Paradise Found A North Vancouver Interior Designer’s Multi-Generational Maui Getaway

by Laura Goldstein

Flying above the frothy swells like some wild tropical bird on Maui’s North Shore, Jennifer Heffel is learning to wing foil. Standing on a hydrofoil board she holds the colourful sail to get lift out of the ocean. “It’s the most exhilarating feeling – you really feel like you’re flying,” she explains enthusiastically. 

Already accomplished surfers and windsurfers, “both my husband Robert and I have been going to Maui for 29 years now since my daughter was 18- months old,” says Heffel, co-founder and principal of North Vancouver’s HB Design. 

So when it came time to build a holiday home there she had two criteria: it must be on the North Shore, the windsurfing capital of the world close to the beach where wind and wave conditions are at their peak and the property must reflect a generational family gathering place.

“My parents had a cottage at Lake-of-the-Woods on the border of Manitoba and Ontario and I come from a family of four sisters so we all gathered there as kids and later with our own children and friends,” Heffel explains. That wonderful time of family get-togethers inspired her dream to build a home in Maui that would elicit those same fond memories and hopefully stay in the family for generations to come. 

Located in residential Spreckelsville near the quaint hippy dippy town of Paia, it was pure serendipity to have an architect as a neighbour. In 2008 it was the perfect storm of good timing, says Heffel. We purchased the property on a cul-de-sac and we hired architect, Jeffrey Lundhahl and local builders who could bring my vision to fruition in 2010. Two years later we built an adorable 400 -square-foot self -contained ohana (meaning ‘family’ in Hawaiian,) apartment on the property for my parents to stay in while visiting.” 

With trade winds gusting at times up to 50 mph the 4,000-square-foot main house (plus 600-square-foot lanai) is specifically designed in a U-shape around the swimming pool and courtyard to block the wind and any whirling sand. 

The down-to-earth designer envisioned a laid-back traditional “plantation style” home that originated in the early 1900’s as pineapple and sugarcane Hawaiian homesteads. They are characterized by wide roofs, beamed ceilings, white-washed interiors and languidly spinning ceiling fans that blend seamlessly with the Maui landscape. “I wanted the house’s interior to feel like a beachy, plantation home that feels comfortable with just my small family of three or sixteen people visiting,” she explains. “That meant that I chose light floors so if someone came in with sand on their feet, who cares – you wouldn’t notice. Most of the furniture is slipcovered. In fact, I used a lot of beautiful indoor-outdoor fabrics so if someone spilled a drink or sat down in a wet bathing suit, no problem.”

Entering the Heffel’s home through the courtyard’s long passage of floor-to-ceiling glass doors, one immediately recognizes that it’s a stunning continuation of the vibrant exterior landscape. Previously, Heffel had gone down to the beach to take photos of the ocean, sand, driftwood, shells and hibiscus flowers to give her interior palette a tropical punch of pinks and oranges from Hawaiian gardens and blues, chartreuse and aqua of the ocean and sea life. A 30-foot-long abstract runner of swirling koi fish captures those hues along the breezeway that leads into the main home. Created by Burritt Bros. Carpet & Floors, Vancouver, it was made in Nepal and  shipped directly to Maui. The other end of the breezeway is anchored by an Edward Burtynsky Shipyard Series photograph from Heffel Gallery Limited.

Like many of the bespoke interiors she designs for clients, her vacation home reflects an airy elegance that is inviting rather than ostentatious. It’s no surprise that the Heffels love to cook and entertain here. The kitchen is defined by Shaker-style cabinetry with stainless steel hardware that she brought in from Spain. “I wanted the look to be simple and fresh and I didn’t want any upper cabinets anywhere,” she says. “I have that great pantry off the kitchen for storage and the island has the same cabinetry and we put this sort of sea foam blue wash on the fir wood. And those pull-up bar stools are like tractor seats that are molded to your behind and are really comfortable.”

Heffel loves textured fabrics and draperies (even the high ceilings between beams throughout the home are wallpapered in grasscloth.) Her choice of the unusual ‘Justine Stripe’ sheers woven in Belgium by Opuzen, alternate from semi-transparent to solid. Hung in the dining area and great room, they perfectly frame the view looking out to the exterior pool and lanai. “Yes, it was expensive but it doesn’t fade or yellow under the intense heat here and it’s frankly one of the best investments of fabric I’ve ever made,” she admits.

When Heffel was working with the architect on the design of her home she really wanted a dining area in which a table could accommodate up to sixteen people when friends and family were visiting. “It has breadboard ends so it can be extended – we’ve had a lot of really fun dinners there! The eight rattan chairs are from Crate & Barrel and the two wing chairs at either end are upholstered in leafy-patterned slipcovers so if someone spills something I just take them off to the dry cleaners,” she adds.

The great room that overlooks the spacious lanai is where the Heffel family congregates to watch films, sing along with the karaoke machine and play board games in the evenings. Built-in light cabinetry and cosy slip-covered sofas exude such a calming vibe it’s the perfect sanctuary to flop down and relax after a long day of beach sports. Pass the popcorn!

While the athletic couple head down to the ocean daily to swim and windsurf “we really debated about putting in a pool because of the maintenance but realized that not everyone is a beach person,” Heffel explains. “For instance, my parents who are in their eighties really like to just lounge and relax around the pool.”

The three bedrooms in the main house all have their own ensuites and riff off the same beachy palette as the principal rooms with striped fabric on the custom beds and headboards. Heffel used a pebbled tile around the mirrors, backsplash and under the tubs and the floors of the walk-in showers. Off the master bedroom is a door leading to a private outdoor shower – heavenly. “I’ve got tiki masks on the walls and big lava stones inside and what’s really funny is that we have never used the indoor shower once,” she laughs.

“We refer to our Maui vacation home  as ‘our happy place ’ a legacy we hope our grandchildren will continue to enjoy.”