Photography by Matthew Millman
Mary Philpotts is a name synonymous with timeless Hawaiian design and hospitality. For more than 40 years, the Oahu native’s design firm has set the bar for aesthetic grace and environmental integrity. Fundamental to her work is an organic sense of place and respect for native culture. Today, her team of partners, including daughter Marion Philpotts-Miller, is moving those design concepts forward as stewards of her internationally recognized brand.
“Our goal is to evolve the vision without diluting the brand. Mary gifted us with a timeless and agile sense of place combined with gracious hospitality. We’re taking those principles, adding modernism and a broader perspective of various cultural aspects and combine them with the experiences of the individual client,” design partner Jonathon Staub says. “Every place, every individual has a unique story to tell. We listen to the storytelling of the place, listen and collaborate with the client and then layer it all into a sophisticated, livable space,” he says.
Mary, who no longer takes on new clients, describes her role as cultural consultant on firm projects. In addition to the many homes she and the team have designed at Hualalai over the years, they also provided the distinctly Hawaiian vibe at the Residents’ Canoe Club. Its design is not only true to place, but true to purpose as well. A perfect example of seamless indoor/outdoor living spaces, comfortable, hand-crafted furnishings and artwork, the Canoe Club is all about traditional Hawaiian ocean sports and Hawaii’s casual, active lifestyle.
Philpotts Interiors uses a palette of natural earth tones punctuated sparingly with jewel-toned accents reflecting emerald green fairways, sapphire and aquamarine ocean, and fiery ruby sunsets. Native hardwoods are prominent, while texture is incorporated using natural, local fibers and materials. Hand-screened fabrics prevail along with hand-crafted finishes and local art from kapa cloth wall hangings and artfully turned koa bowls to sculptures of stone and wood.
Definitive Hualalai-style design? “Barefoot luxury at its very best elegant, approachable, livable,” Staub says without missing a beat.
Place, a design atelier in Honolulu open to both designers and the public, offers treasures personally selected by Mary Philpotts during frequent buying trips worldwide. It’s stocked with everything from furniture to tabletop, decorative pillows to chandeliers. Located on the ground floor of the LEED-certified Philpotts Interiors office building, it’s also the place that occupies most of Mary’ time these days. Seasonal workshops are hosted here that speak to customers’ new “deliberate and disciplined spending”, she says. They offer tricks and practical advice on perking up living spaces without dropping tens of thousands, including simply re-adjusting lighting, changing-out home accessories (decorative pillows and candles) seasonally and going back to retro ideas such as using slipcovers to re-invent sofas and chairs.
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