Art, architecture and an eye for design come together for the holidays at this globally inspired manoa Valley home.
GATHERINGS WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY TAKE PLACE THROUGHOUT THE YEAR, BUT AT NO TIME DO THEY SEEMINGLY BECOME MORE MEAN- INGFUL AND MEMORABLE THAN DURING THE YEAR-END HOLIDAY SEASON. One can’t help but watch the calendar’s waning days and wistfully reflect, while also looking forward to the coming days’ and nights’ celebrations. Some are informal impromptu invites, but among them are the extra special holiday gatherings that promise feasts for more than just appetites; the ones where all senses are treated and delighted throughout the event. It is these that form the strongest of memories, and when the venue is as charming as the hosts, true magic ensues.
On a slight bluff overlooking Manoa Valley sits a charming neighborhood of carefully preserved midcentury homes. The gently rising street reveals homes with manicured landscaping bordered by rain-fed nature exploding with tropical foliage. The simple rooflines and expansive windows of the era are early clues that the homes are from a special time, and it is here that Aloma Wang and Joe Uno found theirs, fifteen years ago. De- signed by architect Harold Steckler and built in 1963, their home is a wonderfully preserved example of that time. As seen today, the home exudes the warmth and charm that they have created with their globally influenced styles, each complementing the other seamlessly.
Fueled by a passion for architecture, art and hospitality, the couple knew that the home deserved not just a renovation, but one that maintained its authenticity while allowing them to execute some modern and creative touches. Exterior walls and the roofline remained untouched while the interior was updated to accommodate plans for an open plan kitchen and living room for entertaining, and an adjacent studio where Aloma carries on the art of creating finely woven hala hats. It is into this open and welcoming living space that guests first enter, after ascending a gentle path accompanied by the sounds of a bubbling fountain and sights of orchids and gingers.
Looking in, one is greeted by an elaborately set scene, the carefully executed vision that evolves from year to year, but always draws upon Aloma’s sense of style that defies an easily described genres. “Decorating the house for the holidays is one of my true passions,” she says, “And I’m never sure what it will be until the inspiration hits.” But once that happens, the results speak volumes. “I have been collecting décor and vintage ornaments for decades now, and I just love how they fit perfectly with the style of our home” she says.
Yearly gatherings at Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day and Christmas are when this home transforms into the venue for celebration. Over several days, Aloma will focus on the pleasurable task of decorating, with Joe’s assistance in key areas. “We are both creative people with an eye for beauty, but our dynamic when decorating has shifted,” she politely states “Joe helps me early in the process, but he also gives me free rein to do my thing as he then steps back to observe, and enjoy the final product.” Their carefully honed teamwork is evident as the home transforms with decor that is carefully placed, with just enough to not be visually overwhelming. “I want to retain the casual-yet-elegant feeling of our home, even with the added formality of decorating fit or the holidays, because this is how it was back in Sri Lanka where I am originally from.”
Over the dining table is a veritable nest of branches that suspend lights and décor in an ever-changing arrangement that draws one’s eye upward to the open-beam ceiling. The woody twigs serve as the artist’s canvas, easily re- purposed depending on the season, but especially useful as a counterpoint to the tabletop focal points of an elegant centerpiece flanked by the immaculate place settings. Natural materials are used throughout, as one would expect of someone whose woven art relies on hands and leaves. Nearby, the kitchen counter serves double duty as the buffet table that holds Joe’s culinary creations and presents them as their own delicious art, lit from above by a rough- hewn beam that has been turned into a rustic chandelier.
Nothing seems contrived when a home is organically touched by people whose love for the space, each other, and their friends and family is so evi- dent. Guests are free to wander and mingle, meandering between indoors and out with little barrier between the two. Children are particularly welcome to find their own cozy spot, and to rear- range pillows to their own liking, as the festivities are likely to carry on as the adults enjoy the gathering. Each one brings together a new and expanding circle of friends who add to the experi- ence and bring true joy to Aloma and Joe: “Simply put, that is why we love our home, decorating it, and sharing it,” they both say in unison, and it shows.