Living Hawaiian Style is easier than you think, since Hawaiian decorating influences span the globe. Hawaii home decorating ideas. Hawaiian decor. Tropical Island and South Pacific sources.

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The only truly native Hawaiian element in this mountainside  Molokai bedroom is the kukui nut lei hung on the bedpost. Borrowing from the paniolo, or Hawaiian cowboy style, the walls were finished by mimicking board and batten by nailing 1 X 2 wood strips to the sheetrock walls, with simple trim at the ceiling, and painted a fresh buttery white, while the adjoining wall is painted tangerine. What a very inexpensive way to add a strong architectural element: the wall needs no framed pictures or further adornment. The simple 3-footed iron lamps’ columns are decorated with a climbing gecko / lizard, with simple parchment shade. A chair fashioned from branches with a sparingly woven cowhide strip seat and backrest sits by the simple and substantial wooden sliding screen door that wouldn’t look out of place in a barn structure. Note that the end tables are unmatched; a wood pedestal table on one side and a weathered cupboard painted off-white and distressed on the other. The white painted bench at the foot of the bed is a garden bench brought indoors, and the massive bed with it’s columned posts is definitely country farmhouse style. The sliding glass doors to the lanai glide effortlessly, despite their substantial girth, and we like that they didn’t choose a solid sheet of glass, but broke up the space with a cross piece, not in the middle, but at thigh-height, where someone might lean against the glass as they unlocked and opened the door.

One would expect to find a traditional Hawaiian quilt on the bed, but a colorful patchwork was chosen instead, and the pillow covers echo the colors in the quilt, yet don’t match. We love this room’s comfort and cohesiveness: only the lamps “match”, yet everything works together charmingly.

Living Hawaiian Style Molokai Ranch Lodge bedroom copyright

Living Hawaiian Style


We continually discover great finds within’s vast array of Hawaiian-style living choices, so we have grouped these together in our Amazon Store. Click the bedspread photo to see some of the things we’d be happy living with: has a phenomenal returns policy, which is why, in addition to their great prices, we search Amazon first.


Search online for stores that carry appropriate furniture styles by using terms such as plantation, nautical. cottage, island, havana, hawaiian, caribbean, bali, indonesian, tropical, etc. New England and European antiques or repros work well in combination with Hawaiian Style Decorating.

Craigslist and eBay are rich sources as well, and since many visitors have computer access while in Hawaii, check the local listings for unique items. Ships from all over the world deposited items in Hawaii. Stop at yard sales in Hawaii as well. Don’t forget eBay, or using Bidnapper to make sure you win what you’re after:

HOMELEMENT has an impressive array of Hawaiian-style Plantation furniture. Search on the HOMELEMENT webpage using the word PLANTATION.

Keep in mind that every design choice does not have to be about dolphins and turtles, and in fact these images are usually over-used and end up looking kitschy. NEWPORT NAUTICAL’s blue ticking linens are a classier alternative to  Walmart’s dolphin bed sets:

IDEAS & Books

Under The Hula Moon, by Jocelyn Fujii is a priceless and endless source of inspiration, as most of the photos in this beautiful book are of local houses of every style, from surfers’ crash pads to Plantation Boss Mansions.

Hawaii, A Sense Of Place by Mary Philpotts McGrath features the gorgeous homes of the rich and famous, but even if you’re poor, you’ll find a lot on island decorating ideas here.

Plantation Village, located past Pearl Harbor in Waipahu, is a wonderful “town” made up of relocated and restored plantation-era buildings brimming with simple charm and great ideas. There are dozens of buildings here that you can walk through.


The Lei is one detail that indisputably says Hawaii, and Walmart and Costco are good sources for a wide variety of fresh flower lei, as well as those made with kukui nuts, seeds, shells and feathers. In Honolulu, shops along Maunakea and Beretania Street in Chinatown sell some of the most inexpensive and beautifully designed lei found anywhere. Fresh lei and plant materials must be certified to leave the islands, so if you buy a fresh lei, make sure the item has been treated and packaged by the seller to meet Hawaii Ag guidelines.


Learn more about Hawaiian quilts here courtesy of Under The Lychee Tree.


...or their components can be found everywhere in Hawaii and all over the internet. Antique prints, postcards, cabinet cards or old-looking reproductions look great in antique frames, which we find at estate sales, junk shops and online for the same price as a new frame at, say, Macy’s.


No matter where you live the local nursery will have potted tropical plants and palms, and florists will sell a single ginger stalk, or an odd number of anthuriums. Coconuts from the supermarket can be displayed in a basket or on a tray, which can be obtained at Goodwill, or Pier One, or pricey shops everywhere.


Hawaiian and tropical print fabrics can be found on auction sites, in secondhand stores anywhere, and at the many fabric shops in Hawaii. In Hilo, the Singer Sewing Center on Hwy. 11 right in town near Walmart has a terrific selection.

Living Hawaiian Style

Living Hawaiian Style


There is no precise definition of Hawaiian Style because Hawaiian Style is actually all over the map —literally.

The cultural influences upon Hawaii are vast, ranging from Craftsman and Shaker furniture, kitsch to fine art, the use of natural elements such as plant material, coconuts and seashells, and a studied mix of antique and modern furniture. Situated at the center of Pacific Ocean sailing routes, Hawaii has been influenced by South and Central America, the American Cowboy, the New England saltbox, the Mexican vanquero, and large measures of Caribbean, Balinese, European, Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino crafts and culture. Many different styles can work wonderfully well together to create a tropical / Hawaiian / summery / cottage / nautical / ranch-style look. Hawaii is mile-long beaches and vast cattle ranches, farms and cities, plantations and luxury hotels, and upon closer look at the way Hawaii lives and decorates, dozens of influences can be seen.

It is the details that matter the most: a large bowl filled with dried flower lei; Hawaii figurines found for a song on eBay or at local garage sales; lauhala woven mats, baskets, hats; cowboy hats with lei headband, a cattle hide rug or upholstered stool; a single red or pink ginger stem in a simple vase. The choices are vast, and we will present the best ideas and examples on our LIVING HAWAIIAN STYLE site.

Not sure how to go about your new decorating or redecorating project? Before you hire a decorator, first consider our consultation sessions in which we suggest changes to give your home or vacation hideaway a freshened look before spending a lot of cash. We provide a HD video record of each session for our clients to preserve and refer back to.

Living Hawaiian Style
Japanese fishing floats from Hawaii craigslist copyright
Antique trunk from Hawaii craigslist copyright
Ships wheel from Hawaii craigslist copyright
teak armoire from Hawaii craigslist copyright
Balinese god Bali statue from Hawaii craigslist copyright
mid 1800s sofa from Hawaii craigslist copyright
Queen Liliuokalani music stand from Hawaii craigslist copyright
Hawaiian doll collection from Hawaii craigslist copyright
rattan lounge and footrest from Hawaii craigslist copyright

Hawaii Craigslist can often turn up one-of-a-kind treasures and bargains, from a music stand used by Queen Liliuokalani, for $12.5 million, to a set of four antique bamboo display racks for art, books or plates, for an amazing $20. Glass fishing floats, $20 each. The 4-foot high Balinese statue is listed at $800. Rattan lounger and footrest, $700, and the carved screen, $750. The circa 1850 sofa, $1500. The ship wheel is $425, and the trunk, $299. The teak armoire is listed at $600 and the Hawaiian dolls are open to negotiation. The Hawaiian plates were manufacture in the 1940s in occupied Japan. The dresser and the two matching tables are made of Hawaii-native koa wood.

When in Hawaii, be sure to check the Craigslist listings for the island you’re on.

antique art display stand from Hawaii craigslist copyright
Living Hawaiian Style
Hawaii home alcove sunny ideas from Hawaii craigslist copyright
Hawaiian home ratten chair upholstery from Hawaii craigslist copyright

Hawaii’s Walmart, Macy’s and other stores stock rattan furniture cushion covers, but we were unhappy with their lack of uniqueness, so we browsed eBay for upholstery fabric using words like “palm”, “tropical” and the like, and found these two fabrics on the same day. We sent the fabric and cushion dimensions to Felix Upholstery on Santa Monica Blvd. near LaBrea in Los Angeles, and discussed the result we wanted over the phone. We had throw cushions made from the same material. Oops... the bottom box cushion was turned upside down without our noticing when we took the detail photo. Winnowing baskets from Madagascar, a matchstick bamboo shade and a bunch of anthuriums complete the scene in this small alcove.

A good outdoor shower includes a ankle level shower head as well. Free plans to build this al fresco shower partition, thanks to click

Click images to take you to their websites.

No matter where you may live, summer days can be unbearably sweaty, and nothing feels better than cooling off in an outdoor shower. Portable models that can be placed anywhere and connected with a garden hose can be found at Target and Walmart, or you can opt for higher end built-in models. If building an enclosed shower stall, remove boards or leave spaces at eye level to view the scenery, even if it’s only a view of shrubbery. A completely enclosed “outdoor” shower pretty much defeats the whole idea: to be outdoors in a beautiful setting on a hot day decompressing under a stream of running water.

Drainage is an important consideration: where will the runoff go? We dug a 4 square foot hole 18 inches deep in poorly-draining clay soil, and filled it with gravel, then set the teak wood base of our portable shower on top of the gravel.

Click the photos to take you to the websites.

Craftsman architecture in Hawaii has a rich heritage, incorporating local elements such as lava rock, coral blocks, generous roof overhangs to accommodate heavy rain and hot sun, and Ohia beams, yet maintaining the beauty and elegance that defines the Craftsman ethic. On the Big Island, to the left of the Volcano House Hotel you will discover an enclave inhabited by various parks and forestry departments, (top photo) all occupying wonderfully designed former homes now used as offices. Drive around and note the details and elements that owe as much to Frank Lloyd Wright as they do to Madame Pele. The bottom photo shows the Hawaii Boy Scout headquarters in Honolulu, located on the first street past Queen Emma’s Summer Palace on the Pali Highway. The massive chimney that warms cool nights also anchors the building visually, while generous roof overhangs keep things cool and shady.



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Living Hawaiian Style

James T. Ferla

The Hawaiian pune`e is essentially a daybed, traditional in Hawaii Living since the time of ali`i. Usually the size of a full bed mattress, it is placed in the living space rather than the bedroom, as it is meant for lounging alone or with company. Visit James T. Ferla’s delectable website to view his had-crafted Hawaiian furniture, including his beautiful pune`e, pictured above. You can see in the smaller photos how the pune`e in this instance is tucked into an alcove outside the bedroom proper.

The Classic “Living Hawaiian Style” Book

Jocelyn Fujii’s Under The Hula Moon explores the gamut of Hawaiian Style, from Surfers’ crash pads, to Hawaiian Cowboy ranch houses, to historic plantation homes. Crammed with ideas for home and garden, it is your go-to source for inspiration.  Out-of-print, we’ve had great luck  finding it on Amazon; click on the images to purchase.

Handsome Upcountry homes reveal there’s more to Hawaiian Style than just the ubiquitous beach cottage.

Don and Josie Over’s home in Aina Haina, Oahu, housed their fourteen adopted children in classic Tahitian fale, thatched-roof cottages built along their spacious lawn as it rolled down toward Puaiko lagoon. The kids were thrilled to have such a private space to call their own. Not seen in the kitchen photo is a huge glass-doored refrigerator crammed with the volume of food necessary to keep the brood happy.

Few people realize that commercial color photography became available to the masses in 1907. Because of its expense, color photos pre-1950 are relatively unusual. Here are some very rare color views of Hawaii from the 1920s.

The Captain Cook Monument in the Big Island’s Kealakekua Bay fronts the eerily-vacant slopes in the background, which today are filled with homes.

The Rainbow Bridge in Haleiwa, on Oahu’s North Shore, is seen here soon after its construction. Notice the Model T automobile parked to the extreme right.

Old Volcano Road on the Big Island still exists in short stretches, but has been replaced by modern Hwy. 11. Here, a 1920-era automobile makes the trek up to Halemaumau.

The Moana Hotel in Waikiki was (almost) completely restored in recent years in celebration its 100th birthday, but the old pier, and the dining hall annex seen here on stilts, were not rebuilt.







The Royal Hawaiian Hotel Grand Opening, 1927 in Waikiki was a big event for Hawaii’s burgeoning cruise ship market. On the right are the famous gardens as they first appeared.

Norman Carby’s Dreamy Hawaiian Vision

Among the whale and dolphin overload that crowds Hawaii’s art galleries and shops, Norman Carby’s lovely modern take on Hawaiian life and the islands’ familiar icons combines a classic notion and his own magical vision. No one else quite captures so beautifully the everyday places, objects and vignettes that those of us who live in Hawaii coexist with daily —and too often take for granted.

Who else but Norman Carby would include the plastic bucket that tropical blooms rest in at the local outdoor markets, rather than picture them in a lovely vase, and do it so beautifully? Or present the Big Island’s tumble-down ramshackle buildings so charmingly?

Carby’s way of seeing things Hawaiian and reinterpreting the everyday and mundane in such a gorgeous way makes him a stand out in an art market glutted with idealized and fantastical representations.

The originals of these works were created as acrylic paintings on canvas, then scanned by  Hilo Fine Art Center for giclee printing on archival papers in varying sizes.

Norman can be reached at

You’ve been emailing us about them, so here they sre:

discoveringhawaii’s Exclusive Design:

Hula Wahine Accent Pillows

$49.95 and $59.95     click image to view

Red Ti Leaf + Hitchiker

Framed Prince

We got ours on eBay by patiently searching. We also won antique 1870s frames to put them in, then draped our shell and pod lei over one corner.

A Walk-Through Green Paradise

Cream surfaces and a collection of celadon green artifacts, fabrics and ceramics create a peaceful cozy mood despite the tiny cottage being jammed with objects. Gayle Tweed had a fabricator wrap her kitchen countertop in copper sheeting, neatly folded and secured at the joins with copper nails. Beautiful. Standard bamboo shades are dressed with wide ribbon secured with a bow. Doors of cabinets were removed to facilitate accessing and viewing the extensive collection of  cabbageware and other green ceramic dinnerware. A board with coat hooks anyone else would have tossed is used to support a vintage drape as room divider.

Every available space is put to use for display, with distressed painted furniture, rusted garden tools, an antique glass greenhouse, and objects of uncertain origin repurposed as postcard display,  trays,  headboards and planters.

It took a masterful eye to combine all these in such an artful exhibition within a space both compact and well-lived-in.