Interiorssneak peeks

Finding Success in a Tropical Paradise

by Amy Azzarito

After finishing college, but before settling down to a 9-to-5 life, Kelsi Vande Velden hit the road with her best friend on an epic road trip. For three months, they traveled the country going to music festivals, national parks and stopping at every dive bar and curious antique store along the way. Towards the end of their trip, they stopped at a hole-in-the-wall antique store in Northern California where Kelsi found an antique compass sundial pocket watch. She couldn’t walk out of the store without it. When she returned home, she added leather straps, a buckle off an old purse and wore it as a watch. She got compliments everywhere she went and she even tried to recreate the watch, but every other antique compass sundial that she tried drilling into broke. She decided that the watch would be a one-off for her and continued in her interior design career.

Fast-forward three years, and Kelsi meets her now-boyfriend Garrett outside a concert. They start a long-distance relationship – he lived in Chicago and Kelsi lived in Green Bay, Wisconsin. After nine months, they realized that the 3.5-hour drive wasn’t going to work longterm. They decided to move to Maui – a place neither of them had ever been. They quit their jobs, sold everything they owned and moved with two backpacks to Maui. First, they lived in a hostel until they found a little shack. It was pretty much a glorified camping spot with an outdoor shower, an outhouse, a hot plate and two backpacks of stuff. They couple stayed in the shack for two and a half years and Kelsi decided to give her compass sundial watch idea another try. She worked on creating Pandeia for a year and a half from her jungle studio (with no cell reception and poor internet service) before launching the company. Now the watch is sold all over the world and is her full-time job, and the couple moved above their little shack on a cliff overlooking the ocean. The rental apartment has two covered patios where the couple spends most of their time. Their nightly routine involves lounging in their hammocks, drinks in hand, watching the sun set over the ocean. Kelsi says that it never really seems to get old. –Amy

Image above: “This is the lower outdoor patio that divides our secluded backyard from the French doors leading into our bedroom,” Kelsi says. “I love this area because it’s like a living room outside. It’s a great place for people to gather when we have parties. From this area, you are sheltered from the rain, but can still see the stars.”

Image above: “This is a shot of the area I spend the most time in, the upper patio. This is where I tend to work. The table is an antique. It is nothing short of amazing with its leather top and nailhead trim around the edges. I added two slipcovered chairs (so they are easy to clean) and two antiqued brass task lamps for late night sessions. The shell chandelier offers a seaside Maui vibe that keeps me inspired while I am hard at work making Pandeia sundial watches.”


See more of this Maui home after the jump!

Image above: “This is a shot of my seating area in my living room. The coffee table is a slab of Koa wood, an indigenous wood to Hawaii. My radical woodworking boyfriend made it for us. I love the raw edges of the table mixed with the clean lines of the sofa and cacti terrarium boxes. I tucked two floor pillows under the table to give it a laid-back, casual vibe and offer another place to hang. A cowhide rug acts as an anchor for the area. Layered pillows and geometric side tables bring a contemporary feel to the otherwise natural elements. My slipcovered sofa is amazing as it looks like a linen but is made of outdoor fabric and can literally be sprayed down with a hose or put in the wash.”

Image above: “This image is a bird’s eye view from up in our guest loft overlooking the living area and into our upper outdoor patio. As you can see,  I am outside, hard at work, making Pandeia watches.”

Image above: “This is in my living room. The sliding doors to the left lead out to my upstairs lanai. I added simple white linen panels to each side of the door to add a softness. I used the same white linen window treatments throughout my entire house. (In this image you can also see they are covering a closet where I store all of my business materials.) I love carrying the same elements throughout the house to create a cohesive flow. I found that sticking to similar elements throughout my home makes it easier for me to switch it up. I often rearrange and exchange items from one room to another. It’s a free way to update your space and get new energy flowing! Also in this image is my antiqued brass tripod floor lamp, Moroccan floor pouf and lanterns which I adore. My boyfriend’s skateboard is stored in the corner for easy access.”

Image above: “This is the left side of the foyer area that leads from my bedroom to the spiral staircase. There is amazing shelving that was built in, perfect for displaying my eclectic and curious collections. Many of the strange items displayed hold dear to my heart – most were picked up on travels or given to me by friends. I love this area because it reminds me of good times and people.”

Image above: “This is over the small bar area separating my living room from my kitchen. I hung garden roses that were a gift from Garrett along with fresh Eucalyptus given to me by a neighbor. The lace “prayer flags” were handmade and given to me by a dear friend. I love bringing plants into my home as it makes me feel that much closer to nature.”

Image above: “This starburst mirror represents a great accomplishment. Before I moved to Maui I worked as an interior designer. I have ALWAYS wanted this mirror, but it was out of my price range. When I started Pandeia, my line of compass sundial watches, I used the memory of this mirror as a source for my logo inspiration. Once Pandeia took off and I finally had a little extra change I splurged on this mirror. Every time I look at it, it reminds me of my growth and accomplishments in business.”


Image above: “A closeup of the natural curiosities on the Koa slab table. Claw foot candle holders, cacti terrarium boxes, old keys, candles, and a stack of sea urchins found on the sea floor. The black book is one of my prized possessions. I got it at Market in North Carolina while at Kelly Hoppen’s seminar. She signed it for me just a month before I left my design career to follow my inner compass to Maui. The antiqued-looking card catalog also holds 365 quotes. As a ritual I pick a random card to read each morning. It’s a wonderful way to gain a little inspiration to start the day.”

Image above: These are my cacti lining the window above my kitchen sink. The pots are actually antique Lassi cups, handmade by their owners, from India. I also have the word “ALOHA” spelled backwards behind them in the window so you can see it from my driveway. Our guests always notice the ALOHA in the window first when they pull up. I feel like it’s a great welcome.”


Image above: This is my handmade wooden carrier for my leather tools, findings and dyes. This is my life in a shot right here. This is an inside peek of the stages of my creation, a piece of my soul I call Pandeia compass sundial watches. I love this wooden carrier because it was made by hand and offers a bit of style to the mundane. You can’t see it from this image, but the whole horizon from this porch is the ocean, with the jungle gulch leading up to the shore.”

Image above: “This image shows our killer vaulted A-frame style ceiling. It adds so much height to the room, making our small space seem much larger. The lower portion of the image is our kitchen nook. Above it is the guest loft that is accessible by climbing the surprisingly sturdy bamboo ladder. The guest loft is equipped with mosquito net for practical reasons, but it also offers a soft romantic touch. The guest loft is also one of my favorite rooms of the house. The view up there is extraordinary and you feel like you are safe in a little nest. One of our favorite things to do is climb out the window in the loft onto the roof and watch the sunset – you can see both Haleakala and the West Maui Mountains.”

Image above: “This is my adored antique headboard. It is actually an old Balinese door that I found at an antique store on the island. It took me two years to talk the antique store owner down on the price. I would drive past the store on my way home from my old job and would stop in once a week to bargain. After two years, I talked him down from the original $900 to $250 – it goes to show persistence pays off.”

Image above: “A full view of our bedroom area. You enter it through French doors on the lower outdoor patio. There is loads of natural light and I love that. This is my favorite room because of the contemporary bohemian feel. The fabric hanging behind the headboard covers the unsightly orange wooden wall. I hung pendant lights on each side of the bed so that we could have nightlights without needing bedside tables since the space is so small.”

Image above: “This photo is a great shot of our awesome ceiling in the living area. I love the vaulted wooden beams and large industrial bolts securing them. My Maui beach cruiser is out and ready for a ride. I had it custom painted at a friend’s auto body shop in a pearly white + gold flake. It was originally a light sky blue. Currently I am using the basket as a planter. My favorite morning routine includes hitting the streets of Haiku on this beauty in search of coffee and baked goods.”

Image above: “This image is taken outside on my lower lanai, right before my backyard starts. You can see the tribal print draped curtains I have framing all corners of the lanai. To the right of the sign is the most perfect papaya tree. You can pick the fruit from the upper lanai.  A handpainted “Pandeia Studio” sign is nestled in abundant aloe and bromeliad plants. That wood was a lucky find. I had wanted a wooden Pandeia Studio sign but I needed the perfect piece of old and worn wood. A day later I was driving down the Hana Highway with a friend when I spotted this blank sign broken and abandoned on the side of the road.  It was waiting for me. My friend was so confused as to why I was so stoked over two pieces of old wood. I nailed it back together, painted “Pandeia Studio” on it and added a little arrow pointing towards my door as the finishing touch. It was truly a roadside score.”

Image above: “This is the left side of the outdoor patio. I was gifted a broken surfboard from a friend, painted it white, added my logo and nailhead studs to create a unique Pandeia sign for my work area. I also have two handmade crocheted hammocks flanking each side of the porch. Its great for ‘pau hana’ cocktail chill sessions. I have yet to find a better way to wind down.”


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  • To me, this is white done right. This home is amazing, warm, creative, clean, and comfortable. I’d be thrilled to live here :)

  • I’d love to see photos of the shack they lived in before, actually! What a great story :)

  • Such a beautiful home. To me, this is white done right. It’s feels intentional but also natural, and it fits with the atmosphere of the space. Much better than so many homes lately that just do all white walls with Ikea furniture and one Eames item and call it midcentury.

    Although I understand it was part of the story, I felt her business was mentioned way too much. I don’t want to feel like I’m reading an advertisement in the caption of every photo.

  • Wondering about the leather top table. We lived North Shore Kauai jungle before going nomad; anything leather developed mold in about 2 minutes. Must be drier upcountry Maui. Otherwise, lovely interpretation of treasured island mana.

  • Not only your home, but your life is beautiful! As the Joseph Campbell quote goes, “Follow your bliss and doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors; and where there wouldn’t be a door for anyone else.” You walked right in with only 2 backpacks and trusted your hearts and instincts.

    Thank you for sharing your inspiring life story, and your truly beautiful space! That bedroom space is truly magical, as are your watches!

  • Your life is one of a kind and it is proof that money cant buy everything.. The gift you have with your creativity is priceless, everyone searches for a peaceful place to call home… You nailed it my dear!!

  • I saw her place some place else recently (Domaine blog, maybe?) and I’ve been obsessed with ever since. SO incredibly gorgeous.

  • Kelsi,
    I am wondering what kind of fabric you used for the outdoor patio. Is it a special outdoor type fabric or just a regular kind?

  • loved every single morsel of this post – from their back story to the apartment now plus I have those claw candlesticks too!!!

  • Beautiful home. I love your style. I live on Maui too and it’s funny how excited I got to see a home featured on this site from here. Then, when I saw the photo of you I thought “she looks familiar”. Haha, small island. Your home and work is gorgeous. I’m sure I’ll see you out and I’ll have to introduce myself.

  • I’m from Green Bay, too! :) I love your home. My husband and I went to Hawaii for our honeymoon and we didn’t want to leave! I sure will be jealous of you in a few months when winter gets here. I’ll just dream of someday having a lanai (or two!) of my own. Beautiful!

  • Oh my gosh! My co-worker and I were just talking about wearing sundials tied around our wrists with rope, but I didn’t realize someone is actually making wrist sundials!! WANT. SO. BADLY.

    And seriously: beautiful, beautiful home!

  • Lovely space, but the text reads like paid product placement — Pandeia is mentioned so many times that it feels to me like the sneak peek is simply a way to advertise Kelsi’s business venture.

  • Beautiful mirror – What company did you purchase it from please?
    Thank you so much I am trying to find the perfect starburst mirror and I keep coming back to this one.