By The Sea

text by david m. brown  |  photos by robert reck  |  design by elizabeth rosensteel

Dexter and Cher Hewett’s Oahu home connects them with the sea, sand and surfers.

On the world-famous north shore of the third largest of the Hawai’ian islands, Cher and Dexter Hewett’s 7,500-square-foot European Contemporary is 50 feet from the Pacific Ocean in the historic whaling and plantation village of Hale’iwa.

The Hewett kitchen, living room and the three master suites — two on the second level with covered balconies — all front the Pacific, which batters volcanic rocks on the beach. The home’s unique

H-shaped configuration incorporates, as its cross-bar, a sunlit glass skywalk below where a rectangular pool echoes both the home’s configuration and the ocean beyond.

“The uniqueness of Dexter and Cher’s home is the style of architecture, so atypical of the island, yet so perfect for enjoying its lifestyle,” says Elizabeth Rosensteel, their Phoenix-based interior designer. “What makes it work is how the house moves immediately from outside to inside and straight through to outside again with the views never being interrupted,” she adds. “From the moment you step through the front door, you look through a pane of glass that extends over the lap pool and continues to the horizon line of the ocean.”

In November and December, the Hewetts also enjoy conditions specific to their end of the island, which is on the opposite point from Honolulu. Every year, its 30-foot waves attract the world’s surfers for Association of Surfing Professionals competitions such as Bonzai Pipeline and the Triple Crown. “The waves create a ‘fog’ of salt that floats in the air and coats everything inside and out,” explains Rosensteel. “These conditions create complications for selecting materials, so we had to choose elegant yet durable ones. But the island lifestyle allows the doors and windows to be left open all day and night, and it’s fabulous.”


Ten years ago, the Hewetts purchased the 20-year-old Oahu home, which includes two guest streetside suites above dual separated garages. With two children each from former marriages and four grandchildren, the extra rooms offer generous space for everyone. “It had great bones, but the construction details — Saltillo and Mexican tiles, for example — were inexpensive, awkward and not appropriate for this style of architecture,” says Rosensteel.

During renovation, the Hewetts remained in their winter home on Camelback Mountain, which has been featured on HG TV’s Extreme Homes, also with a Rosensteel interior. Dexter moved to Arizona in 1987 to become part owner of Sonic Air, based at the Scottsdale Airport. A North Carolina native, he attended the University of Washington where he was a guard on the Huskies basketball team. Cher, born in Missouri, had also just moved to the Valley, where they met when she was giving an aerobics demonstration. They sold the business to UPS about 20 years ago, and he retired — comfortably enough to be featured by Robin Leach on his popular Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous television program.

Dexter asked his stepson, Richard Cobb, to serve as the general contractor for the Oahu home remodeling. Cobb set about meticulously rebuilding a structure that had rotted from poor plumbing and replaced doors and windows that leaked from the abundant island rains. Then work on the interior began. “My approach was to offer a very clean, contemporary redesign,” says Rosensteel, widely celebrated for an inspired minimalism that invigorates spaces between fine furnishings and accessories, making them also evocative and inspiring.

Connecting with the island’s elemental character, she chose materials and colors to match. “My inspiration was taken from the water, sand and beaches,” she says. “The colors we naturally selected were sand, beach, water and sky.” In the sun-suffused kitchen, she chose sand-toned porcelain for the floor, whose texture contrasts with the light wood floors used throughout most of the remainder of the home while complementing the engineered-quartz countertops and cabinetry. “The kitchen is the center point for greeting, meeting and eating,” explains Rosensteel. “Our task was to design a contemporary kitchen that was in keeping with the existing architecture and provide finishes that could be easily wiped down and kept clean.”

As a result, materials are fresh and clean feeling but not stark, such as the stainless steel Janus Et Cie leather stools at the island. The glass in the cabinet doors pick up the color of the water, and durable Caesarstone on the reconfigured island and the new countertops resembles particles of sand. Appliances are Wolf and Sub-Zero, and a clean glass cook top incorporates a down draft so the visual corridor to the ocean is undisturbed. The realigned kitchen extends ocean views to everyone. “You look past anyone watching TV and straight out to the ocean,” says Rosensteel. “There you have a panoramic view of kayakers, paddleboats, fishing and dolphins all day. Every day, too, are great western sunsets, and everywhere incredible flowers are growing.”


Rosensteel crisply updated two of the master suite bathrooms with spaces designed to Cher and Dexter’s individual requests. He, for example, requested a masculine room without frills or fuss — one that was low maintenance, easy to clean and with storage space. “Streamlined and shiplike was the directive for this bathroom,” says Rosensteel. “A ‘place for everything’ and ‘everything in its place’ is how he likes to live.”

She added a tub deck and a walk-in shower, both also from Lacava, and stacked built-in drawers between the shower and tub. For warmth, she used sand-toned Jerusalem stone on the floor and the shower, honey-tone cabinetry and installed a skylight to supplement daylighting through the windows.

In Cher’s, she placed a floating sink on coffee-colored ash cabinetry. A Lacava tub is on the one side of a three-quarter wall; on the other is the shower, finished with Jerusalem stone, matching that in Dexter’s bathroom. On the bath side of this wall, Rosensteel placed a vintage photo of Honolulu, reaffirming a sense of place amidst the contemporary elements; the play of the old and pristine against the new is a recurrent theme in the home. Geometries here are compelling. The oval tub echoes the radiused ceiling, and a vertical storage cabinet, in matching coffee, thrusts from the floor.


Dexter first visited Tahiti in 1961 and fell in love with it. Twenty years later, he bought a restaurant on the nearby island of Bora Bora. The Hewitts still own Bloody Mary’s and visit it during summers when they’re staying in Oahu. “A magazine once called our place the fifth best restaurant in the world,” he adds. “It recalls the character and song in James Michener’s Tales of the South Pacific and Rodger and Hammerstein’s musical adaptation, South Pacific. Michener himself named it,” recalls Dexter. The couple met when the author was visiting, and Dexter picked him up at the airfield to dine with them. “He said that if he had a place like this, he’d name it Bloody Mary’s, and so it is,” he says.  “One night we had four Academy Award winners at the bar, including Jack Nicholson.”

The relaxed lifestyle and tropical beauty of Tahiti kept drawing the couple back year after year. Wanting to create an island retreat closer to the mainland, The Hewitts found the perfect spot in Hawaii. Now at home on Oahu, Cher watches the ocean from the vanity in her bathroom, and, in the living room, Dexter can hear the Pacific behind him, sitting in his leather B&B Italia television chair. Everywhere is the symphony of the waves. “Our home is more about a feeling than a place,” he says. “We come here and feel total comfort and ease. We watch the ocean life, listen to the palm trees and inhale the spray of the sea.”