The Laylow

Regina Winkle-Bryan • November 8, 2017

Photos: The Laylow

Situated in the up-and-coming and buzzy Kuhio Avenue in Honolulu, the Laylow hotel’s $60-million renovation brought a decidedly retro vibe to the circa-1969 property. Fritz Mesenbrink of Portland-based OMFGCO was tasked to reimagine the the restaurant, bar, rooms, and lobby of the hotel, now part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection. This was a big step for the OMFGCO’s 17-person team as they had never taken on such a large hospitality project. “We’ve done a ton of branding and art moments for hotels but never touched the interiors aside from putting together inspiration and mood boards,” explains Mesenbrink. “When we’re doing both, we have a unique opportunity to weave the brand into the interiors in a subtle way.”

Blue-green monstera leaves pop from a pink background in the vibrant wallpaper selected for the Laylow’s 251 rooms and suites. The bespoke paper, inspired by vintage barkcloth patterns, covers only one wall in rooms but it certainly makes an impact. The tropical flora motif coupled with rattan chairs, lamps of woven palm frond, and benches in light maple wood, bring a patio-garden atmosphere indoors. Other custom guestroom furniture captures a midcentury modern aesthetic, with heavy influence from the work of George Nelson and Paul McCobb. Typical Hawaiian elements, such as a ukulele waiting to be played and a miniature library featuring books on surf culture, are a subtle addition.

Mesenbrink’s studio distilled Mad Men and Hawaii Five-O into the hotel’s lobby and communal spaces. Playful details abound, including 70 vintage dashboard hula nodders lining shelves behind the reception desk. “We tucked the reception area back so it wouldn’t be quite so confrontational and [is only] there when you need it, still encouraging that laidback Hawaiian vibe,” he says, adding “We loved walking the line of midcentury kitsch but kept it elevated to fit the environment and the experience.”

Mesenbrink used sapele, a type of mahogany, on all of the casework in the lobby, reception area, and concierge. From there, breezeblock walls lead to the bar and restaurant, where a sign made of delicate white cocktail umbrellas spells “Hideout.” Within, patrons lean against a colorful bar, while wooden bead curtains create floating barriers between teal booths.

Because the Laylow is not on the beach, “we focused on creating an escape from the bustle of Waikiki,” Mesenbrink notes. “We brought in a ton of plants and really tried to make a tropical oasis perched above Kuhio, which has a lot more soul than most parts of Kalakaua.”

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