Liljestrand House from the distance
The Liljestrand home nestled against majestic surroundings, circa mid-1950s. Taken by Howard Liljestrand (Bob’s father) from across the valley; Bob’s little sister and brother look over the deck while the dog is near the kitchen. “My Dad did not have a sufficient telephoto lens, so he taped a lens to the end of a cardboard core of some kind and taped the core to the camera. We still have the core,” explains Bob of his father’s clever photography.

Located in Honolulu, Hawaii, the Liljestrand House is a shining example of Midcentury Hawaiian Modern architecture. The home was designed by Vladimir Ossipoff and built atop Mount Tantalus, allowing for tremendous views of the cityscape and neighboring Mamala Bay. Completed in 1952, the home is extremely well preserved to this day thanks to the efforts of the Liljestrand Foundation.

After coming to Hawaii in the late 1930’s, Betty and Howard Liljestrand began their search for the perfect location to build a custom home. In 1946, they purchased a half-acre lot located in a tranquil and lush forest preserve, conveniently close to the city and their work.

Liljestrand House construction
Betty Liljestrand volunteered to be the general contractor during the project, even though she wasn’t able to converse with the Japanese crew of 14 expert craftsmen. The team pressed on, even in the midst of frequent, heavy rains.

The couple’s next challenge was finding an architect to help create their dream home. Drawn to Vladimir Ossipoff’s innovative designs, Betty and Howard met the architect through a mutual friend and the team began construction on the home in January 1951.

Liljestrand House nearing completion
Betty Liljestrand surveys the house while Bob’s sister and brother perch on the wall to the right.

Betty worked as general contractor throughout the project while Ossipoff designed everything down to the furniture, and the home was completed in 1952. The finished design was 5,400 square feet and showcased many of Ossipoff’s design principles.

Bob Liljestrand—Betty and Howard’s oldest son and president of the Liljestrand Foundation—explains some of the home’s characteristic Ossipoff features “His entryways were circuitous and mysterious. Views were revealed slowly and individually. The fine woodwork was inspired by the country of his upbringing, Japan.

Liljestrand House living room
Vladimir Ossipoff’s handiwork is plain to see in the living room. The dark ambiance, view framed by windows, repetitive patterning seen in the rafters and use of natural materials are all unmistakably Ossipoff.

There’s seamless integration between the indoors and out. He didn’t use fancy materials, but instead used common materials like concrete, redwood, concrete blocks, local sandstone, local wood and corrugated metal roofs.” He adds, “His homes were beautiful because of design, not expensive materials.”

the Liljestrand House pool
The kidney-shaped pool—also designed by Ossipoff—plays host to a high-school pool party. Bob can be seen to the left, wearing white pants.

Growing up in the Liljestrand house, Bob and his three siblings enjoyed pool parties in the boomerang-shaped pool and hikes in the surrounding forest. Betty and Howard lived there until their passing, and now the home is lovingly cared for and owned by the Liljestrand Foundation.

Liljestrand House makai elevation
The Makai elevation of the home shows Diamond Head in the distance. “’Makai’ means ‘toward the sea,’ so this is the sea-side or down-slope side of the house showing the open pavilion below and balcony above,” Bob explains.
Liljestrand House dinner party
During a gathering at the Liljestrand House, lifelong friend Vladimir Ossipoff soaks up the surroundings he designed.
Liljestrand House master bedroom
Eucalyptus groves can be seen from the windows of the master bedroom. To the right of the bed is an excellent example of Ossipoff’s well-planned built-in features.
Liljestrand House kitchen with kids
Bob Liljestrand and his three siblings enjoy breakfast in the home’s ahead-of-its-time kitchen. These same appliances continue to reside in the kitchen today.
Liljestrand House dining room
When first designing the home, the Liljestrands requested views from every room, and who could blame them? The then-and-now panoramas that can be seen from the home include a pristine view of Diamond Head, located only 25 minutes away.
Liljestrand House kitchen built-ins
The kitchen was known for its unique built-ins, like these pull-out surfaces that created an instant ladder used to reach items in the upper cabinets, which Betty pulls off flawlessly in heels.
Liljestrand House deck looking out to waikiki
Waikiki and Diamond Head as seen from the front deck; this image taken in 2007. Note that the tall buildings in the distance are absent in the earlier photos.

Today, the Liljestrand House is much the same as it was back in 1952 and is open for tours, lectures and concerts. To learn more, visit liljestrandhouse.org

Read more about the creative and innovative designers of Mid Mod in the new Atomic Ranch Design Issue— pick up your copy at your local newsstand today! And of course, don’t forget to follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest for more Mid Century Modern inspiration!