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David Oldroyd of ODADA Helps Create a Modern Family Abode in Honolulu

By Lauren Finney Harden | September 16, 2020 | Home & Real Estate Features

While sweeping views of Diamond Head are a worthy reward, a Honolulu family home with interiors by David Oldroyd of ODADA wasn’t without its challenges. “There were challenges with buildability,” he notes. “There are challenges of building on cliffs in Honolulu. When the monsoon rains come, it rains horizontally at 60 to 90 miles an hour, with huge amounts of rain.” Because of this, Oldroyd says, “everything had to be sloped without making it feel like everything was sloped, in order for water not to just constantly be inside the house.”

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That might seem dramatic, but everything Oldroyd and his team at ODADA do is incredibly intentional. For over 30 years, ODADA has been designing out of San Francisco, with Oldroyd heading to Hawai‘i about once a month for the past 25 years. He’s incredibly familiar with the landscape and people, and several years ago a mutual friend introduced Oldroyd to the clients, a family that had moved from the Midwest to Oahu. “[The clients] hired us on the spot,” says Oldroyd. The client “has an engineering mind…he’s incredibly meticulous, which is why we resonated together. He’s into thoroughness and exactness and process; his wife was in finance and is a brilliant gardener and chef. They’ve got really varied interests and traveled the world together with their two kids,” which has resulted in “a really interesting aesthetic,” he says. ODADA was the firm to give them their dream modern home.

ODADA has been working in modern interior design for three decades and has done quite a bit of work in Hawai‘i with a modern sensibility. Says Oldroyd, “It’s a sensibility to the texture and color and beauty of the islands without resorting to some of the cliches. What we brought to the project was a clarity of modernism rather than just modern tricks.”

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The home—“on a ridge above a beautiful rainforest gorge; it’s literally perched out on the edge of this cliff above Honolulu looking at Diamond Head”—was an evolutionary process, says Oldroyd, who began by modifying the architectural interiors and finishes. For example, all the stone in the house is Roman travertine and was custom cut in Italy and shipped to Hawai‘i. “We brought the clean, simple and minimalist details that we have employed on the mainland forever, which aren’t used that often in Hawai‘i because they’re difficult to do and the contractors aren’t used to it. We brought in really great materials, such as the porcelain tile slab that houses the elevator shaft—it was an early use of porcelain tile slab on the island. We used a combination of local craftsmen where we could, and then flew in where we needed extra expertise.”

To call this home a work of art isn’t hyperbole—the homeowners have an eclectic art collection, including a sculpture by David Kuraoka that came from the Honolulu Museum of Art. It’s all ceramic, with about 6-inch-by-6-inch-high ceramic discs that have been glazed into a pattern.

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The house is very angular and notches around a central cylinder core, with Oldroyd taking “the geometries and playing with them throughout shapes in the furniture—straight lines, angular line, soft curves.” Between Oldroyd’s curation of the family’s artwork and the interior design, they were able to “make it feel personal to them, yet a new expression that they hadn’t lived with before.”

Restraint is a common theme in modernism, and certainly in Oldroyd’s designs. “My motto is, ‘When in doubt, take it out.’ We try to bring a curation to our work so that it’s not 50 things, but rather five things you celebrate. And we choose very carefully how your eye moves through a space—from the most minute details that set the tone. We really try to be conscious about that… in a subtle way, so that there’s a link in shape or line or color that draws your eye through.”

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Whether accessories, architectural elements or bringing the outdoors in, Oldroyd was thoughtful in his design. “It’s always an interesting challenge to make sure you work with the light that’s available to you in Hawai‘i,” says Oldroyd. While indoor-outdoor living goes without saying in a place that’s solidly in the 80s most of the year, Oldroyd takes care to ensure his clients are getting the best of aesthetic design and well-placed architectural details, such as making sure that the breezes can flow through “the windows, doors and openings on the northeast ‘Kona wind’ side of the house.” He says, “If you know the islands and understand how they work and treat them with respect, if you will, you can live that way. And it’s a luxurious way to live.”

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Photography by: Matthew Millman