Fishcake: Objects d' Art for your Home

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Fishcake: Objects d' Art for your Home

When Fishcake opened in December of 2007, there were certainly a few passers-by who did a double take at the front door. Instead of a saimin shop, the saw a stark white showroom. There were no tin pots gurgling miso or ox tail soup; yet at the rear of the store there was a giant cranberry-colored Barbara Chu print featuring a pair of orange koi. 

This relative newcomer in O'ahu's Kaka'ako shopping district, hidden on Kamani Street (parallel to the bustling Ward Avenue, one block Ewa), is the brainchild of interior designer Maura Fujihira. She wanted to open a place that stocked modern, unique and limited items to fill the rooms she helped visualize for clients across the islands. Admittedly, Fujihira decided that the best way to keep Fishcake filled with fresh home furnishings (as well as keep her design practice afloat), was to bring in two partners and a store manager.

Enter Akemi Rogers and Debbie Low, who travel the globe purchasing unique items for the store.  Store manager Betty Lee is the glue that keeps  the half-dozen vignettes set up throughout Fishcake looking as if they could be transplanted from the chicest loft in Honolulu, or from a hillside Hawai'i Kai mansion. 

"So often people come in here and say 'I never knew I could use a throw pillow like that!' or 'How did you know to display the shelves in that manner?'," said Lee. "It's just so fun to blend more modern pieces with rustic, natural accents. It's really what we're all about."

While the range is great at Fishcake, Lee admits that most of the items for sale range from the mid- to high-end. She pointed to a $6 tea cup from Vietnam, yet also an $8,000 bed frame. In between, each of the rugs, chairs, carpet, linen, accessories, shelves and lighting can be seen as objects d' art themselves, or used to blend themes within a room.

One of the store's top selling item are dining tables. Lee mentioned a line called "Classic Geometry" from the Philippines that are super hot sellers. A quick look at one example reveals molded resin, finished with inlaid wood accents. The blending of two polar opposite materials—highlighting contemporary lines and material with organic aspects—has patrons jumping to reserve them. Which brings around the most unique aspect of Fishcake.

"We'll only stock one or two of every piece on the floor," said partner Debbie Low. "The idea is that in a place where the communities are so close together, we didn't want any customers walking in to a friend's home and seeing the same table they just bought for their own. As soon as we sell an item, it's gone for good."

Further separating Fishcake from the larger, retail home furnishing stores, is the fact that the showroom is also a veritable art gallery—literally. The owners went so far as to hire a consulting art curator, Keiko Atano. 

Every other month, Atano and the partners at Fishcake feature a theme––be it linens, oil paintings, silk prints or fabrics––and they show work by local artists that is for sale. In the year the shop has been open, featured artists include Mark Chai, Noreen Naughton, Isis Godfrey Byrne and Carol Cassidy. 

"We usually have an opening reception, and then the word slowly trickles out what we are showing," added Low. "People have started getting onboard with the themes of the shows. So they know that when they're in the market for a certain thing, be it clay sculptures or textile goods, they can come in and check the collection."

Blending these local art goods with higher-end product from around the globe presents more opportunity than challenges, according to Lee. She points to a pair of hand-blown glass chandeliers with hammered bronze accents from New York, made by a company called Ochre. When the question is raised why they won't re-order top-selling items, Lee is firm. 

"We sold these gorgeous African mahogany tables the day they hit the floor. I was really looking forward to setting them up in the showroom, but we barely got the chance. Yet instead of getting the same, we'll work closely with that company in the future, and ask them, 'What else you got?' It keeps things fresh, and we're all about fresh," Lee said. 

With pieces around the showroom from Italy (Meridiani Company's tables named after celebrities), Philippines (A. Garcia's 1960s mod meets classic mid-century modern furnishings made from cane) Thailand, India, Latvia, Fishcake has recently begun testing the waters with some American designers. A table from Central Station Original Interiors (based in North Carolina) boasts a rustic look, with charred wood and cast iron finials. 

While Fishcake may be an oddly named, one-off shop (the idea came when owners originally were considering a former fish cake factory for their location which didn't work out. Albeit, the name stuck), word has spreadin the last 12 months to the far reaches of the Big Island and Maui. 

"We have a number of European designers working on high-end homes looking for something new, and are thrilled to have a store more like the funky shops you can find in bigger European cities," said Lee. 

Finally, in a store run by savvy designers, Fishcake isn't above recommending fellow furnishing sellers if a client wants to craft the perfect room. Lee mentioned that they refer people to Pacific Home or Bella Pietra whenever the occasion arises. 

"Fishcake is all about mixing things up," added Lee. "We like to get a feel for what our clients like, and seem to get the feedback that the items we sell really add a touch of 'fun' to a room."

Fishcake is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. They are closed Mondays.

307 Kamani Street, Suite C

"We sold these gorgeous African mahogany tables the day they hit the floor. It keeps things fresh, and we're all about fresh," Lee said.