Remodel or rebuild? It’s a question that occasionally confounds homeowners with older houses whose bones just aren’t “quite right.”

Remodeling involves changing the structure or layout of a home, removing walls or changing the flow or structure of a building. Rebuild, of course, includes demolition of the old house, and design and construction of a new one.

“A good designer can do wonders with an older home, and remodeling is often the less expensive option,” says Malia Yee, senior designer for Graham Builders of Honolulu. “Sometimes, though, a home is just too old for a model project to meet code, or the remodel simply cannot accommodate the owners’ needs and wishes. That’s when a rebuild should be carefully considered.”


A recent Graham Builders project began with an older home in the Kahala neighborhood of Honolulu. The homeowners had a few stated goals for their project, according to Yee.


“They wanted a beautiful, functional dream home that would accommodate aging in place — a modern, easy-to-maintain home with plenty of amenities,” she says. “The couple also wanted a covered garage, a large covered lanai, and a studio for the wife, who is a stained glass artist.”

Although the couples’ original home had a great floor plan, Yee explains it was very old and somewhat fragile in places.

“The layout was good, but it did not have the spaces that the homeowners desired, particularly the studio and lanai,” she says. “And we could not modify the existing carport to create an enclosed garage, because it would no longer meet current building codes if we enclosed it.”

The couple weighed their options, made their decision, and contacted the design/build team at Graham Builders to let them know they were going to rebuild.


Bright,spacious,comfortable and elegant, the new home exceeded the couple’s expectations in every way. The kitchen is modern and spectacularly functional, with stove and sink in close proximity, wide passageways, excellent lighting and plenty of pull cabinets for easy accessibility.


Clever recesses and low open shelving provide ample space to display special pieces. A gorgeous studio with clever custom storage includes lots of vertical storage for the sheets of stained glass used by the artist; her husband has a small functional office as well. Just outside, palms sway gently beneath a spacious covered lanai.

“The original house had a basement apartment that had been rented,” says Yee. “At first the homeowners weren’t sure if they wanted another rental, but elected to build an ADU just to have the option.”

As it turns out, the couple’s daughter returned to the islands, and they decided to rent the ADU to her.

“The ADU increased the value of their home, certainly,” observes Yee. “Additionally, it will provide a smart, legal way to supplement their income if they decide one day to rent it to a non-family member.”

With more than three decades of expertise in designing multigenerational and aging-in-place homes, Graham Builders is now offering a free Zoom seminar designed just for extended and multigenerational families.


“Our ‘All In The Ohana’ events also touch on age-and ability-friendly design, because most multigenerational homes anticipate elder residents with special needs,” Yee says. “Successfully converting a home into a multigenerational residence can be challenging, but the rewards can be absolutely spectacular.”

For more than three decades, Graham Builders has been helping Hawaii’s families make the most of their island homes at every stage of life. Founded in 1990, the Honolulu design/build firm remains the only contractor in Hawaii honored by the Better Business Bureau’s Torch Award for Business Ethics. The free virtual “All In The Ohana” seminar will take place on Dec. 8 as part of BIA Hawaii’s 2022 BIG Home Building & Remodeling Show Sneak Peek. Register now at, or call 808-593-2808.

CONTACT 808-593-2808
ADDRESS 1144 Young St., Honolulu