These design firms are making waves for their creative, inspired approach to island living. Here, we take a peek into their favorite projects.
Tantalus Studio (tantalusstudio.com) founder Ginger Lunt is known for interior design work with a warm and inviting feel mixed with clean lines and eclectic furnishings. Growing up with a real estate agent and musician father and photographer mother, she was surrounded by a lot of creativity and passion for houses and the arts. With ample experience working on award-winning residential and hospitality projects, perhaps her most stunning work can be seen at her home studio in a forest reserve atop Honolulu that gives it its name.
Tantalus Studio’s Ginger Lunt’s living room features vintage furnishings including a rattan sofa, Danish cord lounge chair and a woven lauhala rug. PHOTO BY MARIKO REED
PHOTO COURTESY OF TANTALUS STUDIO
Talk to us about your living room design.
I was trying to achieve a casual, inviting space that felt of Hawai‘i and the period of the home (1950s) and really lets the views into the garden and toward the ocean through the tall glass sliding doors be the focus. Th e challenge for this room was that there is not one wall to anchor the space, and so furniture has to look attractive from all angles and not make the space feel chopped up and compartmentalized. I helped alleviate this feeling by using furniture that feels light visually.
You currently live in a historic home on Tantalus mountain. How did you end up there? I grew up a few houses away, and this was a family friend’s home that they decided to sell, that I spent time at as a kid growing up. Th e house always had the feeling of a hidden oasis, and I had been looking to move back up to the mountain for a few years. I was lucky enough to make this house my own after many months of repairs.
How does the house’s location influence how you approached the interiors?
I have tried to bring my personal style melding eclectic furniture, art and ceramic pieces from many different eras with a curated edge to create artful vignettes throughout. Th e home is really all about looking out—there are not many art walls, mostly floor-to-ceiling windows and doors looking out at various forest and garden scenes, and the view down to the ocean. I love living in a house with a history of place and family, and with so many thoughtful details and character, that is harder to find sometimes in newer homes.
What projects are you working on in 2022?
Two that stand out to me are a custom home in Kona that looks over a nature preserve on the ocean, and I’m finishing up a midcentury remodel in Palm Springs.
Co-founders Graham Hart and Brandon Large of the tropical collective Kokomo Studio (kokomo.studio) wear multiple hats: interior designers, architects and product and furniture designers. Hart is originally from Colorado but fell in love with Hawai‘i at a young age, while Large was raised on O‘ahu. Their firm aims to design for the tropics with a refined and minimal approach while keeping in mind the vernacular and palette of the islands.
Brandon Large and Graham Hart PORTRAIT BY KAORU LOVETT
What was the thinking behind this project design?
This project was for a cabin to be built over time on conservation land. We wanted the space to feel rugged, natural, to strike a balance with the nature around it, but also be a space to frame and observe the scenery around it. There’s a lot of clarity and honesty in the structure; everything is left exposed— and that, plus the restrained palette, keeps the visual clutter to a minimum and lets the environment be the main focus of the space.
What are key factors you consider when designing for homes in Hawai‘i?
Access to light and air and engendering an ability for environmental living. How we do that changes depending on the site, neighborhood and scale, but when you’re living in Hawai‘i, you should feel like you’re living in Hawai‘i. Houses shouldn’t be designed to look like they could be located anywhere in the world; they should connect you with this place. Otherwise why live here?
Where do you find your inspiration? We’re both fascinated by the vernacular architecture of Hawai‘i and often check out open houses on the weekend to critique and analyze what makes architecture work well here. But because of the high cost of real estate and living in Hawai‘i, we also question the need for costly decisions and try to find ways to bring good design to the masses. The goal for the democratization of design is something we always think about and that influences our work, from big to small.
Honolulu resident Stephanie Schlink is the founder of Loulu Studio (loulustudio.com), an interior design firm that aims to create unique spaces that reflect the needs and lifestyle of the clients. “I enjoy harmony, the mixing of disparate styles, juxtaposing textures and contrasting colors to create a cohesive, thoughtful, beautifully realized space,” Schlink says. Th e San Francisco-raised designer has a large Hawaiian and Tahitian family in Hawai‘i and now calls the islands home.
Stephanie Schlink. PORTRAIT BY TOM MAHER
Tell us about this project and the design you had in mind. The main goal was to use the orientation of the lot to capture the trade winds and focus on panoramic ocean views. Th e entry creates a sense of arrival with glimpses of the horizon and leads you through an experience of textures and natural materials as you proceed to the main floor. I aimed at creating contrast and balance throughout the design by combining modern aesthetics with tropical touches. Th e interiors bring a clean, purposeful and neutral vibe, while the tropical elements add texture and movement.
What does good tropical design mean to you?
It is a celebration of place. I believe that good tropical design, or more specifi cally Hawaiian tropical design, celebrates the cultural diversity of the islands while living harmoniously with our climate and land. It’s tactile, layered. It celebrates natural materials, creating spaces with lasting value and timelessness.
A Honolulu abode by Loulu Design Studio. INTERIOR PHOTO BY KELLI WITH AN EYE PHOTOGRAPHY
You’ve lived and worked in San Francisco and Italy. How has that influenced your designs in Hawai‘i?
California, like Hawai‘i, is a melting pot of cultures. Th at exposure has made me appreciate many design styles and opened my eyes to how much of it really is congruent and can overlap. Italy has mastered the juxtaposition of old and new, not to mention impeccable design and craftsmanship across the board. Outside of design, life in Italy revolves around food, family and celebration, so it was the perfect segue to life in Hawai‘i.
Jenn Johnson heads a team of award-winning designers and architects at the full-service firm Indigo Republic (indigo-republic.com). Th e Colorado native, with more than a decade of experience in the business, has always has the tropics on her mind: “I ended up in Hawai‘i since there was no ocean in Colorado!” she says. Her collection of Hawai‘i’s top talents come together to produce stunning Pacific modern estates, resorts and retail businesses in Hawai‘i and internationally.
PHOTO COURTESY OF INDIGO REPUBLIC
PHOTO COURTESY OF INDIGO REPUBLIC
Jenn Johnson. PHOTO COURTESY OF INDIGO REPUBLIC
Can you describe this project and how it came about? What design and problem-solving were you going for?
Th e project was to take one of the worst homes in Lanikai [one of O‘ahu’s most coveted beachside neighborhoods] and making it beautiful. It’s stunning now. I do many different design styles, but this particular project is Australia beach modern.
What does good design mean to you? What does it mean to design for the tropics?
Good design makes you love where you are. You should love being in the space and visually looking at it. Good tropical design takes into account all the different elements of our island environment— sun, heat, salt, wind and rain. Th e materials you select need to hold up to this island environment.
How did you get into interior design and what are your key influences?
I got into interior design as a kid. I would build restaurants and clothing stores in my parents’ basement. Travel and trade shows are my main inspirations. Travel opens your eyes to new ideas, spaces and experiences. Trade shows let you see the new products on the market.
You have been using your design talents to style shows for HGTV in Hawai‘i. What tips or tricks have you learned?
Staging for a TV show is very different than in real life. HGTV wants the big, bold design that reads for TV. Also, the timeline is crazy fast as they are shooting an episode every week.
What’s in store for Indigo Republic in 2022?
We are opening an office in the Turks and Caicos!
An O‘ahu beachside home designed by Indigo Republic. PHOTO COURTESY OF INDIGO REPUBLIC