Siblings Lead Firm With Award-Winning Style

HONOLULU, HI— Ask siblings and fellow CKDs Rick Cowan and Tiare Noelani Cowan and they will tell you that two heads are better than one.

“As designers, we always work together on a project, because we have different design styles and backgrounds,” Rick Cowan explains.

The pair, who are the principals of Archipelago Hawaii, each bring a unique perspective and set of skills to their firm.

Rick Cowan spent 15 years in the construction industry, working with foundation, framing, roofing, finish carpentry and cabinet installation. He has also worked as a field supervisor for several leading firms in Hawaii.

Tiare Noelani Cowan, Allied ASID, began her career in fashion design – creating her own line of clothing and custom bathing suits.

But while their backgrounds are different, the duo’s diverse skills resonate well with a customer base that encompasses a diverse population of high-end residential and hospitality clients whose tastes run the gamut from ultra-modern minimalist to Tuscan villa. Green design products also play a significant role in the company’s offerings.

But whether designing green spaces or high-tech havens, a big part of firm’s success comes from recognizing that the clients’ needs are key. “We always work to remember it’s the clients’ kitchen, and they will be living in the home and working in the space long after we’re finished,” stresses Cowan.

He considers the firm a “one-stop design resource” for clients, as it offers complete kitchen, bath, interior and home design products and services. “Since we are dealers for most of what we offer, our clients receive the best pricing possible. We also sell appliance packages, furnishings, fabric and cabinetry to individuals, contractors and other interior design firms that are not direct clients. Therefore, we are [considerably] more diversified,” Cowan explains.

Archipelago Hawaii is a dealer for three cabinet lines – Studio Becker, Irpinia Kitchens and Crystal Cabinet Works – as well as appliaces including Sub-Zero, Wolf, Gaggenau, GE Monogram, Viking, Miele and Bosch, among others.

All Together

According to Cowan, the firm’s success is rooted in its team approach, both with staff and the client.

“The design team has built partnerships with some of Hawaii’s leading architects and contractors, so it can assemble a complete design team for projects,” he comments.

“By approaching design in this manner, there is better interface between the architect, contractor and designers, which assures that the client’s dream remodel or new home will be designed within budget. Onsite construction changes are kept to a minimum, and a cohesive interaction between design ideas and actual construction are thought out ahead of time,” he adds.

Showroom Surfing

The firm’s 2,418-sq.-ft. Oahu showroom in Honolulu features a unique layout to best showcase its offerings, Cowan notes.

“Our Oahu showroom is laid out in somewhat of a serpentine design – the displays flow from one to another,” he describes. “Each display is a complete independent visual experience, so as you proceed through the space, you are not overwhelmed by vignettes. Yet, there is a glimpse of what lies ahead, and this draws you to the next display.”

The front display includes a kitchen, living room and bedroom that work together as one cohesive design through the use of textures, colors and finishes.

Cowan notes that the firm is also currently finishing up a new “Green Room,” which is where it will showcase its numerous green product offerings. Included in the area are such products as bamboo, mulberry and coconut flooring, and IceStone and BioGlass surfaces.

“It will be a very hands-on space for visitors and clients,” comments Cowan. “People will be able to touch and feel the numerous green countertop materials, flooring, fabrics, cabinetry, lighting and tiles in the space.”

The area will also act as an information center, with literature available explaining the fundamentals of green design, including solar water heating, passive cooling and humidity control, reflective roofing, insulation and construction methods for the home.

Marketing Machine

The kitchen and bath design firm is proactive in spreading its message throughout Hawaii.

For instance, the Cowans advertise in local remodeling, real estate and Hawaii lifestyle magazines.

“We work very hard at marketing, professionally photographing each project, updating our print ads with new photos, pre-assembling photographs and write-ups for editorials, updating our Web site and volunteering for events such as the Governor’s Woman’s leadership Conference,” stresses Cowan. Tiare Cowan is also a guest writer for Hawaii Home and Remodeling.

“We also participated in the Heart Ball auction committee – the most popular social event in Hawaii. For the event, we put together a room makeover. It was the largest dollar amount bid for the live auction,” he reports.

The firm participates in local design competitions as well, a move that paid off recently when it swept the NKBA Aloha Chapter Awards. The company garnered three awards for its design work, creating lots of positive publicity.

Archipelago Hawaii also hosts “green design presentations,” offering CEU credits to architects and designers who attend. Its just another way to keep the community informed, while promoting its services, Cowan concludes.