“We should learn from the snail,” wrote iconic American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. “It has devised a home that is both exquisite and functional.”

Not unlike the snail, Mike and Michelle Naito took their time building their dream house. They began the process with deep research on Oahu design-build firms. They spent hours at the BIA home show, taking careful notes; they vetted each firm with the Better Business Bureau and solicited reviews from past clients of their top choices.

Ultimately, they chose Graham Builders for their project. The end result was a home that is indeed exquisite and functional — a home that typifies the firm’s approach to flexible design.


“Flexible design is something that our company strives for,” says Malia Yee, senior designer for Graham Builders. “Utilizing spaces for more than one purpose, or having the option, is economical and more environ-mentally friendly.”

For the Naitos’ project, Yee and the Graham Builders team tapped the potential of several empty spaces in the home. They took advantage of opportunities to add functionality, such as a small built-in desk tucked beneath a staircase.


“And they used an area under the roof to create a walk-in closet for our daughter,” the Naitos reported in their testimonial. “It would’ve been wasted space. Malia came up with a design that matched the neighborhood, looked great and met our needs.”


On an island where the average sale price of real estate is currently about $620 per square foot, flexible design seems imperative.

“It’s incorporated into many of Graham Builders’ designs by necessity,” says Yee. “Homeowners often ask for more — additional rooms, square footage, fancier materials, etc. — than their budgets will allow.”

With spaces that are truly multi-functional, in which every square foot has been efficiently utilized, a creative design/build team can help offset the pain of a budget that doesn’t quite measure up to a dream. In a home whose dining area was too small for a full-size table, the team created a built-in dining nook that perfectly fit the space.

“A raised counter on their kitchen island hides messes and worked ideally for this tall family that wanted more legroom,” adds Yee.

In one project, a large walk-in pantry was designed to accommodate a future staircase that could lead to a second story above their garage. Another included a flexible room with wet bar and double barn doors; the space is used as a guest room, a study, and occasionally even as a dining area.



Carly Ibara and her husband found Graham Builders through its free Building Your Home for Life seminars. They were immediately impressed by the design team’s thorough inspection of their property.

“On their first site visit, the designers checked things like wind direction and sun and shade paths,” Ibara remembers. “I’m convinced this is why our home is so comfortable. Once we open the windows, the beautiful cross-breeze keeps us cool no matter what room we’re in. The natural light is wonderful, too!”

The Ibara home is filled with thoughtful, forward-thinking touches. An expansive bay window bench with storage underneath serves as a reading nook that can pinch-hit as a guest bed. An extra-deep second-floor landing holds bookshelves. An empty area next to the stairs contains a family desk. Even structural changes were made with an eye on the future: a retaining wall was moved to accommodate a possible aging-in-place addition.

Exquisite and functional, with numerous touches that anticipate the family’s needs and the seasons of their lives, the Ibara home is a great example of Graham Builders’ purposefully adaptable design.

For more than three decades, Graham Builders has been helping Hawaii 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.

To learn about upcoming seminars, visit grahambuilders.com/seminar or call 808-593-2808.

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