This Off-the-Grid Hawaii Homestead Is a Handmade Slice of Paradise

published Feb 27, 2020

This Off-the-Grid Hawaii Homestead Is a Handmade Slice of Paradise

published Feb 27, 2020
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Name: Arina and Zen Moriya, with three dogs, three cats, a flock of chickens, and countless animals residing in the surrounding jungle (wild pigs, tropical birds, owl, hawk, mongoose, etc)
Location: Pahoa, Hawaii
Size: Main house is 1272 square feet, cottage is 384 square feet, and the bungalow is around 360 square feet
Years Lived In: 8 years, owned

After years of grinding in the corporate world, Zen and Arina, both natives of Japan, have managed to escape from the endless rat race and pursue their dream of living sustainably and off-the-grid in the Hawaiian tropical jungle. Although abandoning the “work to live” mentality was the main reason that drove them to make this shift, being more conscious of their environmental footprint, a healthier lifestyle, and the challenge of creating a unique homestead with their own hands also inspired them to create their piece of paradise for the last decade.  

“While still living and working in California, our interest in alternative living gradually grew,” explains Zen. “We started to look for land to purchase and fell in love with the Big Island after our first visit in 2008. We were particularly interested in the Puna area because of its progressive community with a history of practicing sustainable living, mild weather, and the lush jungle that surrounded this area. We found a piece of raw jungle where no one had ever lived before; we wanted to start our jungle living adventure with a clean slate and challenge ourselves in living with nature in unity.” 

All three structures—the main house and a cottage the family uses, and a little bungalow they rent out on Airbnb—were built by the couple with a little help. Since they have no construction background, they hired a contractor to help for the first structure (the cottage). The second structure (the big one) was mostly built by Zen with some help from friends. A contractor also helped with the rough construction of the bungalow, but Zen worked on the details himself. Inside the structures, much of the furnishings and cabinetry was built by Zen as well; there’s a lack of affordable furniture stores on this island. But the buildings and furniture aren’t the only thing on the land they’ve created.

“When we began creating this space, we had in mind [the idea] to establish this land that will feed us,” writes Zen. “We used the permaculture method of development and planting food.  After about the fifth year of planting, the trees started to produce and we are now enjoying abundance of food all year long. We harvest coconuts, avocados, breadfruits, taros, bananas, papayas, pineapples, starfruits, citruses, lilikoi, soursops, jackfruits, cassavas, mangos, rambutans, sugar canes, guavas, cacaos, leafy greens, root vegetables, tomatoes, chili peppers, and many others.” They call their homestead, Root Down Farm.

Along with building and farming, Zen is also a photographer, Arina dances hula and cooks macrobiotic food, and they share their amazing homestead with friends, family, and the occasional Airbnb guest.

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Japanese (minimalism, natural, functional).

Inspiration: Old Hawaiian homes, nature (tropical jungle we live in), sacred geometry, Feng shui.

Favorite Element: Most items are either custom made by Zen or recycled secondhand, which give them unique and personal characteristics.

Biggest Challenge: There are no decent furniture stores or salvaged furniture stores on this island, which makes it nearly impossible to find anything that we like. 

Because we live in a humid tropical rainforest, everything gets moldy. This challenge to keep everything mold-free actually encourages us to only keep what we truly need, love, and use on a consistent basis. 

What Friends Say: Many of our friends are impressed by the fact that we built the structures ourselves and the minimalist design style kept among all of our structures.

Biggest Embarrassment:  Don’t really have one. We are proud of everything including all faults and imperfections.

Proudest DIY: Storage space under the stairs that function as pantry, desk, storage, turntable, vinyl, and stereo all hidden from sight.

Biggest Indulgence: Woodstock Windsinger Chimes, metal chimes that are over 30” long and transforms wind into sound like no other wind chimes we’ve ever heard before. Also the cupola on top of the bungalow roof is made of copper, which acts as an antenna to capture energy and transmits it throughout the bungalow. 

Best Advice: Keep it simple and focus on positive energy flow.

Dream Sources: Souk in Marrakech, Vintage shops in Japan and Bali.



  • Sherwin-Williams – Navajo White for walls


  • Stool from Bali bought from a friend


  • Japanese tansu – Antique shop in Hilo, HI
  • Dining table – Handmade from wood scraps
  • Eames chairs – Gift from a friend
  • Vintage chairs – Gift from a friend
  • Rug – Bought in Morocco
  • Coffee table – Handmade from mango wood from the land
  • Sofa bed – Dragon Mama in Hilo, HI
  • White pitcher – Vintage
  • Palm woven tray – Bought in Morocco
  • Paper lantern lamp shade – Dragon Mama in Hilo, HI
  • Painting of space – Gift from an artist friend
  • Series of photos – Zen’s own work


  • Pie safe – Antique shop in Hilo, HI
  • Countertops, shelves – Handmade
  • Stools – Target
  • Lamps – Handmade with mason jars


  • Side table – Rummage sale
  • Vase – Estate sale
  • Japanese tea box – Brought back from Japan


  • Bench – From Bali bought from a friend
  • Small table on the bench – Bought from Thailand
  • Cushions – Pier1
  • Bamboo hammock – Dolly’s Handicraft in Hilo, HI
  • Dining table – Handmade
  • Wind chime – Paradise Plants in Hilo, HI


  • Coffee table – Rummage sale
  • Cushions – Ross
  • Chair – Craigslist
  • Stools – Handmade, Ross
  • Lamp shade – Garage sale
  • White desk – Craigslist
  • Chest of drawers – Gift from a neighbor


  • Chest – craigslist
  • Chair – target
  • Patio chairs – Target
  • Patio table – Amazon

Thank you so much!