You’ve never seen stairs like these

One fateful day in 2014, a Californian kitesurfer named Ed Freedman arrived in Maui at his beachfront rental home, a quarter-century estate in Paia, a bohemian crossroads on the island’s north shore. He dropped his bags and bounded the 50m or so onto the sand, a favorite launch for legendary kiters like Laird Hamilton and Robby Naish. Pressing his bare feet onto the Hawaiian mainland for the first time, the 40-year-old tech entrepreneur felt a current course through him. In the native Hawaiian language, this life force is known as mana, but the newcomer could only conjure up his kiteboarder’s slang. “I felt completely enlightened,” recalls Freedman. As if the scene was meant for island mythology, he then glimpsed a green sea turtle, or turtle, the Hawaiian symbol of good luck.

The ocean facing side of a traditional teak estate in Maui that was recently renovated by Martyn Lawrence Bullard. The rocking chairs are from Hollywood at Home and the koa wood screens are painted Decorator’s White by Benjamin Moore.

Douglas Friedmann

In 2017, after a few years of leasing, Freedman had the rare opportunity to purchase the four-acre estate from its longtime owner. But before starting the renovations, he spent a lot of time soaking up mana from a five-dollar folding beach chair in the shade of a fragrant plumeria tree on the breezy makai (oceanfront) lawn. A cooler of beer was always close at hand. Often next to him in one of those cheap seats was his friend, English-born, West Hollywood-based ELLE DECOR A-List interior designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard. And through the great Hawaiian tradition of “talk stories,” or shooting the wind, Freedman discovered the vision of his property. “Make it more luxurious, more comfortable,” said the homeowner, who moved to Maui permanently in March 2020 and regularly hosts a roster of famous neighbors for kite sessions, ping-pong tournaments and elaborate seaside dinners. table. “But don’t lose this essence.”

“Hawaii’s colors aren’t just vivid… They’re drenched.”

The property consists of three beaches hales (cottage), one of which is at least 80 years old, plus a wood-and-stone main house that is strongly rooted in Hawaii’s agricultural heritage but carries the influence of Japanese temples in its pagoda-style roof and deep, wraparound verandahs . Bullard gave the architecture some momentum by simply painting the sections white. From there, he expressed the vibrancy of the island through cheeky mashups of textures and patterns, not to mention the unabashed use of high-octane color, a well-rounded design language in which the maximalist is quite fluent. However, in this case, he deferred to the rich source material. “The colors of Hawaii aren’t just vivid,” Bullard says, pausing briefly for dramatic effect. “They are drenched. I tried to capture what was naturally there.


The living room’s custom sofa is upholstered in a Cowtan & Tout fabric, the lounge chair is upholstered in a Christopher Farr Cloth print, and the shearling coffee table and stool are by MLB Atelier. The vintage lamps are by Hollywood at Home, the pendants are by Cuff Studio, and the sisal rug is by Stark Carpet. The grassy canvas cladding of the ceiling is by Pierre Frey.

Douglas Friedmann

Paying homage to the lush greenery of the islands, a guest suite in the main house is almost entirely eclipsed by the color green, from the grass-covered walls to the oversized fronds on the upholstery. An installation of works by Rupprecht Geiger nods to the flamboyant hues of exotic flowers punctuating the verdant setting with an eye-opening flair. In contrast, the master bedroom’s neutral tableau leans against an expansive view of the big Pacific blue for color. Using striking wallpaper patterns (a profusion of leaves or powerful brushstrokes in a deep ocean hue) as backdrops for displays of traditional crafts (like feather and shell breastplates), the small toilet borders portray modern Hawaii with great impact style.

guest room

In a guest bedroom, the walls are covered in a grass cloth by Phillip Jeffries, a bed by Thomas Hayes is dressed in custom linens by Scandia Home and topped with a duvet cover in a Christopher Farr Cloth, and bed curtains they are in a Kerry Joyce fabric; the armchairs are upholstered in Paper Mills fabric, the Roger Capron cocktail table is vintage and the wet bar is customised; the carpet is by Marc Phillips and the artwork is by Rupprecht Geiger.

Douglas Friedmann

“I always want to create a sense of place,” Bullard explains. “You should know you are in Hawaii when you come to this house.”

Indeed, texture and cultural motif often intersect here: a cross-hatch design printed on the ceilings of the beach hale carries straw straw or even traditional Common (hala leaf) texture. The open-air bar is clad in bas-relief panels salvaged from an 1870s Indonesian hut: its spiral motif represents an unfurled fern frond, a symbol of new beginnings. A hand-stamped border in the living room of the main house is inspired by tribal tattoos, providing a layer of geometry to offset the hand-carved spiral staircases of local koa wood.

turrell room

The Turrell Room takes its name from its focal point, an illuminated artwork by James Turrell; the custom bench is upholstered in fabric by Thibaut, the cocktail table is by West Elm, the shearling stool is by MLB Atelier, and the rug is by Marc Phillips.

Douglas Friedmann

“You should know you are in Hawaii when you come to this house.”

Atop these sculptural flights are spaces that play with light, an abundant Hawaiian resource. Hanging above the indigo shibori-covered seating in the mezzanine lounge hangs an effervescent installation of spherical rope pendants evoking the ethereal orbs of light floating on dreamy postcards or the tiny bubbles soaring over the shimmering surface of the ocean. In a curtained meditation nook, a light piece by artist James Turrell (Turrell’s only work in the state) attempts to align the chakras through a random sequence of colors that Bullard calls “the beating heart of the house.” A source of mana for the New Age, perhaps? “Just like Hawaii,” notes Freedman, “it makes you feel something in your body.”

elle decor cover summer 2021

This story originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of ELLE DECORATE. SUBSCRIBE

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