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Hawaian Designer Styles for Less

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Interior designer Chuen Yee uses surplus materials, online bargains outlets like Design-4-less.com and big-box fixtures to accomplish a million-dollar makeover on a St. Louis Heights home. By Steven Mark POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jan 28, 2013 Interior walls and flat ceilings were removed during the remodeling of this St. Louis Heights home, creating a [...]




 

 

Interior designer Chuen Yee uses surplus materials, online bargains outlets like Design-4-less.com and big-box fixtures to accomplish a million-dollar makeover on a St. Louis Heights home.

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jan 28, 2013

Interior walls and flat ceilings were removed during the remodeling of this St. Louis Heights home, creating a sense of spaciousness inside while also inviting visitors to look out and enjoy the panoramic view of downtown Honolulu.

COURTESY CHUEN YEE
The rectangular shape of the kitchen cabinets and countertops is accentuated by tile backsplash that designer Chuen Yee found online at Design-4-less.com.
The spacious master bathroom has hotel-standard accents, including an electronic window shade that lets you enjoy the view while bathing.
A bioethanol-fueled fireplace adds color and liveliness to the television nook, but doesn’t bake the screen.

The original structure had dark, small rooms that didn’t take advantage of the view.
Bargain shopping makes a luxurious home makeover more affordable.

Interior designer Chuen Yee and her client knew they had hit the jackpot when they came across a fixer-upper in St. Louis Heights.

The dilapidated, 1950s-era house opened out into a “million-dollar view” of downtown Hono­lulu and the ocean, said Yee, of MCYIA Interior Architecture and Design.

“Before he bought it he brought me here, and I was like, Oh, you have to get this.’ I saw the view and thought it had potential,” she said.

The house itself wasn’t much to speak of. Built on a steep slope, it had the typical-for-the-times flat ceiling and tiny, closed-off spaces for the kitchen and two bedrooms. The house stood on high stilts, with dirt underneath visible through a few slats, but there was no deck. Small windows were poorly positioned, in some cases providing a view “to nowhere,” Yee said. “It didn’t take advantage of any views.”

In what she called a “Tropical Modern Metamorphosis,” Yee transformed the house to take full advantage of the panorama and create a space suitable for entertaining, which were the prime objectives of her client. The house won an award in 2012 from the local chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers.

The total budget for the project was $325,000, but about $200,000 of that went for a major reconstruction project that involved removing interior walls and ceilings, adding structural elements to hold up the roof, building a master bedroom suite on the ground floor and constructing a lanai that towers over the backyard and makes the view feel even more commanding than it really is.

Yee’s client, an executive at Aulani, a Disney Resort Spa in Ko Olina, wanted a home of similar luxury standards but with a less extravagant budget. Yee was able to accomplish this by mixing and matching surplus material and searching the Internet for special deals, often finding odds and ends that went with custom features.

Yee, in a statement about her approach to the project, said she employed “a monochromatic palette of industrial and organic elements” to create “a balance of yin-yang with a masculine, clean-lined look.”

The cabinetry, for example, is oak stained a dark brown, with custom features such as small niches for flower vases or other knickknacks, and a special drawer for cellphones. That makes them “more like furniture than cabinets,” said Yee, a native of Thailand who specialized in interior design for the hospitality industry before turning to private residences.

Countertops throughout the home are white Caesarstone, a manufactured quartz product known for the purity of its color. While the owner negotiated a deal on the materials and the workmanship for the kitchen, Yee went on the Internet to find material for a suitable backsplash. She found tile patterned in brown, gray and white rectangles, which matched the color and shape of the counter and cabinets from Design For Less.

The bathrooms also feature Caesarstone counters, but those were made of remnants bought at a discount from local stone suppliers. Having the remnants installed in an unusual pattern added a unique touch of luxury, she said. The bathrooms are also tiled in the brown-and-white rectangular pattern, which Yee also found online.

“It’s cheaper on the Internet than here by sometimes half,” said Yee, who recommended Amazon and design-4-less.com for specialty tile, Lumens.com for lighting fixtures and chiasso.com and allmodern.com for accessories and furniture. (Be sure to check shipping costs, she said.)

For many other items, such as doors, faucets and light fixtures, big-box hardware stores were adequate, she said. On the ocean side of the house, for example, the owner originally wanted NanaWall folding glass windows that would have created a view unobstructed by posts or frames. Those would have cost up to $30,000.

“That ate too much of the budget, so this is all from Home Depot,” Yee said, motioning to more traditional sliding doors that cost a few hundred dollars each.

The dark flooring is solid wire-brushed and hand-scraped bamboo, which is inexpensive and sustainable yet also adds a touch of natural elegance to the open living room and kitchen, which during the day is filled with light. At night an open fireplace produces a warm ambience ” but it runs on bioethanol and produces no waste and so little heat that it doesn’t affect the flat-screen television mounted on the wall behind it.

Yee’s husband, Michael, an engineer who helped out with some of the structural details of the project, said the renovation shows what can be done with an older home and a bit of savvy from the owner and the designer.

“Ordinarily, a person would come to look at this, and wanting a semi luxurious house, they probably would have torn it down and started anew,he said. “This is really an ingenious way to  have that million-dollar look without spending a million dollars.”


 

 

 
 
 

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