Buying a home in Hawaii? You already know that space is at a premium. Honolulu, especially, has some of the highest home prices per square foot in the country, at $682/sq. ft. On Maui, currently-listed homes are priced at $651/sq. ft, according to Zillow.

At the same time, actual home sizes here in the Islands are much, much smaller than homes on the mainland. According to U.S. Census Data, the average home in Hawaii is just 1,300 square feet. That’s less than half of the 2,700-foot average home square footage in the U.S. as a whole.

At the same time, Hawaii has the 2nd largest average household size in the country. That is, we cram more ohana (and more roommates!) into our homes than almost anywhere else in the country, with the exception of Utah!

So space is often a key consideration for Hawaii residents. The keys to design and furnishing homes in Hawaii are to maximize livable space, maximize versatility, control clutter, and still be able to afford your mortgage!

The ‘Tiny Home’ Trend

Higher housing prices have led to much more demand for ‘tiny’ homes nationwide – and many vendors now specialize in catering to owners of smaller homes and condos. Even if your Hawaii home isn’t “tiny” (e.g., less than 500 or 600 square feet), you can still benefit from innovative décor solutions for the smaller home.

Newer products and designs range from the simple, practical and mundane to ingenious solutions like living room TV-cabinets that open up to reveal an entire kitchen.

Here are some of the tips and techniques we’ve collected from some of the best designers and decorators the Islands have to offer:

1. Skip the king-sized bed. Unless your dream bedroom requires sleeping on a mattress the size of the deck the U.S.S. Nimitz, preserve livable space – and your bank account – by opting for a smaller bed and mattress size.

2. Put the bed in the wall. To save even more space, get a Murphy bed! These aren’t your grandfather’s Murphys: Modern Murphy beds are elegant and creative design elements that can help people living in smaller spaces maximize both form and function. And they’re catching on in Hawaii.

You can get a modern, stylish Murphy bed installed by kama’aina vendors like Inspired Closets, David Law Custom Cabinetry in Kapolei, doing business as Pacific Dream Builders, Maui Custom Woodworks in Kahului, Tervola Designs in Lahaina, retailer C.S. Wo & Sons in Honolulu, and C.S. Wo’s well-known local subsidiary, HomeWorld Furniture, which has locations on Oahu, Maui and in Hilo and Kailua-Kona on the Big Island.

If you’re looking for something more permanent and higher-end than you can get from IKEA or Costco, any of these vendors will take great care of you. Tell them we sent you!

3. Make furniture pull double duty. When space is tight, try to find furniture that serves multiple functions. For example, coffee tables and ottomans should double as storage chests. Coffee tables that you can pull out to serve as dining room tables or desks – and have storage inside, to boot. These ideas are just the beginning.

Hawaiian Expression of the Week
“Halau ka hale, oha ka ai.”
“If the house is large, the food is small taro.”
i.e. big homes do not always reflect real wealth.

4. Buy leaved tables. By buying leaved, expandable dining room tables, you can preserve living space in your smaller Hawaii home, while still having the flexibility to expand your dining room space when the ohana comes over. So you have the space for dinner guests when you need it, and free living space when you don’t.

5. Slim down your couch. If you’re in a smaller home, avoid couches with large, bulky arms. Look for sofas with slim arms. That can save a foot or more of unusable space on each side of the couch. If things are really tight in your home, go with a love seat or futon rather than a full-sized couch.

This couch is lovely. But the splayed arms take up too much space on either side.

Instead, save room by looking for sleeker, more practical designs like this:

This scaled-back sofa design is plenty long enough to support some serious power-napping. But the smaller arms allow for easy access to the wicker storage basket at lower left, and to the small table on the right.

If you can find a comfortable couch that doubles as a fold-out or trundle bed, or has some built-in storage below the cushions, so much the better!

6. Think vertically. Look for taller furniture with a small footprint. In smaller homes, for example, a vertical 5-drawer dresser is better than a traditional low 6-drawer dresser. But you can even get six-drawer vertical dressers. Get taller bookcases and shelf assemblies. Stack electronics on vertical shelves. Look up and down for ideas for overhead storage, and even under the floors.

7. Limit single-purpose kitchen gadgets. Limit kitchen appliances that are only good for one thing. For example, how often do you really make waffles? If you don’t use it regularly, get it off your counter – and free up some food prep space for yourself. Here are some terrific tips for organizing your kitchen.

Ready to de-clutter? Epicurious lists ten of the dumbest single-use kitchen gadgets you don’t need. You can start by trashing these.

8. Use lighter color schemes. Lighter color palettes can help make your home seem brighter and airier, and create the illusion of more space. The creative use of mirrors can also create a more spacious feel inside your home – especially when used in combination.

9. Make creative use of corners. Many people leave corners bare, or just allow junk to accumulate on the floor, out of the way. But as the smaller home trend catches on, designers are coming with elegant and eye-catching ideas to exploit these neglected spaces and add storage and creative space.

Become a homeowner now!

If you’ve been putting off homeownership because of prices, think again: You don’t have to wait until you can afford a 3,500 square foot three-bedroom, two-bath home with an expansive back yard. With a little creativity and ingenuity, you may be able to get by with a smaller home or condominium than you think! Owning lets you build up equity in your home so you can move up to a bigger home later. Or not! Many people live quite contentedly in smaller homes for many years.

To start the process, call Pacific Home Loans today at Call (808) 891-0415!

Or fill out our convenient and secure online application. We’ll work with you to find a great home loan solution that you can afford.

Mahalo from all of us at Pacific Home Loans.

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