Sunday, April 14, 2013

the liljestrand house by ossipoff: hawaiian modern magnificence (part 1)

The absolutely best part of our recent trip to Hawaii, was a private tour we fortuitously lucked into of a mid-century modern treasure.

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii,

Come with me and I will tell you the story of The Liljestrand House which is a masterpiece of both mid-century modern and Hawaiian design. This is part one of a 3 part post (part 2 and part 3 here). The house is just that wonderful.

First, a little about the architect, Vladimir Ossipoff. He was a Russian, raised in Japan, educated at Berkeley and eventually practiced architecture in Hawaii almost his entire career. There is a book written on Ossipoff called Hawaiian Modern: The Architecture of Vladimir Ossipoff (Honolulu Academy of Arts). Dean Sakamoto was one of the principle contributors to the book and also was on our small, private tour, another unexpected surprise. 

In 2007 and 2008, respectively, The Liljestrand House was listed on the Hawaii State and the United States National Registers of Historic Places.

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii,



The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii,


The home is located up a "hill" at 3300 Tantulus Drive, Honolulu, HI with magnificent views of the Punchbowl, Diamond Head, Waikiki and Pearl Harbor. See the red "A" in the middle of the picture

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii,


You enter via a code through a private gate, and go down a long drive.


The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii,


The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii,
Roosters are everywhere in Hawaii. Oddly.
 The house at the end of the drive is fairly unassuming. It looks kind of rustic, with a bit of a log cabin feel.

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii,

What opens up as you step into the house is anything but unassuming. The home is perfectly architected for the mid-fifties, the tropical climate, and the demanding needs of a family of six-- a doctor, his wife and their four children (two boys and two girls).

Betty and Howard Liljestrand contracted Ossipoff in the early fifties for construction of the home. Dr. Howard Liljestrand was a physician for the plantations. His wife Betty (a registered nurse), supervised the construction project, and was probably the primary interface with Ossipoff and his crew. She was onsite for much of the construction of the home. Our tour was given by Bob Liljestrand who was one of the sons and grew up in the home. His personal anecdotes about the home made this tour one of the most special of any I have taken.

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii,
Bob Liljestrand beginning our magical tour.  He is standing in front of a John Kjargaard painting.
Another artist for me to covet. 

The home was green before green was "cool." Ossipoff used local materials including a locally felled Mokeypod tree, redwood, corrugated aluminum roofing, sugarcane material for ceiling tiles and other common building supplies. It appears Ossipoff had access to a plethora of Japanese woodworkers (perhaps some sort of post WWII confluence and the fact Ossipoff spoke fluent Japanese) who created intricate cabinetry and woodwork abound throughout this home. 

Let's begin the tour:

Front car port and circular driveway.


The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii,


Beautiful front door.

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii,


Artwork immediately inside. 


The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii



A marriage belt. At this point I have to apologize as this home was filled with original artwork collected by the Liljestrands. I do not have excellent notes on all the artists and/or countries of origin.

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii


This is the view immediately to the left that you greets you.  That is a pair of open sliders with no Juliette balcony and a long drop through the window. Our tour guide, Bob, said there were a lot of lively parties in this house and NO ONE ever took a header through these windows, much to his surprise.

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii


This is one of the many amazing views at the Liljestrand house -- over downtown Waikiki immediately in front. The sun would set approximately in this direction.

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii


Ossipoff requested that Dr. Lljestrand find a guava branch with three points up and three points down to construct this table. It has a plexi glass top because Ossipoff didn't like the green cast from the edge of glass slabs.

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii


Ossipoff designed and arranged for construction of much of the furniture in the home.

Seating arrangement in the living room. The primary residence is not being lived in any longer and is staged perfectly, as if you were walking into it while Betty was running the home. Various Lilestrand children occupy guest quarters on the property.

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii


The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii


Supposedly Ossipoff made horrible fireplaces in terms of smoke removal. You probably hardly ever need to light a fire in Hawaii. Just for show?



Stunning dining room with seating for ten. These are famous Danish chairs of which I have two reproductions but can't remember what they are.

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii



The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii



The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii


This built in cabinet in the dining room (built-ins abound), housed an impressive collection of mid-century modern china. The dishes on the left were used in a photo shoot for House Beautiful in 1958, and the magazine gifted the dishes to the Liljestrands after the shoot (perhaps to help authenticity).

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii



You can see beautiful shots of the home from the original House Beautiful July 1958 article here. I am going to write a whole post about Pace Setter Houses, which this home was one of seventeen. Hint: they were the anti "Case Study" homes of Arts & Architecture magazine fame.



From here let's travel to the kitchen which is a wonderful multi-utility room off the dining room and was clearly a central activity station for Betty Liljestrand.

And what a kitchen. It overlooks a beautiful patio and views of the pool and Diamond Head and is outfitted with every modern convenience. It has not been kept as a total time capsule, because over the years a dishwasher and microwave were added. But the cook-top and one of the stoves are original. 

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii

The stainless steel counter-top is perfect. I didn't ask about the wood for the cabinets but they could easily be made of plywood or another local wood. The home was not extravagant in materials choices. The range is a seven-burner affair. Mrs. Liljestrand clearly did lots of entertaining.

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii


This dish shelf is original to the home and is sculptural as well as functional.

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii


The kitchen table is expandable.

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii



Here is a photo of Mrs. Liljestrand in the kitchen, with her four children. Our tour guide, Bob, is the tall gentleman standing to her left.

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii



The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii


Pantry with scales and bins.

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii


I do not have a good picture of this, but if you look at the bank of drawers to our right of the door, notice how many knobs you see (I count six). Mrs. Liljestrand designed boards that would pull out that she used as step stools to reach the higher cabinets. And this particular bank of drawers had a board that pulled out stool height for Bob's youngest brother to sit on. The Liljestrands only ever had three kitchen stools and there were four children. These amazing facts come from our tour guide, Bob.

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii


Betty's kitchen work station. She was active on many charities. What surprises are in these cabinets!

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii

Both a typewriter and gift wrap station.

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii



Betty's Rolodex drawer.

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii


Tour guide Bob gently mocked the gift wrap station. I drooled. What women doesn't want a gift wrap station?

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii


Another fabulous painting.

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii



The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii


 A clever little cabinet with a cover you raise and sweep all the dirt from the kitchen into a hole (with presumably a trash barrel) under the house.

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii


Fabulous corner cabinet.

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii


 Love these bar stools. Very trendy now with their industrial look.

The Liljestrand House, Ossipoff, Tantalus Dirve, Honolulu, Hawaii


In the cabinets near the office workstation, there was a sewing machine stashed, with bobbins all ready to go. Mrs. Liljestrand worked right out of the cabinet. Her stool was made just a little higher to reach. You can see it tucked in to the left under the machine base.



And here is a photo of her pantry. That's right - two freezers and enough canned goods for six months. The Liljestrands were well prepared for any calamity. Remember this home was built only about ten years after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.



There is a great video from Honolulu Magazine that explains much about the architectural uniqueness of the Liljestrand home and how it "respects its site. "



Stay tuned. Links to two more posts regarding the Liljestrand House coming soon!

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22 comments:

  1. What a great house! I love the kitchen pulls and the hole to sweep dirt underneath the house.

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    1. The kitchen pulls are classic. Betty Liljestrand's many unique touches are apparent all over the home. You look at something and think, "Had to be Betty."

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  2. Incredible house. What a view!

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    Replies
    1. Their view is almost as good as the house. Almost. :)

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  3. Amazing house! Would love to visit it someday. I think I have very similar dishes to those from the House Beautiful shoot, but mine are aqua instead of orange- Taylor Smith Taylor Rhapsody.

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  4. What a find! I'm a sucker for little girls in pinafores so loved the photo of Betty with her four children.

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    Replies
    1. Me too. What cuties. I love the Mom. Her touch is so evident everywhere. It had to be a woman.

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  5. That truly looks like paradise to me!

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    Replies
    1. The next post will be the bedrooms. The master is to die for.

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  6. The paintings !!! Love them! Great post! :)

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    1. I wish I knew more about the art in the house. I kept feeling like I was walking through a museum regarding both the paintings and the sculptural pieces. It would have been its own post for sure.

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  7. Wow, wow, wow! What an absolutely amazing house, thanks for sharing! Can't wait to see more pictures. And what a view!

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  8. Thank you for sharing this tour Rebecca. What a fabulous home. I loved the stereo cupboard. We haven't been able to part with our albums so I would love to have storage like that in the house we plan on building. I'm going to study all these photos carefully. How lucky for you that you were able to tour such a beautiful, iconic home.

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  9. This is such an incredibly beautiful house. The black and white photograph of the kids in the kitchen is great! And I absolutely love the fireplace room - even if it is just for how - amazing!!!

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  10. Aloha everybody.

    my wife and I were married there back in 1989 on July the 17th at 7 pm.
    Howard and his new wife at that time (I knew Betty) gave us the party and it was an unforgetable event. At that time I knew that the architecture and the construction of the house was one of a kind but I am so thrilled to experience that it has been preserved in its original setting for future generations to come. We also had a chance to meet the carismatic Ossipoff when Howard threw a party at the Wakiki Club (I think it was called) The club setting often used in the crime series, Magnum PI, in the 80 ties). The painting in primarily pink colors is painted by a Danish painter, Aakjaer. And being a Dane I thought that was pretty neat. Howard was of Swedish descendant and around the house under the eucalyptus trees he had been planting Iris lillies as a reflecion to his name ¨Lilje¨strand. I remember that he had placed loudspeakers around the outside playing classical music accompanied by the trade winds. He also had the Danish Bang & Olufsen stereo and hi fi. So he was very much into the more refined arts which is opposite to much American comtemporary designs that was more lavish.

    so looking back on this I feel blessed

    many greetings

    Jeanette and Henrik Klingenberg Copenhagen Denmark

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    1. Thank you for stopping by and providing a first hand account. Glad you could enjoy the present day photos. How lucky to be married at the house! Rest assured, the house is being lovingly preserved by Bob Liljestrand and the house foundation.

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  11. Wonderful home! Love the photo with the family in the kitchen. I have family on Oahu and I enjoy the great views from Tantalus. I'll certainly try to book a tour of this home the next time I visit!

    The dining chairs are by Hans Wegner. Affectionately called the "Y" or Wishbone chair, or for catalog purposes, CH-24.

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  12. My family lives in Pauoa valley, just west of Tantalus. I always remember a looking up and seeing a house at the top of the mountain and wondering what it was. Now I know!

    So many interesting homes in Hawaii. Our parent's home was designed by my Uncle, Fred Liang, and is a great MCM design. I never knew about MCM growing up until now. We had a lot of Danish furniture, a Nelson clock and a couple of Herman Miller chairs. It was such a great design and I am grateful to my parents for leaving it to my brother for future generations and, of course, to my uncle.

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