The Top Two Challenges When Doing Interior Design in Hawaii

Posted By Tim on Nov 12, 2016 |

1. Scant resources – What are the main stores on Maui for home-related furniture and accessories? The short list is dismal at best: Costco, Target and Pier One. There is one high-end beach-chic store called Hue, but we’re an island of 150,000 people – and so the options are minimal.

Most of the clients who hire me do not opt for the standard issue ‘low-grade’ Hawaiiana look seen in many of the hotels and condos on this island. What does that mean? … Pineapple print sofa’s, blonde bamboo dining sets with a glass top, & hula girl throw pillows with everything matching, and every condo on-line looking alike (check out, and just try to find some diversity!). Though there is money in doing that cookie-cutter style, I couldn’t do that look if you paid me!

Beyond that, I’ve walked into more than one $5-$10 million dollar home where they appeared to have spent their entire budget on the structure – and then went to Costco and furnished the entire place by filling a couple of truckloads. Full disclosure: I worked for Ralph Lauren for 20 years, and the equivalent would be when a man decides to invest in an expensive $2000-$3000 suit, and then pairs the suit with a $69 pair of Florsheim penny loafers he bought at the mall. It doesn’t work. Never did. Never will. It may be challenging to find the right shoes to go with the suit – but the right ones are out there. As a result, I’ve had to become very resourceful when designing homes – knowing I cannot settle for just any pair of ‘shoes’ to complete the look.

For me, being resourceful means always knowing what is available on-line … and therefore knowing which company’s ship to Hawaii (many don’t!). Further, being resourceful on an island means if I see the right item I need, I need to buy it right away – as there usually aren’t extra’s in any backroom or warehouse (that would be a different story if I lived in LA).

Having scant resources not-so-readily available also makes me be far more creative as I try and create looks or styles. For example, it has made me become in touch with Maui’s incredible local artists, as I often commission artists to create something for me that is impossible to find. This has by far been the most rewarding aspect of designing on an island, as I’ve become a big fan and supporter of some amazingly creative painters, wood-workers, & ceramicists. As a result one of my favorite hashtags I use on Instagram (@TimTattersallDesign) is #ISupportLocalArtists. Check it out!

2. Long lead-times – Though I can find many items for a home that are locally made, there is no upholstered furniture produced in Hawaii. For that I either a) patiently wait for a store like Hue to bring something in I like or b) I travel to the mainland to find it and ship it or c) I find it on-line and ship it. Regardless, if I was a designer in Denver or Chicago or anywhere on the US mainland, I could find what I wanted relatively quickly and be on with the next project. Instead, I have been forced to become incredibly patient (not always my best attribute). But what choice do I have? Projects easily take 3-6 months to complete – if I was on the mainland I could cut that time in half, but as they say, it’s the price we pay to live in Paradise!

All in all, in the end, my finished projects are all unique and one-of-a-kind – which makes my clients happy. And me too. #HappyClientHappyMe

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