Nestled away in a remote and lush coastal nook of the Hawaiian island chain is the dream home of filmmaker Jess Bianchi and jewelry designer Malia Grace Mau, built by San Francisco-based artist Jay Nelson. This is one of those places that leaves a constant happy smile on your face while you’re there. You just can’t help but be in total awe of the artful craftsmanship, attention to detail, and curated taste in materials and decor. It’s like being in an adult fort – a modern Swiss Family Robinson compound that reflects the sophisticated, traveled taste level of its free-spirited, creative owners.
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Who are you? Tell us a little about yourself.
My name is Jess. I’m 34 years old and splitting my time between San Francisco, LA, and Hawaii with my soon-to-be wife Malia. I’ve moved around since I was a kid and have never lived in one place for very long so this rotation feels pretty natural to me. I’d say I’m from Venice beach, Kauai, Italy, and San Francisco. I surfed since I was a grom and just completed my first feature film.
What do you do for a living?
I just directed my first feature film. Malia is an artist and a jewelry designer. What are your favorite parts about the area in which you live now?Right now we are living on Hawaii. I love the tropical storms, the slow pace, and the little bubble Malia and I have created here.
Tell us about the property you live on here.
I bought a piece of land from an old childhood friend. He and his family owned an acre and sold me a quarter of it. It's a block from the beach and on a dirt road that doesn’t get any traffic. There are roosters, rabbits, and fruit trees on the property and you can hear the waves when you go to sleep at night.
Your house looks amazing. Who designed and built it and how long did it take?
The house was designed and built by San Francisco artist Jay Nelson. He and a small team from the Outer Sunset flew out and put the house together in five weeks. A few months later another crew flew out and helped build the lanai.
What are your favorite parts of your home?
The wood and the wabi-sabi feel it has. Most of the wood is reclaimed from old growth redwood fence boards that Jay rescued, cleaned up, and strategically placed. When you lie down in bed you can really feel the love that was put into the home.
Tell us about the project you are now wrapping up with your neighbor, Aamion, and his family.
I just finished a film called Given. The working title while we were shooting was called The Goodwin Project. We traveled the world for 14 months with cameras, surfboards, and a family that consisted of two legendary surfers, a four year old, and a new born. The film is told through the eyes of the boy traveling along this journey that his father’s father did with him. As they travel and surf around the world the kids learn important life lessons and also see different crafts from 15 countries.
The film is truly beautiful. From the childbirth to the snake dancer, the mountains in Nepal to that crazy bus in New Zealand, there are some pretty intense and dramatic scenes that you shot! Tell us about some of the craziest stories from filming and the production of the film.
That’s a loaded question! What I can say is that it was the hardest thing I have ever done. A lot happened over the course of a year and a half… From riding on a boat for 20 hours on 30 foot swells in the Marshall Islands to getting tick bite fever in South Africa and thinking we were all going to die. Too many crazy things to recount.
Were you constantly stoked for the year traveling the world like that filming, or was it hard to work on the same project for so long?
So hard! I just barely finished. I almost quit a million times. Everyone around me was doing so many cool projects that they would start and finish within a month or two. Each day that passed felt like being the last kid in class taking the test while everyone else was out at recess.
What other projects do you guys have in the works back here?
Just finishing up the landscaping and art studio. Malia has started a new collection of jewelry after visiting the Gem Show in Tucson.
Any words of wisdom, sage advice from your travels, or thoughts on building your own surf shack?
As with anything in life, you can’t be afraid to fail. Got to just go for it.[H]
Matt is a founding partner and creative director of ITAL/C, a design studio based in Los Angeles. He started the creative surf culture brand, Indoek. This article is part of Indoek's Surf Shacks series.