The Salehi family couldn’t have been more excited to learn they were moving back to Hawaii. A military family, they had previously lived on Oahu and made lasting personal connections in the community.
While house-hunting from afar, the Salehis reconnected with Keith Sarji, their youngest son’s former soccer coach. Coincidentally, Sarji was also approaching a military reassignment that would take his family off-island and he was looking for someone to rent the family’s 1,280-square-foot Kailua house.
The timing was perfect for both families.
Gina Salehi saw the property when it was on the market a couple of years ago, before the Sarjis purchased it and upgraded the yard. Keith Sarji emailed photos of the upgrades he made to the property, and the Salehis gladly agreed to move in.
The Sarjis bought the 9,000-square-foot property two years ago, seeing great potential not only in the existing house, but also the large yard.
The yard already had a couple of winning elements: Its large mango tree produces thousands of mangoes every summer and is home to a tree house, built by a previous owner.
Sarji rebuilt the tree house, removing rotten wood, strengthening its frame and adding safety and climbing nets for more adventures. then designed the rest of the yard to fit kids’ ideas of what an epic yard should be,” says Sarji.
He started with the addition of a pool.
Working with Precision Gunite, Sarji designed the free-form pool and its equipment to fit harmoniously into the yard. It stretches from the 450-square-foot covered lanai to the far end of the property, beside the mango tree, with a wide corridor of yard to access more dry land without going for a swim.
“The pool is loaded with features,” Sarji says, noting it holds 35,000 gallons with salt-water sanitizer and Diatomaceous Earth filtration. Its extensive glass-fiber-reinforced concrete lava features, designed by Scott Molinaro of Expressive Landscaping, include a four-foot-high jump-off rock over the deep end of the pool “and climbing handholds built into the rock face for ninja-style assaults up the wall,” he adds.
The pool has “climbing handholds built into the rock face for ninja-style assaults up the wall.”
— Keith Sarji, property owner
On the opposite end of the pool, adjacent to the covered lanai, is a six-person spa.
The blue tiles on the outside of the spa are intended to represent water bursting out the end of the pool like a wave,” Sarji says.
The raised bond beam along the edge of the pool provides a bench area for seating, and also a barrier to prevent yard debris — such as mango tree leaves — from blowing into
The pool has become a favorite spot for adults and children alike. “They love jumping off the rocks and seeing who can make the biggest splash,” says Gina Salehi. The pool also has a few shallow ledges throughout, which make for a nice resting spot for swimmers of any age.
As a soccer coach, it was important for Sarji to have enough outdoor space for entertaining
his team — and their siblings and parents.
The yard was badly damaged during the pool construction, especially the large area below the mango tree. “With two active boys, tons of friends and soccer teams visiting on a regular basis, we decided that synthetic grass was the only good option for the space under the mango, which doesn’t get enough sun to keep natural
grass growing under heavy traffic,” Sarji says.
Total Landscape Management installed Synlawn grass in this part of the yard. It’s a popular spot for the boys and their friends to practice their soccer skills.
“It’s very easy to maintain and it always looks nice,” says Gina Salehi. “I just have to rake up the leaves.”
“We have a lot of parties. Usually the parents hang out in the lanai area and the kids are in the pool, playing soccer
or up in the tree house.”
— Gina Salehi, renter
While the kids enjoy the yard, one of their mom’s favorite areas is the covered lanai. It provides a shaded spot to relax when the house is quiet, and a lively spot to interact while entertaining guests.
“We have a lot of parties,” Gina Salehi says. “Usually the parents hang out in the lanai area and the kids are in the pool, playing soccer or up in the tree house. They’re all around the yard."