Charmed at First Sight

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Story by Sarah Ruppenthal | Photography by Ryan Siphers

Kent’s prized 1952 Ford F1 pickup is in mint condition, thanks to a cousin in Los Angeles who owns a shop that restores classic cars.

When Kent and Polli Smith started house-hunting in Kula a little over a year ago, the last thing they wanted was a two-story home. “We were set on buying a one-story house,” Polli says. “I’m so glad we changed our minds.”

Kent, who works in alternative energies, and Polli, the former owner of Polli’s Mexican Restaurant in Makawao, know a thing or two about houses: Since moving to Maui forty-seven years ago, they’ve rented, bought, built and sold several homes, including a beach bungalow in Mākena, a condominium in Mā‘alaea, a golf-course villa in Pukalani, a custom home in Ha‘ikū, and a century-old cottage in Kula that lacked electricity. “We like variety,” Polli laughs.

But this time, the Smiths had something specific in mind. “We were looking for a house we could grow old in,” Polli explains. “We wanted something practical and convenient that didn’t require anything more than moving our stuff in.” And one more thing. “We didn’t want to walk up any stairs to go to bed at night.”

So when their realtor mentioned the three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath home on a sprawling four-acre lot in Kula, the Smiths demurred. “It sounded like too much house for us,” Polli says. But the realtor insisted they take a look, and Polli and Kent reluctantly agreed. “She told us we’d love it as soon as we saw it,” Polli recalls.

Their realtor was right.

Kula Maui Home
A pair of armchairs from Pier 1 adds to the parlor’s appealingly eclectic aesthetic. Polli found the Japanese painting at a local yard sale. Although it’s not finished, she likes the way its colors match those of the room.

With its butter-yellow exterior, shake roof and pillared front porch, the residence takes many of its cues from East Coast architecture. “The original owners were from the Washington, D.C., area,” explains Todd  Preseault, the general contractor who built the house twelve years ago. “It looks like something you might find in Virginia or Maryland, which makes it unique.” It may be unique, but it’s not misplaced. To the contrary, the stately yet rustic home complements its picturesque surroundings.

It wasn’t what they’d had in mind, but the moment the Smiths walked through the front door, they were willing to make concessions. “It seemed like the house said to us: ‘Where have you been?’” Polli says. “It was meant to be.” For one thing, the house has two master suites—one on the ground floor. “That checked one big item off our list,” she says. From there, it was just one pleasant surprise after another.


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