WAILUA HOMESTEADS — Fred Smith Jr. and Gary Steinert went from country to country for three years looking for the perfect home. They traveled to Mexico, Hawai’i and various locations in Central America and they found nothing. Somehow the two ended up repeatedly coming back to Hawai’i. specifically Kaua’i.
“It just kept calling us back,” Steinert said. “And finally, we decided on here. It was easy, it was American, we wouldn’t have to worry about money.” Once they picked Kaua’i, the hunt was on for the perfect house. But they were a little discouraged because it was right after Hurricane ‘Iniki, and even though they knew this is where they wanted lo be, they weren’t sure how long it would take to find the right spot.
That is, until their realtor took them down a narrow road in Wailua Homesteads called Royal Drive. Steinert said he still gets emotional when talking about it.
“We were coming down this road and I said ‘stop the car.’ My heart started pounding and I said ‘this is it. I think this is it,'” he said.
Its exterior is hard to see from the driveway because of all the trees and plants surrounding it, which gives it the feel of a secret hideaway.
The home, Steinert said, was once owned by the artist Laka Morton, who at one time housed special Hawaiian artifacts that can now be seen at the Kaua’i Museum in Lihu’e.
It’s a striking coincidence, as Steinert and Smith travel to all sorts of places and collect pieces of Hawaiiana.
“We fell right into a very historical neighborhood with some of the original missionaries living here,” Steinert said.
“So aside from it being perfect, it had history behind it.” In an eBay-like bidding war between the two of them and another buyer, they put in five otters to get this home.
Once they sealed the deal, they started what would end up a 10-year restoration effort. It helps that Steinert is a commercial and residential interior designer.
They named it Hale Ali’i.
They went back to their home in Fresno. Calif, and came back every other month to work on the house.
The house was originally a duplex. Steinert and Smith fixed both parts of the house up and lived on one side and rented out the other. A couple years in The tenants moved out. and when they went, so did the wall that separated the units.
“We did all kinds of stuff to this house, from top to bottom, from one end to the other,” Steinert said. “When our tenant left, we opened it up to be one big house.” ]-‘out doors, they have all sliding screens, and for back of-the-house lanai, they have what Steinert calls a “bowling alley lanai” that stretches the length of the house with a mahogany threshold.
In the backyard area, they had a turtle pond built in, with a little sandbox raised in the center for the turtles to lay their eggs.
Almost everything in the house is custom-made or special-ordered from another country in one of the their two kitchens, everything, down to the handles on the drawers adds a unique touch.
“These are all cement countertops. Turkish tiles, coconut floors and Italian handles,” Steinert said Their other kitchen is a themed kitchen. The tenant who rented the other half was an artist who got inspired by flowers he saw at Koke’e.
“He asked if he could paint the kitchen, and I asked, ‘what color?’ I should’ve known better,” Steinert said.
The kitchen is painted to look like you were standing at Koke’e. Which goes perfectly with the interior of the house.
Because Steinert and Smith collect Hawaiiana, they’ve got artwork on the walls, trinkets on the shelves, and Hawaiian prints on their furniture and sheets.
Steinert said he’s been constantly working on something new to add to the home. But the home felt complete once he finished his latest project.
“The outdoor shower — I love it If there’s a hurricane, come over here because this baby ain’t going anywhere,” he said.
He said he modeled it after a shower he saw at the Grand Hyatt in Po’ipu, where they stayed while looking for homes “I built it for when we go to the beach, so we can rinse off, but now everybody loves this shower.
When people come to visit, they’ll all be lining up to use this shower,'” he said.
Steinert’s ultimate favorite part about the house is what he gets out of the location, ” The serenity. The piece and quiet. I love it,” he said.
I Lanaly Cabalo, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 237) or lcabalo@kauaipubco.