written by:
photos by:
June 24, 2013
Originally published in America the Beautiful
as
Into the Fold
With an angled roof designed to resemble the surrounding cliffs, a house in Maui, Hawaii, is built to meld with the landscape.
Aerial view of clifftop house.

Slovenian expats Robert and Drazena Stroj spent many hours driving around different parts of the island in search of land before finding their cliffside oasis.

Photo by 
1 / 10
Facade of green home in Maui.

“We sought to create a house that would not damage the environment and not be too visible,” says architect Tina Gregorič. A single zigzagging roof stretches over 5,380 square feet, doubling the area of the interior spaces and serving as an ideal spot for sunset cocktails and whale-watching.

Photo by 
2 / 10
The Stroj's son watches the Ocean.

The clients cite Frank Lloyd Wright’s Mrs. Clinton Walker House in Carmel, California, as a very loose inspiration for the design of their house. From the deck off the kitchen and living area, Miha, nine years old, takes in an uninterrupted view of the Pacific Ocean.

Photo by 
3 / 10
Beanbag pouffes by Slacker Sack, Chair-One dining chairs by Konstantin Grcic for Magis.

Dekleva Gregorič Arhitekti, along with resident Robert Stroj, designed most of the furnishings in the house, including the speakers, wall cabinet, and dining table. The beanbag pouffes are by Slacker Sack and the Chair-One dining chairs are by Konstantin Grcic for Magis. The stucco used on the walls was custom made from a mixture of white concrete, coral sand, dune sand, and lime.

Photo by 
4 / 10
Mhia on deck with the family dog.

Miha hangs out with Kea, the dog, on the wooden deck that extends the living space outdoors.

Photo by 
5 / 10
Kitchen with integrated bamboo plywood furniture.

Bamboo plywood is used throughout the house for all integrated furniture, including the kitchen cabinets. The pendant lights are prototypes designed by Jamie McLellan for Tom Dixon and the stools are by Konstantin Grcic for Magis.

Photo by 
6 / 10
Clifftop house floor plan.

Clifftop House Floor Plan

A Open KitchenB Dining RoomC Living RoomD Master BedroomE Kids’ BedroomF GuestroomG BathroomH Home OfficeI Sail Loft and WorkshopJ Deck

Photo by 
7 / 10
Roof of Clifftop House.

“In this house, the roof is the only facade—the rest is dissolved beneath it.” —Architect Aljoša Dekleva

Photo by 
8 / 10
Plastic platform bed in master bedroom.

In the master bedroom, a basic platform bed and Ikea wall lights keep the attention on the ocean views afforded by the floor-to-ceiling windows.

Photo by 
9 / 10
Exterior walls made from oiled ipe.

There are no paints, lacquers, or polyurethane finishes used anywhere in the house. Indoors and out, the materials were kept simple: The exterior walls and roof are oiled ipe, selected for its hardness and weather resistance.

Photo by 
10 / 10
Aerial view of clifftop house.

Slovenian expats Robert and Drazena Stroj spent many hours driving around different parts of the island in search of land before finding their cliffside oasis.

Project 
Clifftop House

The Stroj's son watches the Ocean.

The clients cite Frank Lloyd Wright’s Mrs. Clinton Walker House in Carmel, California, as a very loose inspiration for the design of their house. From the deck off the kitchen and living area, Miha, nine years old, takes in an uninterrupted view of the Pacific Ocean.

After moving to the Hawaiian island of Maui more than a decade ago, Slovenian expats Robert and Drazena Stroj spent many hours driving around different parts of the island in search of land on which to build their own home. One day they happened upon an area behind the West Maui Mountains, an unpopulated enclave amid rolling green cliffs, with swaths of deep-red lava dirt cascading down to the sea below. “From the very beginning, we fell in love with the area, despite the very narrow, windy road to Wailuku, Maui’s capital,” says Robert, who designs windsurfing sails—a vocation that landed him and Drazena, a ceramist, in this windsurfing mecca in the first place.

Beanbag pouffes by Slacker Sack, Chair-One dining chairs by Konstantin Grcic for Magis.

Dekleva Gregorič Arhitekti, along with resident Robert Stroj, designed most of the furnishings in the house, including the speakers, wall cabinet, and dining table. The beanbag pouffes are by Slacker Sack and the Chair-One dining chairs are by Konstantin Grcic for Magis. The stucco used on the walls was custom made from a mixture of white concrete, coral sand, dune sand, and lime.

Just off a rugged road, the couple came upon a flat, grassy, uninhabited piece of land. “It looked to us like a perfect place to build the house,” says Robert. With no way of knowing who owned the remote spot, they began asking around the neighborhood, where they eventually found the owner, who was in the midst of subdividing and selling his property. In a state perpetually on what the locals call “Hawaiian time,” that process alone took three years.

Meanwhile, the couple had their architects at the ready: friends and fellow Slovenians Tina Gregorič and Aljoša Dekleva of Ljubljana-based Dekleva Gregorič Arhitekti. “The inspiration for the house was a process,” says Gregorič, who with Dekleva boarded a plane to Maui to study the site from dawn until dusk, including sinking sticks in the ground to frame the views. “The nature, sun, ocean, and winds can only be comprehended from the site, so it was crucial to stay here and observe everything,” says Gregorič. “Once we absorbed all of these things, we knew where the house should go.”

Despite providing a fairly open brief, Robert and Drazena had a few firm requirements: to have as many spaces as possible, including bedrooms, face the ocean; one large, open living, dining, and kitchen area; and a spacious garage-workspace for Robert’s cars. The architects answered with a sketch for the floor plan resembling a group of tipped-over party cups, most of the contents spilling out toward the ocean view, with one “cup,” the program for the garage, facing the mountain behind the house. After several more years, in which they incorporated a palette of natural materials into the design, the couple moved in with their son, Miha, now 9 (another son, Jaka, now 4, came along afterward).

The house is dominated by a wall of windows facing the sea; the rest of the walls are covered with a custom stucco, created from a mixture of white concrete, coral sand, dune sand, and lime. “The mortar is partly made from desalinated sand found on the beaches, so it brings the color of beach into the house,” says Dekleva.

Roof of Clifftop House.

“In this house, the roof is the only facade—the rest is dissolved beneath it.” —Architect Aljoša Dekleva

Though many rooms can be reached by going outside, all volumes delineated in the initial sketch exist under one roof that zigzags with gentle peaks and valleys stretched over 5,380 square feet, exactly double the square footage of the house beneath it. “The architectural cliché is that the roof is the fifth facade,” says Dekleva. “In this house, the roof is the only facade—the rest dissolves beneath it.” The roof is not only a striking architectural gesture. It is also an additional deck space and an integral part of the passive cooling system that keeps the direct sun out and the trade winds blowing through, eliminating the need for air conditioning. It is the first significant element visible on the approach to the house, which appears to rise from the ground via a grassy ramp leading to it. “The roof deck is great for whale watching and for launching remote-control gliders, and is a nice place to have a drink with friends in the evening,” says Robert.

Though portions of the home’s basic plan are fulfilling their original destinies, others are allowing the house to be a work in progress: Robert’s garage has morphed into a full-time sail workshop; the living area now serves as a part-time classroom for Miha’s home-school lessons; a deck extending from the house toward the sea was added for additional outdoor space; and the massive ipe roof is, by design, developing a patina that will eventually cause it to blend even more seamlessly with the craggy cliffs nearby.

The family has fallen into a natural rhythm with the house, which—as the architects hoped—easily converts from a bustling hub for daytime activities to a lively family center in the evenings. “We go from playing Legos in the rooms to cooking, eating, listening to music, and entertaining—it’s basically one big space,” says Robert. “And if I ever needed to move somewhere, I would ask permission to build another house just like this one.”

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

havart 170
Updating standard pieces, designer Gaëtan Havart turns a misused space into a vibrant kitchen.
May 04, 2016
Martis Camp 141 in Truckee California
Martis Camp 141 celebrates it mountainous surroundings with local materials.
May 04, 2016
tech support stillwater dwellings prefab exterior napa
In Napa, a custom menu of apps helps a frequent traveler keep track of security—and his garden—from afar.
May 04, 2016
home for good renovation montreal family rear facade steel cladding footbridge garden
This family opens up an old structure and imagines a long-term house.
May 04, 2016
BKLYN DESIGNS 2016 location
From panel discussions to virtual reality demonstrations and more, this weekend will bring out the designer in everyone during BKLYN DESIGNS at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint from May 6-8, 2016. Here are just a few activities and installations to check out.
May 04, 2016
cbill timmerman photography jarson residence l7c4109 0
After a successful kick-off program in San Diego, we’re now making our way to Scottsdale, Arizona for the second stop on our Dwell Home Tours series. As the only desert locale on our agenda, we’re giving visitors the chance to explore exquisite modern residences that are fully immersed in the city’s arid landscape.
May 04, 2016
Modern winery in Central California
An updated California winery captures a prestigious architecture award.
May 03, 2016
back to the garden rhode island cottage small space facade landscaping
Outside Providence, Rhode Island, a little retreat takes up no more space than a standard two-car garage.
May 03, 2016
White staircase with skylight and under-stair storage
With clever storage and a retractable skylight, a London apartment feels larger than its 576 square feet.
May 03, 2016
Off-the-grid prefab in pristine Tasmanian landscape by Misho+Associates.
In Tasmania, an eco-conscious architect builds a vacation home that can stand up to an untamed island.
May 03, 2016
30degree pendants by wrong.london
The Danish design brand never disappoints.
May 02, 2016
practical magic brooklyn renocation kitchen caesarstone countertop stainless steel ikea cabinetes green vola faucet
A creative couple flips the script on their family home, a former workman’s cottage on the northern edge of Brooklyn.
May 02, 2016
history lesson kansas city outdoor backyard facade porch saarinen round table emeco navy chairs
An architect pushes the vernacular architecture of Missouri into the modern realm.
May 02, 2016
mission possible san francisco renovation facade exterior french doors cedar
A dilapidated lot in San Francisco gets a second chance.
May 02, 2016
Eames Demetrios of Kcymaerxthaere
The Eames scion and "geographer-at-large" traverses the globe on behalf of Kcymaerxthaere, a network of markers and monuments that tells fictional tales about real-life communities.
May 02, 2016
marcel breuer architect letter office kansas city snower house
See a glimpse into the office of a master architect.
May 01, 2016
Santa Monica living room with an Yves Klein coffee table
Dwell editor-in-chief Amanda Dameron talks us through Dwell's May 2016 issue.
May 01, 2016
house that sottsass built maui hawaii memphis group home renovation ettore facade colored volumes
In Maui, of all places.
May 01, 2016
two of a kind padua italy matching family homes facade green roof doors color
For Dwell's annual issue dedicated to dream homes , we visited homes from Haiti to Italy. Here, we introduce you to the photographers and writers who made it happen.
April 30, 2016
houseofweek
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
April 30, 2016
W House living room
Our best reader reactions this week.
April 29, 2016
Vineyard house illuminated at night
Rammed-earth construction fuses this Portuguese house to the environment.
April 29, 2016
vintage Scandinavian furniture Kathryn Tyler
In southwest England, interior designer Kathryn Tyler built her home around her ever-expanding furniture collection.
April 29, 2016
steel facade home Seattle
On the sandy shores of Fauntleroy Cove in Seattle, renowned firm Olson Kundig Architects crafts a subtle home with striking steel accents.
April 29, 2016
seperate piece renovated guesthouse eames storage unit cork floor tiles living room
An architect and an interior designer put the tools to the test for this impressive renovation.
April 29, 2016
Ceramics by WrenLab
Manhattan doesn’t get to have all the fun during NYCxDesign. Brooklyn is set for the return of BKLYN DESIGNS at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint from May 6-8, 2016. Here are just a few exhibitors we are excited to see this year.
April 29, 2016
n0a6974 dxo
Architect Diego Revollo refreshes an apartment with a standout kitchen.
April 29, 2016
img 8652 1
The city of San Francisco has been eagerly awaiting the reopening of SFMOMA for years—and as the May 14th opening approaches closer everyday, the anticipation continues to build for art enthusiasts both near and far. This morning, we were given the opportunity to explore the newly expanded space before the crowds roll in. After a series of speeches, remarks, and tours, we left the grounds feeling thoroughly inspired and excited to share what we discovered.
April 28, 2016
intage Milo Baughman chairs, Darren Vigilant side table and B&B Italia sofa define the living room.
A family doesn’t have to travel far for a private oasis away from the busy city.
April 28, 2016
Renovation of 1967 Hamburg apartment with Vipp kitchen.
In our April issue, we showcased an apartment in Hamburg, Germany, with a striking, matte-black kitchen from Vipp. The 77-year-old company became famous for its iconic pedal trash can before venturing into kitchens and other tools for the home. This isn't the first time that the Danish company's products have graced our pages, and here we've gathered additional examples from our archive that show how the brand's minimalist black kitchens are always a win in modern interiors.
April 28, 2016