“Whenever I see a blank canvas or a place that needs renovation, I love to sit there and think about what I’d do.”
When Michelle Jaime was a young girl growing up in Oahu, her father had an old van they called Betty Blue. On the long drive to her grandmother’s house on the North Shore, Betty Blue would reliably overheat and they’d always pull over in Mililani Town—then a new suburban development. Michelle spent hours there exploring empty model homes. She’d pretend the houses were hers and dream up color schemes and place furniture just so. “That made me think about how space affects somebody,” she said. “Whenever I see a blank canvas or a place that needs renovation, I love to sit there and think about what I’d do.”
Now a rising star in the Honolulu design scene, she connects people with the built environment through the rich narrative of Hawaiian experience. “Culture is one of the first things we look at when we’re touching design,” said Michelle. “We try to find old-time stories that you can tell through design. We look at all the Hawaiian folklore, landscape, music, and traditions.” From hip Waikiki hotels, to historic theater renovations, Michelle is one of the leaders of the design conversation. She comes to New York City once a year or so to check in on clients and get a little taste of the creative juice that flows from this singular town. This time she came to meet up with local designer Larah Moravek, to share thoughts on method and influences, and to wander around the city with fresh eyes soaking up the kaleidoscopic cultural landscape.
Larah has lived and worked in New York City for 15 years—she finds the diversity and accessibility addictive. “It inspires big and little things every day the minute you walk out the door,” she said. Larah and Michelle swapped design ideas, poked around vintage shops, and ventured out to Coney Island. For Larah, the most powerful source of inspiration has been finding nature in the city—whether it’s gazing out over the East River, or paddling into the surf at the Rockaways. Like Michelle, Larah sees interior design as an exercise in human connection with a physical space. “I learned from Michelle more about the importance of having a narrative behind our designs,” said Larah. “It’s those kind of rules we continuously must come back to, no matter the design problem.”
As the two chatted and strolled, they found their worlds overlap in more ways than they expected—they even have a friend in common. “I think aloha is all about connectivity,” said Michelle. “And actually, New York is totally all about that.”