Story by Sarah Ruppenthal | Photography by Chris J. Evans
Six years ago, Deanna and Gavin Ferguson were on the hunt for a house on Maui. When they found the one-acre oceanfront property for sale in Pā‘ia, it felt like coming home. Deanna, who grew up in Central Florida, harbors fond memories of being salty haired and barefoot at her grandparents’ seaside property in Cape Canaveral. Gavin spent his formative years on the beach at his family’s vacation home in Hermanus, South Africa. An avid surfer, standup paddler and kiteboarder, he was instantly smitten with the house and its proximity to the ocean. Little did the Fergusons know, when they purchased the home in 2013, that theirs was the latest chapter in its intriguing history.
Built in 1937, it was once owned by actor Lyle Bettger, whose roles in film, stage and television (often as the villain) included Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and the Oscar-winning Greatest Show on Earth. Bettger’s father had been a third baseman for the St. Louis Cardinals; was it mere coincidence that a later owner of the home, Don Nelson, would also hail from major-league sports? Nelson is a former NBA player and head coach who used to host star-studded poker games on the lānai.
In 2017, the Fergusons decided to give the eighty-year-old dwelling a facelift. And it was right up Deanna’s alley; she has masterminded several remodeling projects over the years. Her fascination with home design began at the age of six, when she watched The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. A romantic ghost story, the 1947 film starred Gene Tierney as a young widow who moves into a secluded cottage inhabited by the ghost of its former owner, a sea captain played by Rex Harrison. Deanna recalls being captivated not only by the storyline, but also by the architectural elements of Mrs. Muir’s idyllic seaside home.
“I told myself I’d have a house like that someday,” she says. So when she set out to update the Pā‘ia residence, Deanna had a clear mental picture of what it would look like when the renovation was finished—and what it would look like in the next century. “I envisioned a simple interior, so 100 years from now you could strip out all of the furniture and the house would stand alone.”
And, she says, “I wanted it to be a bohemian seaside getaway—a place where you could come in from a day at the beach, toss your wet, sandy towel in the laundry, shower off, put your feet up, and watch the sunset . . . and do it all over again the next day.”