The view of crescent-shaped Kapalua Bay in West Maui is impressive by anyone’s account. Rocky outcrops frame an offshore coral reef. Towering coconut palms ring a stretch of white-sand beach, with azure water, covering more than 20 acres. ¶ Interior designer Kari Demond of KLM Interiors captured not only this idyllic setting but also elements of island culture for clients whose escape from reality can be measured in dramatic sunsets and sips of Cocojitos. Open to the water, this luxury penthouse of just under 3,000 square feet doesn’t fit strictly into one design style—and that’s how Demond likes it. That’s true of this home as well as the others she designs for clients at Montage Residences Kapalua Bay.
“I don’t do cookie-cutter,” explains the Austin, Texas–based designer. Instead, she creates highly personalized spaces for her clients, whether they plan to spend weeks or months at a time in residence. For this project, Demond met with Montage’s cultural ambassador, Silla Kaina, to learn the unique characteristics of the Hawaiian aesthetic and culture. “I took copious notes,” says Demond, adding that Kaina’s knowledge was essential to creating a meaningful design.
The three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath residence is the design version of an exhale. “It’s about easy living on vacation and that laid-back feeling,” says Demond. To suit the casually comfortable indoor-outdoor lifestyle, she selected forgiving performance fabrics that can withstand wet bathing suits, sandy feet, and spilled red wine. The furnishings on the lanai flow seamlessly from the inside so they don’t lose their connection to the design. Demond used Philippine-made Kenneth Cobonpue pieces that have a sculptural, organic feel.
Residents of Montage Kapalua Bay are drawn to the Maui landscape, where waterfalls and tropical forests are in good supply, as well as to the action at the resort and just offshore, be it golfing on pristine courses or snorkeling with colorful sea life. But between adventures—or trips to the spa and dinner out—owners want to come home to a space that is stylish and well appointed. Demond understands that duality of sophisticated ease, and created a soft, contemporary design with just-relax informality that stops well before slouchy.
The largely neutral palette includes natural flax, pearl gray, and a range of espresso browns with occasional shots of turquoise. Texture is a constant refrain, for contrast with smooth finishes. Chocolate rattan barstools in the kitchen temper the reddish-toned cabinetry and wide-plank flooring. “The aesthetic is not kitschy,” says Demond. “It’s very respectful of the island, with its tropical influence and timelessness.” A transom on the lanai, for example, features a graphic set in a diagonal latticed panel framed by swaying palm trees. In the kitchen, a textured, nearly 6-foot Thai chofa rests on a pedestal made of reclaimed teak plank—an example of an architectural ornament that adorns palace roofs in most Southeast Asian countries and is thought to be a protective guardian.
The decoration is nuanced. Even tropical prints are confined to bolsters and pillow shams. Still, there are dramatic moments. Demond made a grand statement in the foyer, setting off a niche with a custom handmade dimensional wallcovering made of mulberry and salago fibers. “I’m not a big wallpaper fan, but that recess needed to be set off. I wanted to make it special,” she says. A fixture by lauded designer Lindsey Adelman for the hip New York studio Roll & Hill makes for a cool, unexpected moment in the dining area. On the buffet, the mounted circular piece is actually a rai, an antique form of stone currency from Micronesia.
The logistics of furnishing an island home depend on a stable of installers and shippers who understand proper crating for delivery, she says, noting that broken items could take a year to replace. Much of her work is done long distance—through conference calls, photos, and fabric samples exchanged via FedEx.
For her part, Demond is in pursuit of only one thing. “When the homeowners walk in, their jaws drop,” she says. “It’s magical.”
By Elaine Markoutsas