Liu Residence Hawaii Register Nomination

Rare salvaged metal Mid-century Modern house on the beach!

The house is a single-story Mid-century Modern home with Hawaiian Modern features and detailing.  Designed and built by Edward Liu in 1950, the vernacular (non-architect or engineer-designed) building is notable for its metal construction, an extremely rare residence in that it features steel construction and painted steel exterior sheathing.  Framing members, floor deck, and even the perimeter property fence and lawn furniture were all constructed using reclaimed, surplus metal purchased from the military after World War II. 

Mid-century Modern elements include its flat roofline, unadorned but prominent combination cornice and gutter, bands of windows, canted windows, and relatively plain exterior wall surfaces.  Hawaiian Modern elements include the use of local lava rock, wide overhangs, and an artful blending of indoor and outdoor.  The wide metal overhangs with integrated canted gutters are a major character defining feature.

On casual inspection, the house appears to be standard wood construction - one would not know the entire exterior is sheathed in metal but for locations that have begun to rust.  The metal sheathing was purchased already welded into folded steel panels that resemble tongue and groove lumber. The sheets were placed vertically to further the resemblance to tongue and groove.

A napalm bomb “mailbox” sits at the head of the driveway, also military salvage.  The original metal fence is composed of repurposed grating set on a metal “beam” along the ground and supported by concrete-filled, spiral-corrugated culvert pipes.  The grating is believed to be repurposed metal aviation landing mats. 

At the interior, the front entry door opens into a vestibule that overlooks the sunken living room and the ocean view beyond. The steps are flanked by open-grid wood room dividers.At the center of the living room’s north wall is a fireplace with a large lava rock enclosure that extends to the ceiling. The south wall is entirely open to the lagoon and ocean view.

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