space in order to make your bath feel more like a high-end retreat.
  • Even the most high-end home bathroom can’t be a spa all day. To help your space transition from a place where you get ready for work in the morning to place designed to help you unwind and relax, install customized lighting that can be dimmed or brightened according to your needs. Dim romantic lighting can help set the tone when relaxing in a warm bath, while bright light helps you look your best when preparing for the day. Sconces, candles, and multiple lighting accessories can keep your bathroom looking beautiful and inviting while remaining functional.

Looking for more inspiration? Check out our Pinterest page for more color and design ideas!

And of course, if you are looking for some free, instant information for renovation or contractors, use our Free Instant Estimator!


When to Remodel and When to Build: Making the Best Choice for You


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If you’re trying to decide between remodeling your home or building new, Home Planning Honolulu can provide helpful free estimates for any project. More importantly, we’ll help connect you with an architect capable of transforming your existing home or creating a dream house from the ground up. In the meantime, here’s some useful pros and cons to consider from both sides of the remodel-or-buy debate.

When to Remodel

Property on the islands is a limited resource. If you absolutely love your current location, updating your home to meet your needs might be easier than finding an available building site-especially when working with limited parameters.

It’s also important to remember that in established neighborhoods, constructing a new home will most likely entail removing a previously existing structure, adding additional demolition costs to your budget. With a variety of options available for home remodels and updates, it might be better to spend the money customizing your existing home exactly to your tastes.

Remodeling is also a good option if you plan to stay in your home for a long-term.  With multi-generational family living on the rise, you might be looking for more space to accommodate aging parents or other family members.  In this scenario, remodeling to expand your square footage might make the most financial sense—you’ll add value to your home that will only increase over an extended period of time.

When to Build

Building a new home is almost always faster and more convenient than extensive remodeling. If you’re open to moving to a new neighborhood or city, and don’t want to spend months living in a construction zone, a new build might be perfect for you and your family. Even better? There’s fewer opportunities for expensive surprises to occur- a constant risk when remodeling older homes with potential safety or construction issues.

If you see a new home as a relatively short-term investment in an ever-rising housing market, designing and building a new home represents a great financial opportunity. Selling a relatively new home in an upward market gives you the opportunity to sell for more than the price of construction. If you’re always on the move, building and later selling a newer home can work to your advantage.

Lastly, no matter how skilled or creative the architect, remodeling an existing home always involves compromise. You might dream of a big walk-in closet, but if it can’t work within your budget or building plans, some items on your “wish list” might not make it in a remodel. Building a new home is a guarantee that your dream home becomes a reality.

Contact us today for a free estimate, and to find the architect that’s right for you!

Three Ideas to Discuss with Your Architect

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Building an environmentally sustainable home doesn’t necessarily require the latest technology or expensive equipment. By incorporating earth-friendly design elements into your initial building plans, your architect and contractor can work together to build a home both aesthetically pleasing and environmentally conscious. Talk to your architect about passive design strategies and elements in the home that use existing energy resources to keep homes comfortable and efficient.

Here are three ideas to discuss with your architect:

  • Design for Movement

Homes in tropical and humid climates need to maintain lots of airflow to keep the home cool without relying solely on expensive air conditioning systems. Consider using lightweight building materials like timber and steel—neither material “traps” heat inside the home like brick or stone. Combined with high ceilings and ventilated roofs, good airflow throughout the home reduces unwanted heat naturally and efficiently

Additionally, each room should have at least two openings on at least two different walls to create breeze pathways throughout the home. Longer floorplans with lots of exposed wall space for windows and doors provide maximum air movement, reducing the need for the manufactured energy.

  • Create Light

In addition to providing air flow throughout the home, rooms with lots of windows and open spaces allow for natural light to fulfill most daytime lighting needs. Solar shading or window treatments that manage the way light travels through your home ensures your home utilizes natural light effectively. Motorized window shades can be used to block direct noonday light and adjusted to allow softer morning and evening light to naturally illuminate interior spaces.

Make sure your windows can be left open in rainy weather whenever possible. Awning windows and window casings make windows multi-purpose design elements—letting light in during sunny weather and keeping the house cool when left open.

  • Ideal Orientation

How your home is oriented, both externally and internally, plays a key role in maintaining energy efficiency. Homes should be positioned to catch summer breezes during warmer months, with lots of windows available to circulate air inside. If possible, second story windows should be shaded by tree canopies, so cooler air is drawn into the house. Eastern and western walls should be designed to deflect heat-painted in lighter colors and placed away from flat concrete surfaces like driveways and sidewalks which trap and reflect heat back onto the home.

Inside the home, kitchens and living spaces should face north-east to get the most of the bright winter sun during cool months. Bigger windows and avoiding closed-off spaces will not only create an aesthetically pleasing design but an energy efficient one as well.

Solar Energy in Your Hawaii Home

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Building your ideal home should include long-term plans that go beyond designing a perfect kitchen or luxury bath. In working with your architect and contractor, make sure to invest in sustainable building choices that not only save you money but help keep Hawaii beautiful for generations to come.

Solar Panels and Green Design for Hawaii Homes

Solar panels represent the latest in green home design, and there are several was you can incorporate the newest technological advances into your architectural plans. Hawaii’s clear skies and endless sunshine make it easy to find the solar energy solution within your budget.

As you design your home, remember that traditional rooftop panels aren’t the only way to incorporate renewable energy. Solar coated windows use miniature cell structures to generate electricity when spread along a flat surface. Your windows remain transparent while generating enough energy to operate most indoor lighting systems.

Hawaii Homes and Solar Panel Aesthetics

Considering solar, but worried about the aesthetics? Ultra-thin solar panels are the latest way to incorporate solar energy without sacrificing design.  To create these unorthodox panels, photovoltaic (PV) film is layered between glass, allowing the PV modules to absorb significantly more solar energy and produce more usable electricity than ever before.

Lastly, micro-inverters are replacing bulky and inefficient large-scale inverters to increase the amount of usable energy produced while streamlining costs. While production companies are still field-testing micro-inverters, it’s worth discussing with your contractor as a future option for your home.

Not only are solar panels environmentally friendly, incentives from both state and federal government mean solar panel systems are both practical and affordable. If you work carefully with your contractor to secure all necessary permits and carefully plan your new home design, your future electricity needs may not rely on public energy. Contact us today for any building construction or architectural needs.



Building a new home? Tips for the Perfect Contract

Hawaii Construction Contract

Building a home is exciting, and we know that after months of construction new homeowners can’t wait to settle in and live in the home created especially for them.  However, it’s important to plan and make sure your dream house stays beautiful and safe. Here’s how to plan for a successful happily-ever-after in your new home.

  • When it comes to home construction, the devil is in the details. The more information you provide your contractor, the easier it is to ensure positive outcomes. Provide your contractor with a list of manufacturer names and styles for fixtures and finishings, as well as any other design elements that will be installed in your home. This list should also include plans and specifications of work so that your builders understand the scope of work required.
  • Good homes need good contracts. Review the contract with your builder carefully, and make sure to include contingency plans for any post-construction problems. Include the right to submit a detailed “punch list” with accompanying timeline after construction is completed. This list includes any unfinished or unsatisfactory work the contractor must resolve before final payment occurs.
  • Give yourself the gift of time. Building contracts should include a guarantee that your home will remain structurally sound for at least a year. If problems do arise, like a leaky roof or flooded basement, your builder/seller should provide and pay for a service warranty to fix these problems.

Preparation goes a long way in working with contractors and builders on your home. By including these elements in your contract, you reduce the risk of breached warranties, long-term structural damage, and costly legal problems.

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