Howard explains they chose Ossipoff as their dream home architect because the houses he designed “looked all well on the outside, as though in their locations, each belonged.” The same is certainly true for the Liljestrand House.

When it comes to Tropical Modernism, few cities can touch Honolulu. Its booming post-war era saw Midcentury Modern flourish in a way that was different from what was happening on the mainland. Innovative architects led the charge by adapting their modernist design aesthetic to Hawaii’s sultry climate resulting in an abundance of unique structures.

Howard and Betty Liljestrand were the original homeowners. Howard explains the vision they presented to architect Vladimir Ossipoff: “We did not want a luxury house. In the way of a house we wanted nothing fancy, a mountain house it had to be.”
The view of the architecture is only surpassed by the view of Honolulu below.

An exceptionally well preserved example of the Hawaii’s Tropical Modernism is the Liljestrand House, designed and built in 1952 by noted modernist architect Vladimir Ossipoff for Betty and Howard Liljestrand. It sits on a terraced parcel of secluded forest reserve on Mount Tantalus overlooking Honolulu.

A circular driveway was part of the Liljestrand’s original vision.

Many of the interiors and furnishings were also designed by Ossipoff and have been meticulously preserved and/or restored, so much so that upon entering the home one might feel like they’ve walked into a time machine set for the 1950s. This isn’t just “retro,” it’s the real deal.

Surrounded by the forested Tantalus Hills, a house that enables indoor-outdoor living was paramount. These bedrooms open out onto a deck area with modern woven chairs to sit and enjoy the view.
Architect Ossipoff also designed much of the home’s furniture, including the kitchen table.  With meticulous attention to detail, Ossipoff first had cardboard mockups of the furniture made before they were built by Robert Ansteth.

Occupied by the Liljestrands for over 60 years, the family created the Liljestrand Foundation in 2010 to help preserve the house, and in doing so have opened it up for public tours, educational activities and charitable events. The Liljestrand House is listed on both the Hawaii State and U.S. National Registers of Historic Places.

For an opportunity to tour this unique property check out the foundation’s website liljestrandhouse.org.

 

Ken MacIntyre is the creator and curator of Modtraveler.net, an Enthusiast’s Guide to Modernism. For more photos and stories of modernist destinations visit his website or follow Ken on Instagram @modtraveler.