By Spencer Spellman
Today our series of HomeAway property profiles takes us across the Pacific to Hawaii, the Big Island. And it’s got every bit of the intrigue as past property profiles, which has included a vacation rental that doubles as a theme park, a 727-turned-suite, and home in the shape of a boat. This time our property profile is the McCormick Onion House. Yes, as in the same McCormick name that likely dons your spice shelf at home. It’s only fitting then that if they’d have a vacation rental that it’d be called the “Onion House.”
It’s not unlikely that while grocery shopping on vacation, you’ve reached for a McCormick product at the grocery store. Perhaps it was just a salt and pepper grinder, or if grilling, a seasoning blend. And it may not have even registered at the time, since McCormick owns a number of brands that includes Zatarain's, Lawry's, Old Bay Seasoning and Thai Kitchen. However, it now comes full circle as you can stay in the McCormick vacation home on Hawaii, the Big Island.
Enter Elizabeth von Beck, or affectionately called Auntie Dofeen, the niece of Willoughby M. McCormick, who started the family business in 1889. It only seemed appropriate that she’d settle on Hawaii, since her father, Charles, was a sea captain, and she herself had sailed to Hawaii, even before it was a U.S. state. As Auntie Dofeen’s niece Beth McCormick tells me, Elizabeth was particularly drawn to the Kona Coast, however. She exclaimed, “I belong here,” upon her first view of it while driving the old Mamalahoa Highway from Hilo to Kona.
The idea of an “onion house,” however, didn’t even come from Auntie Dofeen. It started first with Kendrick Bangs Kellogg, who at that point had only designed a couple homes. But it was a perfect match. Auntie Dofeen wanted a property that would capture the sacred spaces of Hawaii, while Kellogg wanted to create properties that were in harmony with the local natural environment. When he showed the drawings of his designs to Auntie Dofeen, she simply responded, “Build it.” The description of it as an onion, however, actually came from a local community member, who upon seeing the home much later, remarked that it looked like an onion. The name has stuck ever since.
The intention was always that the Onion House would be a vacation rental for travelers. According to Beth, Auntie Dofeen always dreamed of it being a retreat for people from mainland America, even printing out brochures about it in the 1960s. However, time took its toll on the Onion House, with maintenance falling to neglect. But before the bank could foreclose on it, Auntie Dofeen’s niece (and current owner), Beth, bought it.
A couple decades later, the Onion House received a new life, following years of extensive renovations, and was listed on HomeAway for the first time in 2004. It’s since become that unique Hawaiian retreat that it was always meant for. The terrace, facing Kailua Bay and its iconic sunsets, features a 70-foot pool, gardens, and a lily pond. Leading past the pool and lily pond is a covered walkway to the master bedroom, which was named by HGTV as one of the most romantic bedrooms in the world. All told, the house features three bedrooms and two baths.
The Onion House is unlike any place you’ve probably ever stayed, or will stay. Its history, mystique, and architecture alone make it a one-of-a-kind accommodation and experience you won’t just get from a hotel. And if that wasn’t enough, it’s on one of the most beautiful islands in the world, overlooking one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline. Now that’s a HomeAway from home!