As with our design for Iron Chef Morimoto's restaurant in Napa, California, the goal for this setting in Waikiki was to combine a subtle Japanese esthetic with influences from the local area.  Few direct references are made to Japanese culture.  Instead, the simplicity, balance and textures of Japanese design are combined with natural elements native to Hawaii to create a refreshing yet exotic appeal.

In a Japanese zen garden, colors and textures are typically limited to three: dark stained wood, natural sand or stone, and the green of foliage.  Morimoto Waikiki's basic palette is similar, with dark, weathered floors, white walls and cool green upholstery.

In this design sketch and finished photo, we can see the simple color scheme continued, with natural woods, white walls and green upholstery interrupted only once (at each end of the restaurant) with a large mural of purple orchids.  These singular moments of color serve as focal points, like the flower at the end of a stem.

Although specific Japanese features were avoided, a Japanese sense of design was evoked through the orderly division of space, as in the culinary example of a divided Bento box.  Sliding sheer curtains serve to divide dining areas, like the sliding walls of a traditional Japanese home.

Another inspiration for the use of green in the restaurant is the frequent appearance in Japanese gardens of moss.  Besides inspiring the color scheme, actual live moss was used as a natural artifact, appearing inside a glass case at the host station and even encased inside glass tables, giving one the impression of dining on a flowing stream.

The idea of using natural artifacts as decorative items extends to the use of large natural corals, which bring a nautical element appropriate to Hawaii.  Perhaps the most striking use of these beautiful artifacts is the way they are suspended in lucite boxes above diners' heads, lit from above to cause them to glow.

The concept of nature used as art is reinforced by exhibiting large corals in museum-like cases.  And in addition to the aforementioned hanging coral fixtures, images of corals are used in large wall tiles throughout the entrance hall.

At each end of the restaurant are these large murals of orchids in extreme close-up, their bright colors serving as moments of vibrancy in a sea of soothing browns and greens.  The choice of orchids brings to mind the exotic natural foliage as well as the iconic leis that one immediately associates with Hawaii.

The casual but elegant decor is continued outdoors on the expansive deck, with the addition of modern fire pits giving a festive beach party feel to the surroundings. Large windows help bring this outdoor atmosphere inside at all hours, helping maintain the close connection with Hawaii's natural beauty.

Be sure to visit our Portfolio section for a complete tour of Morimoto Waikiki!