HI'ILANI - A Palatial Hawaiian Estate by Kaya Morgan
What follows as an encore when youve been one of the first individuals inducted into Broadcastings Inaugural Hall of Fame, revolutionizing the TV industry as the greatest syndicator of first-run network programming in history! Where do you go after your made-for TV movies and syndicated series have received an unprecedented thirty-three Emmy Awards and you've watched your name roll by on the credits of some of the most successful shows in television history-"Entertainment Tonight," "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous," "Star Search," and "Solid Gold"-what do you do?
For Al Masini, the answer was to again find his place in the sun this time, in Hawaii. A child of the Depression who grew up poor in Jersey City, NJ, Masini built a 16,000-sq.-ft., Mediterranean-style haven overlooking the crystal-blue waters of the Pacific. Hi'ilani, as he calls it, truly is where its translation promises: "In the Arms of Heaven."
Masini first came to Hawaii in the early 1960s as a programming consultant to a local T.V. station. Impressed by the island's charm and lifestyle, he returned with plans for his eventual retirement from the industry. He bought three connecting lots high atop Hawaii Loa Ridge, perched at the edge of a cliff 1,000 feet above sea level, overlooking Kahala and Diamond Head. The site, affording unobstructed 270-degree views, is surrounded by the towering green Ko'olau mountains and deep, lush valleys.
Masini had always wanted a Mediterranean-style home featuring curves, glass and an abundance of indoor-outdoor lounge areas. Of course, there were also outside factors to be taken into consideration-specifically, Hawaii's tropical climate. So large overhangs were designed to shield window and door openings from intense sun or wind-driven rain, and to protect walls from water and mildew. The biggest challenge was creating the "frameless" views offered throughout the house.
"I designed T.V. shows, so designing a house was not that much different," Masini says. The result of the collaboration is nothing short of spectacular, a two-story structure recalling a summer palace on the Mediterranean designed for both privacy and entertaining: personal living space is assigned to the upper level, while entertaining takes place on the floor below.
Hi'ilani is one of Hawaii's most exquisite private residences. At the end of a fan-shaped, cobblestone driveway, beyond the wrought-iron entrance, it sprawls, surrounded by lush landscaping, regal palms and colorful flora. Towering doors of wrought iron and glass lead into the grand foyer from a 600-sq.-ft., columned porte, from which suspends a huge old Italian Renaissance lantern chandelier, with matching sconces.
The foyer, bringing to life the sophistication and glamour of the grand old 18th century French style, boasts hand-embroidered French silk draperies that hang from two stories on either side of the entrance (only one other house in the United States has them: the White House). Versailles-inspired bronze wrought ironwork graces the twin staircase; a return to centuries past is further suggested by the magnificent marble floors and 10-ft., custom-made Austrian crystal chandelier.
Indeed, "custom- made" is a recurring theme, one always pointing to Old World luxury, elegance and warmth. Custom-made furnishings and a team of European plaster artisans were flown in to create the home's unique moldings.
Museum-quality original artwork, collected by Masini over the years prior to the completion of the home, reflects his personal contemporary tastes. The upstairs living and dining suite, framed with eight handcrafted Louis XV-style columns, is filled with 18th century French antiques-a study in rich cream and blue, Italian and French silks and tassels. From the center dome hangs an eight-ft. chandelier rendered in 24-karat gold and Austrian crystal, which caps the formal dining area, and matching seven-ft. candelabra flank a baby grand piano. An elaborate, French-style, intimate dining area is situated on the room's east side.
Also located in this wing is a laundry, powder room and a gourmet Wedgwood kitchen, which is the main kitchen of the house. Across the upper mezzanine lies the 1,600-sq.-ft. master bedroom suite, whose ceiling-to-floor, seamless glass walls reveal miles of turquoise ocean. An exquisite, 24-karat gold-and-silk rococo canopy cascades down onto a plush, king-size sleigh bed resting on a marble platform, punctuated by twin Austrian crystal chandeliers.
The adjoining master bath, with electronically controlled privacy glass, offers an expansive view of Diamond Head crater and the Ko'olau mountains. It features a marble spa, adorned with custom-designed Italian mosaic and intricate murals, terraced to the floor; a glass-enclosed, circular dual shower with skylight, capped with 24-karat-gold chandeliers, sconces and handcrafted Italian Renaissance moldings; and, of course, French silk draperies. There are "his" and "hers" private bathrooms, each with a personal make-up area; in hers there is a bidet while his has a sensor-activated urinal and heated gold towel bars.
A skylight crowns the upper mezzanine with an open, circular planter, spilling over with orchids, overlooking the fountain below. Sliding doors open out onto the upper grand terrace to reveal 6,000 square feet of sprawling terraces and a "relaxation point," which offers a soothing waterfall, pond and spectacular views in every direction.
The lower level houses the entertainment room/theater, featuring a professional stereo system, drop-down screen with laser-disc Karaoke. In the light and airy seating area, one may comfortably await one's turn at the marble pool table or simply gaze out through seamless, ceiling-to-floor windows to sweeping ocean views. A large semi-circular bar built of verde argente granite slabs, imported from Switzerland, and a second gourmet kitchen also are found here.
Masini designed the so-called "chairman's office," when he dismantled his 15-ft. ribbon-mahogany conference desk from his New York office and toted it to Hawaii and reassembled it. The desk, truly unique, seats five on the side opposite his own, and comes with a matching secretary's desk, with computer center, television, VCR, fax machine, copier and a 10-ft., ribbon-mahogany console of file drawers.
Truly amazing is the "personal health center"-1,300 square feet of professional workout equipment, free weights, treadmill, four ceiling-mounted T.V.s, complete sound system and Roman-style shower/steam room. Again, expansive Pacific views dominate, surrounding the gym with a landscape of lush mountains and Diamond Head.
Finishing out the lower level are two guest suites, complete with color-coordinated Italian linens and robes. Each suite holds a marble bathroom, powder room and, of course, a personal/service elevator connected to the upper level.
Landscaping was designed on multiple levels, beginning with rows of Manila palms and Plumeria trees that create a wall of privacy from the street. Four 12-ft. waterfalls cascade into a figure eight-shaped pool surrounded by palm trees, bright pink bougainvillea and Tiki torches. Carved into the rocks is a cave housing a small gourmet kitchen, bar, shower and bathroom for poolside convenience. Roman steps lead from the pool to a promontory, where one finds an outdoor Jacuzzi flanked with ferns, Hula girl hibiscus and sego palms leading to the house's lower level and sprawling lawn.
Hi'ilani, it seems, is not the last project to which Masini has lent his creative hand. In a effort to bolster Hawaii's struggling economy, he recently re-entered the T.V. industry to produce the first "Miss Universe" pageant ever filmed entirely on the island, followed by two episodes of "Pacific Blue." That his retirement is final is questionable: Masini also was behind 52 weeks of "Destination Stardom" and "Baywatch Hawaii."
"So it looks like I am not retired yet," he grins. "I have grown to love Hawaii, particularly its people," adds Masini. "Hawaii is home, no question about it. I have gorgeous mountains to my right, great water in front of me, and in the morning, the sunrise comes up over Molokai and Maui. I thoroughly enjoy every day!"
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