Aloha Modern

Metropolitan Home (Special Issue)

January / February 2005


By Michael Lassell


Metropolitan Home of the Year Contest 2005 Winners


When this island-born designer moved her family back from the mainland, she transformed an old bungalow into a new take on traditional Hawaiian style.


Marion Philpotts and Jeff Miller, Honolulu, HI After living in San Francisco for 20 years, interior designer Marion Philpotts, who was born and raised in Honolulu, returned to Oahu for a "softer lifestyle." She brought with her "attorney husband Jeff, two dancing daughters, a menagerie of animals and a dream of ‘living aloha.'" That dream included continuing "barefoot Hawaiian childhood days and waking up in a lush valley to a symphony of birdsong." But she didn't want to abandon the best of her mainland experience, either.


The family bought a typical plantation-style 1920s bungalow in Nuuanu Valley (only ten minutes from downtown Honolulu) and set about transforming the neglected, termite-damaged piece of history into a 2,900-square-foot modern home. To pay homage to traditional Hawaiian living, the characteristic lanai (wrap around porch) was salvaged and repaired. Board and batten walls, built-ins, the original stairs and a carved pineapple finial were also rescued.


The upstairs master suite was reconfigured, and the kitchen, formerly "dark and dismal," was reborn with expanded space that allows it to function as one of several family gathering places. The garage was turned into a pavilion that serves as a party room as well as a dance studio (it has a sprung floor, mirrors and a ballet barre). The result, says Philpotts (whose firm designed the blissfully relaxing spa at the five-star Halekulani hotel on Waikiki), is "a home where kids and adults coexist happily, where entertaining friends is easy and where the aloha spirit is always present."