Unlike many young people surprised to find themselves back in Hawai‘i after setting their sights on the mainland, Brett MacNaughton always had a feeling he would come back to perpetuate the legacy his father, Duncan MacNaughton, established at his real estate development firm, The MacNaughton Group.
Even though he enjoyed studying in Colorado and California and later working as a construction assistant at Craig Realty Group in Newport Beach, Brett knew he ultimately wanted return to Hawai‘i and join the family business. “I still love and miss Los Angeles,” he says. “But it’s good to be home.”
As director of design and development for The MacNaughton Group, Brett spearheads design for all of the firm’s commercial and residential projects, from shaping the governing vision for the property to curating the design teams and working with them to refine that vision and bring it to fruition.
Brett is uniquely qualified for the task thanks to his ability to think outside the box and encourage his team to do the same. “There’s always the standard way of doing things, and I try to get us outside of that comfort zone,” Brett says. Even if they don’t end up going in that direction, he says, it disrupts their thought process and gets the team to really push the boundaries and do something innovative with the project’s design.
To communicate the vision for The MacNaughton Group’s luxury residential property Park Lane Ala Moana, Brett ended up bringing the project’s mainland-based architecture team on a tour of his father’s historic 1930s-era home to give them a better understanding of what Hawai‘i living could look like. “That house has been in the family since 1940 and really captures Hawai‘i’s indoor-outdoor lifestyle in a subtle and gracious way,” Brett says.
The initial inspiration for Park Lane came from a development Brett encountered during his studies that incorporated landscaping throughout the entirety of the project. “We wanted to get away from the typical condominium aesthetic and push that residential resort feel,” Brett says. “My job was to find the group that would really nail that.”
The design that ultimately won the team over featured tiered structures reminiscent of rice paddy fields as well as a third- and fourth-floor parking garage that freed up space for private garages and private pools and hot tubs on the ground level. “The tiering concept was something that really set the project apart,” Brett says. “To me, Park Lane is more about the experience of indoor-outdoor living and capturing the landscape than it is about the architecture.”
“You really have to focus on the experience more than the actual architecture,” Brett says. “Architecture is successful not when people necessarily complement the building but when everybody is absolutely amazed by the experience and the overall feeling of the property.”
The MacNaughton Group paired Park Lane’s architecture team with an interior design firm out of San Francisco and hired two Hawai‘i companies to strengthen the project’s local roots. “We like to take the best of what’s being done in the mainland or around the world and bring them back here,” Brett says. “We want to enhance what Hawai‘i has to offer but we always try to make sure that it connects back to what Hawai‘i is about.”
Brett and his team’s efforts, which earned The MacNaughton Group and co-developer Kobayashi Group a beautification award from The Outdoor Circle, included bringing some 650 trees and 560 pieces of artwork into the development at Park Lane. “We were really trying to raise the bar with Park Lane, so we decided to feature a different artist in each corridor rather than going the more typical route of repeating the same theme throughout the building,” Brett says. “It was an ambitious task, and we had to increase the budget a few times to make it happen, but we felt that the art was a big part of what would make the project what it needed to be. I think in that sense, Park Lane is a feather in everybody’s cap.”
For Brett, the key to success is ensuring that, in work as in life, you’re doing things you enjoy. It’s why he returned to Hawai‘i in the first place, and why he’s followed in his father’s footsteps on the board of directors at The Nature Conservancy as part of The MacNaughton Group’s many community initiatives. “I love the environment here,” says Brett, an avid hiker and overall outdoor enthusiast. “I love the beach, I love the water. I love everything about the environment here.”