Hawaiian decor doesn't mean kitsch. We asked Honolulu-based interior designer Marion Philpotts of Philpotts & Associates how she creates sophisticated Hawaiian interiors and how you can bring aloha style into your home.

By Annie S. Butterworth
August 12, 2008
Jean Allsopp

How did you achieve your home's classic Hawaiian style?
I believe that every home is a reflection of the people wholive there, so my own family's plantation cottage implementsHawaiian style in a fresh, youthful way. I've taken traditionalelements-like a table from my grandmother-and put objects on itthat are fun and playful. Hawaiian style is all about a melding ofnew and old.

What are some of your favorite colors?
I really think choosing colors for your home depends on whereyou live. If someone lives in a rain forest, I would use a wetpalette of rich forest colors such as banana-leaf greens andred-torched gingers. Then I would contrast those with lightercolors and textures. If you live near the ocean, I would choosesandy, beach hues and ocean blues and grays. Take a nod from whatyou see from the space. If there's a tree outside the window, payattention to its color, and don't be afraid to use that color inyour home.

What are your favorite accessories for creating Hawaiianstyle?
Tropical plants and arrangements are great accessories forthe home. Anything that reflects the culture also makes a good homeaccessory. I like to use tribal elements that reflect the Hawaiianculture, such as ukuleles, drums, and gongs. It's important to lethome accessories speak the language of the culture.

What are your core design principles?
Less is more. Pay attention to the impact of each element asit relates to other elements. Don't decorate piece by piece;there's harmony in how pieces go together. And don't be afraid ofcolor! Color is your friend. It's a relatively easy and accessibleway to define a space. It defines your home's mood andpersonality.

How do you achieve Hawaiian flair without going overboard?
Fill the room with innuendo; don't hit the whole room with aparticular style. Remember to use elements of Hawaiian or islandstyle sparingly. For example, instead of doing a nice, woven wallcovering, do a woven window treatment. You'll still have a richtexture. Focus, too, on individual pieces, such as pillow shams,icons, or accessories. Choose tropical colors and patterns forthose smaller items.

What is the number-one problem homeowners run into whendecorating with Hawaiian elements?
I think the challenge is having a sense of place. Your homeshould reflect where you're living. It wouldn't make sense to havea ski lodge filled with tropical elements. Use your own life as areference; your home should be meaningful-even nostalgic.

What are subtle ways to get island style?
During the summertime, probably the least expensive thingwould be to head over to a store like Crate & Barrel and pickup items such as mosquito nets, grass skirts, and little icons.Then layer those smaller items into your home. For example, if youlive on the coast, fill a glass cylinder with seashells.

Visit Marion online at philpotts.net.