Scrolling through the list of names associated with the design of THE MODERN HONOLULU is a who's who of all-star architects and design talents across the USA. The talent from around the nation that descended on our little Pacific enclave to put their mark on paradise is astonishing. Yet perhaps best — and rather unlike a residential project that only serves a few — THE MODERN HONOLULU can be enjoyed by all. Guests, local residents, culinary enthusiasts, business travelers or those just popping in for a cocktail.
The principal architects — George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg, of the eponymous NYC-based firm Yabu Pushelberg — led a charge unlike any other Waikiki had experienced in decades. Their concept was to craft a "highly-stylized hotel" to "function as a 'home away from home' for leisure and business travelers." Never before had a hospitality dwelling here in the land of surf and sand positioned themselves to cater directly to the modern day business traveler by offering functional, technologically sophisticated work environments. (If you stroll through "The Grove" area midday on any given work day — yes, we have them with regularity here in Hawaii — you'll see local in-the-know business folk and Honolulu tastemakers conducting business in breezy, sun-kissed albeit work conducive environs.)
Beginning with the ground floor lobby, which utilizes long views and natural forms, the colors and textures are meant to evoke a surfer’s paradise. Wide plank black oak flooring is ultra-modern while soaped oak walls and ceilings echo a beach-worn, tropical elegance. Paired with the high white shutters outside, these juxtapositions meld Cape Cod beach aesthetic with urban chic and a comfortable, surfy ease.
Then factor in a bookshelf replete with local art, curated collections of objects and nostalgic Hawaii books (a 1970s local high school yearbook offers some unique perspective on Hawaii’s top fashion and hairstyle influences). In-the-know guests and residents sneak behind this bookshelf (architects call this a “Hidden, secret passage as if tucked away in a castle”) after sundown for cocktails and canapes in The Study, a hidden lounge with live music.
German-born, West Hollywood-based designer Thomas Shoos carved a unique niche with his surroundings for Morimoto Waikiki — the hottest restaurant opening in Honolulu of recent memory. He combined traditional Japanese elements with the spirit of the Hawaiian Islands using hardwood floors that extend from the inside to the exterior deck spaces, which features views of the sun setting over the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor. Natural wood tables on Lucite bases, floor-to-ceiling glass, coral light fixtures, a pale color palette, and a screen of thin sheers around the restaurant contribute to a fluid sense of light and space. There is a private, personal sanctuary for VIPs, deep sofas, open fire pits and driftwood coffee tables that create a unique balance of island living, sophisticated dining and nightlife relaxation.
The Sunrise Pool acts as the center of the resort reflects the changing hues of the nearby Pacific Ocean and the sky that complements it. The pool itself, surrounded by teak wood, features a shallow lounging area with chaises that appear to be floating on the water. The surroundings are swathed in tall, manicured ficus hedges, potted palms, pink hibiscus and fragrant jasmine plants that create a sense of serenity from the outside bustle of Waikiki. Yet, the design is meant to remind patrons of the early plantation days in Hawaii.
Up the stairs from this oasis lies another — The Sunset Beach and Pool — a mini Hollywood set that appears primed and ready for a fashion or movie shoot. 100 tons of imported sand from neighboring islands create a tropical beach, as envisioned by the SoHo, NYC-based designer Deborah Nevins.
“I had designs I never got to use for a Hawaiian project, a home for media mogul David Geffen,” Nevis says, of the faux beach oasis on THE MODERN HONOLULU’s third floor. Brazilian hammocks, oversized pillows with African Batik prints, smooth pebble walkways and a lush garden lit by lanterns and floating candles makes for the perfect respite. The infinity edge lagoon was lined with imported, custom designed Yves Klein blue glass tiles. As if it couldn’t be more idyllic, a thatched roof bar caps the area, with dramatic 270-degree views of the ocean and harbor from every barstool.
The ability to feature outdoor movies projected onto the hotel’s facade from here was just another design perk meant to separate THE MODERN HONOLULU from other Waikiki hotels and resorts.
ADDICTION — originally opened as “Crazybox” under the watchful eye of nightlife impresario Ian Schrager — is a cement cave-like nightclub meant to evoke an underground NYC club. The minimalist design includes a suspended light sculpture features over 40,000 reclaimed, antique light bulbs, and silver leather banquettes specially designed by the Yabu Pushelberg team. The lighting and sound system was crafted by Clair Brothers, the concert tour specialists who designed Michael Jackson’s final concert in London.
The Yabu Pushelberg team was able to stretch their legs a bit in finishing the 1,500 square foot custom-furnished Penthouse, with its expansive 1,400 square foot wraparound landscaped terrace, essentially crafting Honolulu’s most desirable luxury apartment. Original artwork (more Herbie Fletcher in here) and its own private dining room, kitchen, entertainment center, library and bedroom with sweeping views of the Pacific, the teak sliding windows have kept the biggest music and silver screen stars, as well as a handful if international dignitaries and royalty private.
The 2nd floor Sun Suite is a 1,300 square foot outdoor landscaped terrace ideal for hosting private parties and smaller functions while maintaining the relaxed atmosphere of entertaining in your own home. It shares a floor with the hotel’s spa, which utilizes the tranquil Sunset Pool and Beach for relaxation moments pre and post treatment. The spa’s manicure/pedicure stations (with balconies) are a buzz in the late afternoons as guests freshen up their look prior to a night on the town. Stone sinks, natural materials and a neutral palate throughout the spa create an elemental and restorative environment.
The 353 guest rooms and suites are decorated in natural tones and rich woods with distinctive design touches to create a soothing sense of organic luxury with the character of a home away from home. The rooms have oversized windows overlooking the city, pool, Yacht Harbor and ocean. Many have furnished terraces with sliding louvered doors offering shuttered shade, filtered sunshine or dramatic vistas across the city. Tongue-in-cheek accents include fun items for enjoyment during your stay — including brightly colored sarongs, dayglow ukuleles, vintage postcard covered notebooks, seashells and photographs of the horizon and ocean.