We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.

When Meleana Estes downsized her family of three from a large home in need of major renovation to a turnkey beach bungalow on Honolulu’s south shore, she knew some Tetris-like organization would be part of the process. 

“Fitting my massive, crazy vintage collection has definitely been a challenge,” admits the jewelry designer and author of Lei Aloha, who counts an antique Indonesian dresser and original artworks by Allen Akina among her many treasures. Thankfully, a small back cottage could be converted into a  “muumuu sanctuary,” she adds, so no fashion sacrifices were necessary. Heirloom furniture, oversize casegoods, and a suite of surfboards all made the transition, too—as did Estes’ penchant for bright colors, which she attributes to her Hawaiian heritage. 

“Adornment and layering and extra is just in me, because of my culture. There are pops of pink in a lot of places in our house just because I love pink and, unintentionally, they all play off each other,” she says. “If something gives you joy and feels right, then it is probably meant to work together in some way.” Her 1000-square foot abode is a living testament to that philosophy—and to how bold details can make beach vibes incredibly chic. 

Built in 1926 and tastefully updated with a light touch, the space didn’t require renovation. White walls and black double-hung windows serve as an elegant backdrop throughout, while shades in those same hues provide practical light control and architectural enframement. 

From the get-go, Estes set about incorporating much-needed storage. That included open shelving in the kitchen as well as standalone cabinetry, like an oversize glass-front piece in the living room, purchased from a friend’s furniture shop. A patina-perfect green hutch in her son’s bedroom provides elevated organization for an assortment of monster trucks, books, and trinkets. 

She designed a blue bar cart for the kitchen in collaboration with a local design studio, Woven, who also fabricated the sitting area coffee table in the living room. The cart does drinks duty but also serves as storage for books and seashells. 

Everywhere in the house, vintage pickups and modern furniture find themselves in eclectic harmony. But it’s inherited pieces that ground the design. “For a long time, Hawaii didn’t have many trade routes, so a lot of furniture was made from our own materials and passed down through generations, “ Estes explains. Like many cherished elements in her home, the rattan sofa and chair set in the living room belong to Estes’ grandmother; she updated them with new  upholstery. The pedestal dining table, made from Koa—a wood exclusively found in Hawaii—is another treasured heirloom. 

Her advice on achieving the perfect balance of styles and eras: “Mix it up! My oriental rugs obviously aren’t Hawaiian, but they work. Trust what you love. There’s a reason you love it.”

While the bungalow still isn’t meant to be forever, for now it works perfectly for them. “Right away, it kind of became like a surf club,” says Estes. Her husband’s boat is always at the ready in the garage. Friends regularly drop by to rinse off after hitting the waves, while her son’s buddies stream through between beach volleyball games. Their ever-expanding collection of colorful boards function as decor between sessions in the surf. The water is beautiful. There’s always cheese and crackers and rosé. It’s really the best of Honolulu life.”

2024-06-27T10:24:48Z dg43tfdfdgfd