The “Onion House” – a Kona home inspired by a dream to live in a work of art.

Artist Beth McCormick at play.   Photograph from

Artist Beth McCormick at play. Photograph from

“The Onion House was a combination of two people who had a passion — my aunt’s passion for Hawaiiana tradition and Ken Kellogg’s passion for creating structures that placed living spaces in harmony with nature.”

                                                                                         — Beth McCormick

The year was 1959 and Elizabeth Von Beck,  known as Auntie Dofeen – had a dream of living in a work of art.   So when Auntie Dofeen met Ken Kellog she “met someone who was like a kindred spirit” and the two of them created what became known as the “Onion House.”

Hand built by Kellog, today the “Onion House” is a landmark in the organic architecture movement, a term coined by Frank Lloyd Wright, and a philosophy of architecture that promotes harmony between human habitation and the natural world through design approaches that are so highly sympathetic and well integrated with the environment, that buildings, interiors, and surroundings become part of a unified, interrelated composition.

Photography thanks to onionhousehawaii

According to Beth McCormick,  Auntie Dofeen’s niece,  the home at the time of construction caused quite a controversy amongst the local residents of Kona, who couldn’t appreciate the strange design.  So when a woman was overhead saying, “The damned thing looks like an onion!,” it was given the most appropriate name – made even more so by the fact that the house was, in part,  financed by the sale of dehydrated onions, as Auntie Dofeen so happened to be the niece of the founder of McCormick spice company.

Photography thanks to onionhousehawaii

“The house was as outrageous as it is now,” says Beth McCormick.  Kendrick Kellog wanted to create a “true Hawaiin house” where the residents could “live with nature.”   Kellog was inspired by the nature all around – as is seen from the palm trees, that were transformed into concrete arches over the fireplace to the lack of formal walls, made possible because of it’s location.  “The house … is designed for the weather of Hawaii on the Kona Coast, … [where] air temperatures range from 70 to 80 degrees, all year long” says Kellog.  It, “takes advantage of the natural breezes that come from the ocean in the day and from the lava-laden mountains at night.  It was built for the joy of living in the tropics.”

True to the philosophy of organic architecture, while you’re inside the Onion House there is a sense that you aren’t inside at all – something that the artists working with Kellog wanted to and were able to achieve, by brilliantly capturing the beauty of the outside and pulling it inside using intricate and beautiful artwork.

It is the scalloped shaped domes, however,  that rise over the pool, and gardens, that define the house – and give it the “Onion” look.   And true to Aunt Dofeen’s desires,  living in the house is like being inside a work of art,  with the light during the day streaming through the  translucent arching roof panels and resulting in spectrums of colours splashing throughout the house.

Photography thanks to onionhousehawaii

Photography thanks to onionhousehawaii

While inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, it was with the “Onion House” that Kellog rightly became known as an innovator of organic architecture – his work being described as “the Sydney Opera House meets Stonehenge.”

Photography thanks to onionhousehawaii

Sadly, during the 1970s the house and gardens fell into a state of disrepair, as Auntie Dofeen and her friends, lived their care free lifestyle.   It was in 1984 that Beth stepped in, having been involved with the house from a young age, saved it from foreclouse and completely restored the home to its present day magnificence.   Her Auntie Dofeen passed in 1987,  leaving Beth and the Kona with a home that encapsulates her free-flowing,  soulful, nature.

It’s no surprise to Kellog that Beth is an artist.  He says that children that have grown up in many of his living spaces have gone on to become artists.   The Onion house has most certainly nurtured the growth of Beth’s unique art form of elaborate designs of luscious color that are executed in the shimmering palette of bird feathers.

Visit “The Art of Beth McCormick” and you’ll discover stunningly gorgeous feathered shields and sculpted porcelain masks that appear to come from an obscure and colorful civilization that has yet to exist.

Photography thanks to onionhousehawaii

Photography thanks to onionhousehawaii

Photography thanks to onionhousehawaii

Should you feel compelled and have the  desire to experience a vacation where you won’t want to leave you vacation home, and when you do, your soul will likely be forever transformed then contact for rental details.

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