Shari Saiki Design Studio incorporated a homeowners musical instruments into the design theme of this Blackpoint residence. With the punch of red and stripes, the overall feeling is contemporary tropical.

Designing life

Designer Shari Saiki
offers tips on how to
spice up your home

AS with many forms of art, those who can't grasp the mathematics behind interior design simply leave it to people with a feel for ratios, and enjoy the result.

It may not be obvious, but one of the keys to interior design success is the ability to size up a room, then determine the particular arrangements of objects in a space that add up to a pleasant aesthetic.

Even if interior design is not as effortless as it seems, it's safe to try at home, and Shari Saiki will show a bit of what it takes through workshops in the Macy's Ala Moana special events room tomorrow afternoon.

Both free sessions are booked at full capacity, a sign not only of the designer's popularity but also of residents' thirst for knowledge about beautifying their abodes.

Saiki, of Shari Saiki Design Studio, will use bedroom, dining and living room settings as blank canvases for the latest in home accessories incorporating her trademark style, known as Contemporary Pacifica.

Interior designer Shari Saiki, with husband and business manager Bryan Kitashima , touches up a bedset display at Macy's Ala Moana.

We got a glimpse of her work recently in Macy's Ala Moana, where she and business manager Bryan Kitashima shared some thoughts about design and their lives.

"The premise is that accessories should be able to flow easily from one room to the next and fit in," Saiki said.

Those who turn to do-it-yourself programs or books for ideas often end up frustrated because they can't duplicate the look. Picture-perfect magazine displays often showcase props that are like elusive butterflies for most -- out of reach, whether by price or locale.

That won't be the scenario here. The beauty of this local showcase is the availability of items Saiki will be using off store shelves.

"There's only so much available locally," Kitashima said. "We (travel) to stay up on trends" so clients can have access to more options.

Partners in marriage as well, Kitashima, a former Hawaii Medical Service Association business analyst, and Saiki, have their hands full with a move to their new Hawaii Kai home and son Lucca who'll turn 2 in a few weeks.

"He's been Mr. Mom," said Saiki.

Kitashima juggles the company's business from a home computer and attends to Lucca while Saiki maintains the creative side with her design team, and meeting with clients.

Husband and wife team Bryan Kitashima and Shari Saiki, both of Shari Saiki Design Studio, scout the Home department of Macy's for accessories she'll use in a bedroom tableau.

The two were first brought together through a redesign at the Honolulu Club, though neither was involved with the project.

"We were club members; I took (exercise) classes in one room and he did workouts in another," recalls Saiki.

A wall between the two fitness areas was removed for the remodeling, "and that's how we first saw each other."

As far as their own home design goes, Kitashima said, "When you live with a designer, you don't get to do a lot. I'd joke and say 'Hey, I'm part owner, too."

Thus, he has creative reign in the kitchen, but only as a user, cooking up gourmet dishes.

"When we go on buying trips, I see all these new things, and it's always fun for me to see what's going to happen next (in our home)," he said.

Saiki acknowledges that due to constant exposure to new trends, she prefers clean lines to accommodate change.

It's a design philosophy embraced by Contemporary Pacifica.

"Bryan coined that phrase," said Saiki.

She defines the look as "a combination of influences from land masses that touch the Pacific Ocean, including the West Coast, Hawaii, Polynesian Islands, Japan and Southeast Asia.

"It's zen-modernism, a very clean, very contemporary form," she said.

She picked up on the concept while working for retired isle designer Mark Masuoka, whom she credits with spurring her progress after she hung up her University of Hawaii Rainbow Dancer uniform and hit the career trail with a degree in architecture.

"It's basically my nature, too," said Saiki, "Simple. Mark's a little more flamboyant in his designs. Mine is a little quieter, not a lot of fuss, so everything used is significant. On top of that, we add accents from that circle" of the Pacific.

The main focus, however, is on furniture and how its placement in relation to other pieces affects a room. Each piece can be considered a sculpture.

"It's very Hawaii," she said.

But as any designer worth her swatches, she's able to put her touch to any theme, whether Contemporary Pacifica or French Country.

ALTHOUGH SAIKI has won several awards, including the Building Industry Association 2002 Designer of the Year and Parade of Homes Grand Champion Awards, which got her a gig on "Emme's Island Moments" and numerous feature stories, she hasn't quite adjusted to the attention. Composed and poised from the start, a glance at a Macy's sign announcing her seminar startled her.

"I haven't even watched (my segment of) Emme's," she said.

Nor does she read much of what's written about her success, partly because she doesn't have time.

"I suppose I should," she said. "I don't know. It seems vain."

Saiki said owning her own business "was never my dream. It's something that just evolved. Everything is an evolution."

She demonstrated that while transforming a Calvin Klein bedset display with the help of Kitashima and a few others. They gathered items from around the store, while she gave her nod or nay. Accessories such as a chrome tray and picture frame played off the sheets' greys and the wrought iron and brushed chrome headboard. Kitashima positioned three brown tea cups on the tray, on the center of the bed.

"So, we're having tea for three people on this bed?" joked Saiki, removing one cup, to which he responded, "Hey, why not?"

Somehow the brown ceramic didn't quite work, and assistants ran off in search of black tea cups. The chrome tray was shifted to the left of the full-size bed.

"It will make the bed seem larger if there's asymmetry," Saiki said.

Several shifts of towels, frames, vases, baskets and tea cups ensued, and 40 minutes later, "We're done here." she said. "You just know when it's right."

DEPENDING ON the response to the workshops, they may continue, said store special events director Lavina Wong.

It's not so far-fetched, either, to suggest that Saiki might host her own design show in the same vein as those seen on cable television.

"I don't ever see myself doing that, but then again I haven't foreseen doing anything I'm doing right now," she said.

"We were actually approached by (a television station)," Kitashima said, but the timing wasn't right.

Saiki doesn't watch HGTV-type home-improvement shows, except for "Monster House," which she catches occasionally.

And though you might see "Trading Spaces" personalities Vern Yip installing wooden floors or Genevieve Gorder painting, Saiki says she can do some of those things but tends to "call on professionals because then I don't have to worry about it."

Interior designers usually frown on those types of shows, believing them to appear too simplistic, but Saiki is diplomatic, saying their popularity has only boosted the industry by giving their trade visibility.

"It's great for the do-it-yourselfer. It gives them inspiration and spurs creativity," she said.

And interior designers reap the effects of HGTV fallout when those seeking immediate change get fired up "and they think they can do it themselves, it looks so easy."

Saiki said they realize quickly they're in over their heads and "then they call on us."

Design workshop

What: Tips from interior designer Shari Saiki.
When: Tomorrow, 2 p.m. and 3 p.m (both sessions are full with a waiting list of names to replace no-shows.)
Where: Macy's Ala Moana Home Store special events room
Cost: Free
Call: 945-6427

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