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Hawaii Life
Vintage finds add charm to island cottage

Photos by Nicole Held May, Alohaphotodesign

August 2014


The U-shaped layout of the cottage connects the living room, kitchen and master bedroom to the lanai. A retractable awning provides shade or cover from rain.

The first time interior designer Emily Winters set foot in the cottage she designed was to set it up prior to the client’s arrival. The project, on the island of Kauai, was done entirely from Winters’ base at Peabody’s Interiors in Brown Deer. "It was an exercise in trust, not only from my client but also in myself, what I knew she’d love and what would work," Winters says.

JR: So, how does one go about designing a project long-distance?

A foliage-surrounded outdoor shower is tucked under a staircase that leads out to the lanai.



EW: The client (a suburban Milwaukee resident) and I had done lots and lots of other projects together and had established a trust. Otherwise, it could have been a recipe for disaster. She started with a designer in Hawaii, but it was not a good fit. Then it became her texting me pictures, and me saying, "Give me this dimension from here to here." I did a PowerPoint presentation, and we emailed and chatted on the phone, working through all the different options of what we could do.

JR: How did you work the tropical environment into the design?

EW: One of the things going for me is that I had worked in Tucson prior to coming to Milwaukee, so I had designed in an environment with a lot more sunshine. I was able to draw on my experience and remember what color did in the intensity of the Tucson sunlight and intensify it even more. We were able to use really bold colors not typical of our environment here. All the fabrics and rugs used are indoor/outdoor quality so that she can easily wash things as necessary.


Clockwise: The homeowner selected the wallpaper for the master bedroom, which inspired the design of the room. The bedding, lamps and mirror are all from Peabody’s Interiors; the rug is antique.

JR: How was the retro vibe established?

EW: It was just something the client decided she wanted, more of a plantation style with a vintage feel to it. I spent a lot of time looking at images of cottages from ’50s and ’60s and the balance of color and pattern. I spent time in island vintage thrift stores, picking up accessories and vintage art to draw on things from the environment.

JR: How fun was that to scour local island shops for vintage pieces?

EW: I had done a lot of research before we left to figure out the best island shops. Once we arrived (Winters and Peabody’s Kelly Gallion), we worked sunup to sundown getting the cottage ready. We spent an entire day driving up one side of the island (shopping for accessories). 


Lava rock encloses the outdoor shower in the master bathroom. Foliage creeps over the wall.




From the large swing chair in the room above the garage, guests can enjoy views of the property, which abuts an ancient burial ground.

The kitchen’s retro vibe is enhanced by decorative coverings on the modern appliances. The countertops are wood.


The chandelier in the dining area is antique; the tablecloth is vintage and the surfboard was painted by one of the homeowner’s friends.



This story ran in the August 2014 issue of: