sneak peek: conn and john in hawaii

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i’m not sure which is cooler – that conn brattain worked for todd oldham in new york, or that conn moved to hawaii and still works for todd. today conn and his partner john giordani – an equally as talented designer, with his fair share of impressive clients (i highly recommend checking out both their portfolios), give us a mega sneak peek into their hawaiian home. some of you may have been lucky enough to get a first look of their off the grid home in the june/july issue of readymade with a fantastic article by d*s’s very own diy derek fagerstrom, but believe it or not there’s still more. beyond what you see below, click here to see lots more images (including a handful of “before” shots and more descriptions) and don’t forget to pick up a copy of the magazine. and if you still haven’t had enough of conn and john, you can check out their hawaiian adventures here, on their blog and a great diy project they shared with d*s in 2006. [thanks conn and john for a truly inspired sneak peek!] -anne

[Above: John hand painted this “ALOHA” sign which welcomes our visitors.]


Conn and John on the lanai.


The dining and living room as it is today with the White Corn walls. The dining chairs are Thonet that I bought at the 26th street flea market in 1996. They are said to have come from a mental institution. You may recall the how-to last summer which was featured right here on d*s. I recovered them in old linen fabric that used to be curtains and printed the seat of each chair with a different leaf from the property. The dining table is OLD Ikea. I bought it in 1996 as for $69.00. It’s just a piece of plywood I stained, but it’s kinda perfect. The living room chairs, ottomans and rugs are Todd Oldham by La-Z-Boy. The sofa is is vintage and was originally covered in a blue floral…but when I bought it at the 26th street flea market in 1995, it was covered in black vinyl. The coffee table is by one of my all time favorite designers, Paul McCobb.


The view from the living room through the house. The cabinet with the white front is a Jens Risom cabinet I found at regeneration in NY about 13 years ago. The front rolls up and down and it is where we have the tv and other electronics. The chair next to it is an amazing piece I found on the street, ready for the garbage man when I rescued it about 12 years ago. It’s in near perfect condition with a leather seat and backrest that pivots.


The kitchen today in all it’s modern glory. Once we had all the materials on hand, it took us about 2 weeks to rip out the old and install all this. As you can see, we moved the fridge to the far wall which allows so much light to pour in. Under the window we added a breakfast bar. Tons of white laminate cabinets by Kraftmaid. We took out the peninsula that jutted into the space and added this stainless steel table as a moveable island from a restaurant wholesale supplier. The fact that the bottom is open also helps light flow through the space, but if we ever need more shelves we can simply order another and add it to the table. Neat trick… we bought two 30″ cabinet handles and added them to the ends of the table as “towel bars”. On the floor is a woven lauhala mat typical here in Hawai’i. The 2 stools in the background (Pier 1) also have a woven seat and we covered the Ikea lack shelves in a similar woven material (see the d*s DIY) to bring a bit of warmth in the room. The front stools are from Ross.


The breakfast bar is a great place to sit and have coffee, banana muffins and star fruit jam (made with fruit from our yard) or work on our laptops, gazing out the window. In the background are a few of our favorite things. a Stig Lindberg bowl, a plaster cake by Amy Sedaris, apothecary jars filled with various snacks. The shelves house our collection of vintage bowls by Paul McCobb, Fitz and Floyd, Emalox and others, homemade jams and salsa as well as artwork by Tom Bonauro and a few of my paintings for “I Like You: Hospiltaity Under the Influence” by Amy Sedaris.


The bedroom is small, but who cares when you’re sleeping. It’s done in shades of blue, green, yellow, sand and white. This room is what we call the aviary. It’s all bird and insect prints. These 6 are by the great Charley Harper from the Ford Times era. Waking up in this room to singing birds right out the window everyday instead of sirens is magical. One of the night stands is a vintage piece John found and the other is an old Ikea metal chest of drawers. it was originally unfinished wood that we stained to match the other stand. The bedside lamps are Todd Oldham by La-Z-Boy. All the sheets are from Dwell and the coverlet is by Martha Stewart. The throw pillows I made with custom Todd Oldham by La-Z-Boy fabrics that I had the honor of working on. They were inspired by Charley Harper. Some of these, like the shells which were based on the Crabitat print (in the bathroom) never went into production… and I was lucky enough to snag the samples when I was still working in Todd’s studio. Thanks Todd!


The new walk in shower. What we did was rip out the vinyl shower and extend the new shower the entire width of the room by tiling up all 4 walls.We also added a mosaic tile bench with left over tiles from the kitchen back splash. The curtain was custom made by using the same technique as the pillows and dining room chairs, only this time I used white fabric paint on white linen. Tiki’s guard our toothbrushes. The back splash was made out of the scraps from tiles used on the floor and in the shower.


This is the view as you cross from the dining room into the “corridor” between the kitchen, bedroom and bathroom.The art on the front wall is by artist and great friend since 6th grade, Parnell Corder who does the most amazing drawings and watercolors of orchids. I hung them on this wall because it is the first thing you see when you walk in. … that and the fact that all the rooms have a specific theme. The white double panel of curtains is hung on a bamboo rod for 2 reasons… 1. it breaks up the space and makes a softer transition. 2. it is a great room divider when we have out of town guests sleeping on the pull-out.


Just because it’s a closet, doesn’t mean it can’t be just as decked out as the rest of the house. We have a small walk in that accommodates our chest of drawers that I bought at least 12 years ago at the Salvation Army on Atlantic Ave in Brooklyn. The top, as you can see here is white laminate. the body was painted black, but we stripped it and stained it a dark walnut color. So here in the closet we have a little collection of art that we like to call “FACE IT”. From left to right: Thumbprint owl by Lauren Smith, Horror Show by Jim Winters, Alessi watch, A Ganesh, Girl with a Gun from Damned Dollies, (it’s actually a patch, but i frammed it) 2 guys holding hands in a Box,”Taxi” – a photo of Divine by John Waters from her first movie for John (a birthday gift from Todd), Gas Mask Teddy Bear by Peter Hamlina ceramic box with 2 fish on the lid, Faceless Man by Parnell Corder (the face is actually cut out and I added the gold foil paper) and a collection of badges.


Between the living room chairs is a small chest of drawers I found in the trash about 15 years ago. The lamp is a Joe Columbo lamp from the 60’s. A friend found it on trip to Venezuela for $10 USD and brought it home to me as a birthday present. The stripe glasses we got at a yard sale here – 4 glasses NIB (new in box) for $1! How could we say no?


Many people here names their homes. We are no exception and have named ours “Haleaka a’alani puka komo” Which means, “House of the Orange Door”. Clever right? We still need to make sure we have it spelled correctly.

  1. Laura says:

    Thank you for the kitchen inspiration. I have looked at a million photos and I love yours the best. Will try my best to duplicate your window breakfast nook here in Vancouver, BC!

  2. ‘Ilima and Laura,
    Thanks for the kind words.

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