MARY PHILPOTTS COLLECTION
Isles inspire new furniture line
A leading interior designer teams with Martin & MacArthur
On those long flights to and from Hawaii, you could snooze, snack, read, write or watch some trite film you wouldn't pay to see on land, such as "Herbie: Fully Loaded." Or you could come up with the next million-dollar idea.
Mary Philpotts Collection
On view: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday through Nov. 4
Place: Pegge Hopper Gallery, 1164 Nuuanu Ave.
Furniture inquiries: Martin & MacArthur, 845-6688
The book: Release date is Nov. 4 for "Hawai'i: A Sense of Place" by Mary Philpotts McGrath with Kaui Philpotts and photographer David Duncan Livingston (Mutual Publishing, 224 pages, hardcover, $45)
Time will tell just how lucrative a flight from San Francisco to Honolulu will be for Mary Philpotts McGrath. Sketches she made to pass the time have resulted in a new line of island-inspired furniture, created in partnership with Martin & MacArthur. The line debuts Monday at the Pegge Hopper Gallery, where it can be viewed through Nov. 4, coinciding with the release of her book "Hawai'i: A Sense of Place," a glossy tribute to island interior design written with Kaui Philpotts.
A plane, as it turns out, is an ideal time to clear one's head when "the phone doesn't ring," said Philpotts McGrath, founder of one of Hawaii's leading interior design companies, Philpotts & Associates.
"One thing I was trying to do was come up with a concept that could be adapted, a motif that could become a leg or a handle, and I started playing with bamboo," she said.
From there she progressed to leaf forms and ideas on incorporating textiles, including tapa and lau hala.
"I wanted to incorporate some of the old handcrafts," she said. Other aims included using woods grown in Hawaii such as koa, mango and kamani. Each piece will be made to order and can be customized in size, details and finishes to suit individual tastes and budgets.
Her fondness for the 1930s and 1940s design aesthetic is apparent in the designs, with sleek clean lines that are unmistakably modern, but crafted from natural materials for a tactile nod to the natural environment. The earthy touch is unique to a tropical lifestyle in which bringing the light and fresh air of the outdoors inside is always a consideration.
Her commitment to a "Hawaiian sense of place" was further strengthened by her work with Hawaiian scholar and author George Kanahele during the planning of the Hawai'i Convention Center.
"It's important to be climatically appropriate," she said. "We import so much (furniture) that people think of sofas as needing to be fully upholstered."
In a place where sun and salt air is unforgiving, "It involves a huge amount of cost and effort to reupholster something when it gets worn," she said.
In contrast, a lounge group she designed reintroduces the idea of the open-air wood frame and cushions and coverings that can be relatively inexpensive to replace when worn.
"They're designed for comfort; they're designed so air flows through them," she said. "Sometimes the old ways are very much worth looking at."
Furniture design is actually nothing new for Philpotts McGrath, who's often called upon to create pieces for clients who insist on customizing their homes from the ground up. But to manufacture pieces as a line, she said, "First you have to find somebody who wants to put it into production and market it."
Martin & MacArthur is pleased with the partnership, and president and founder Jon Martin took a hands-on approach to the project, insisting on creating each of the prototypes himself.
"Mary is at the forefront of design and knows where design trends are going. She's always been dealing with the best of Hawaii," said Lloyd Jones, CEO of Martin & MacArthur, which is already highly regarded for its work with koa.
"This is quite a departure for us. It steps us up. It's a lot of work, certainly more work than we thought, but I find it exciting."