As featured on westhawaiitoday.com
By Landry Fuller Special to West Hawaii Today | Wednesday, December 7, 2016
WAIMEA — Tucked behind a storefront, quietly hidden from Kawaihae Road, sits Kamuela Inn. The historic property, positioned on nearly two acres, opened in the early 1960s but lost its luster over the last decade. New local owners, Melinda Holt and Tim Bostock, came to the rescue last year with a vision and an eye for design. Renovations are now underway, bringing a refreshing, clean, modern look to the inn.
With no real experience in the hospitality industry, Holt and Bostock have been quick learners, relying on the expertise of a variety of local talents to help restore and upgrade the inn, as well as operate it at a new level.
“I had always toyed with the idea of owning a nice boutique hotel one day,” Holt said. “I thought it would be so good for this town to have a lovely place for people to stay and I love transformation. It’s been tremendously rewarding because the people we’ve worked with so far have been so talented.”
Handmade by their local chief carpenter, Kina’u Puhi, horseshoes are a signature design element consistent throughout the property, used for everything from towel racks in the guestrooms to accent pieces in public areas.
Within the 12 renovated guestrooms, a “chic paniolo” feel comes from barn doors used as bathroom or bedroom doors. The showers have been expanded and redesigned with stylish granite and stone, also used on the bathrooms counters. A different piece of original art from Holt’s personal collection decorates the walls of each guestroom, while a bold accent color gives them each their own personality. Cork tile has been added to the floor “because it’s so clean, sustainable, warm and soft on your feet,” she said.
The remaining 19 guestrooms plan to be restored next spring. In the meantime, all have new beds, sheets and pillows made of island fabrics from Sig Zane Designs in Hilo. Locally sourced Ola bath products are also in-room for guest use.
“We had all of our bed skirts, pillows and things locally sewn by Cynthia Spencer,” Holt said.
Accommodation options include one-bedroom units, kitchenettes, kitchens and penthouses that range from 168-384 square feet. Two executive suites are close to 1,000 square feet each, comfortable for 4-6 guests. Perks in all guestrooms include new flat-screen cable TVs and free Wi-Fi. Parking is also free and guest laundry is available.
Room rates begin at a mere $89 per night, depending on the season, and complimentary upgrades are possible when available.
At the new front desk, walls are covered with recycled wood pallets found at Waimea Feed Supply and other places around town. The dining room has been redesigned with reclaimed wood and hanging glass light fixtures. Large scenic photos by local photographer Anianiku Chong add a splash of color to the room. Guests stop by throughout the morning at leisure to sample locally baked pastries with flavored homemade butter, cereal, fruit, coffee, tea and juice as part of the free continental breakfast.
“I think the interior design is very contemporary but paniolo, and very clean and colorful. We used as many sustainable things as possible,” Holt said.
On the exterior, one of the two wings has been painted in colors reminiscent of the Hawaiian flag, which serve as a preview of what the entire property will look like when the renovation is completed.
“I came up with the colors largely with my friend John Staub, an interior designer from Philpotts,” Holt said. “We had some fun with paint swatches. I love the colors. I think they’re great.”
Other renovations include new roofs, plumbing, electric and water heaters, and repair to long-term damage. On Sept. 1 the entire property became smoke-free.
To run the inn, Holt and Bostock initially considered hiring an outside management company, but learned a lot by reviewing proposals.
“Mostly we learned what we didn’t like about them,” Bostock said. “They didn’t have the heart for it, or a heart for this town. A place like this shouldn’t be a cookie-cutter experience. It should be something really unique, like staying at your favorite auntie’s on the Big Island,” Holt added.
A traditional Japanese tea house sits in the backyard, a part of the property’s history. The inn’s original owner, Yukio Sameshima, still lives next door.
“I check on her. She’s so cute and still drives in her 90s,” said Edlyn Carvalho, who has worked her way up the ladder from housekeeper to personal assistant to property innkeeper and manager. “She brings me flowers and avocados.”
The inn’s employees keep everything running smoothly.
“I feel like the staff we have here couldn’t possibly work harder than they do,” Holt said. “They’re cheerful, enthusiastic and they want to make it succeed.”
The overall goal over the last year has been to create an upmarket boutique hotel that’s a destination, while still accommodating for local families.
“We’d like to see it used more by eco-tourists, family reunions and alumni groups,” Holt said. “By the time we get finished with the renovation, it’s going to be very special.”