The Cultural Scene of Hawaii

Interview with Mark Kushimi

Mark Kushimi’s simple, clean aesthetic is reflected in both his work and home. To say that the Hawaii native is visually oriented would be an understatement – after studying graphic design, he founded Contrast Magazine with a few friends who shared his passion for design and the language of imagery. If he’s not at the magazine offices, where he’s both editor-in-chief and creative director, he can be found roaming the landscapes of Hawaii, photographing her breathtaking landscape. His sunlit home is pleasantly minimal – decorated with his own analog photographs, as well as brightly colored prints and works from friends, and the simple clean lines of prized Vitra pieces.

Where do you live?

I live on Oahu. More specifically, I live in Mililani, a town in the middle of the island. It’s a suburban area filled with families. I wouldn’t say that the town is a hotbed for excitement but everyone is pleasant and I really like the area.

What’s your favorite thing about your home?

I like the central location. My home is a 30-minute drive from the North Shore. So if it’s hot, my favorite beaches and the ocean aren’t far away. I’m also about the same distance from downtown Honolulu. I like the separation. When I get home it’s quiet, but again, it’s not too far away.

The thing I love about your space is that it’s distinct from many other homes in Hawaii. How do you decide what elements go into your home?

It’s funny because my approach to the design of my interior mirrors my approach to graphic design. I’ve gone through phases of finding a lot of pieces to decorate my home, then stripped the rooms down back to the essentials. Everything in my home now is basically things that I like to use and/or things that inspire me in some way.

Which room do you spend the most time in?

Since I don’t spend much time sleeping, I would have to say my office!

I would spend a lot of time there too if Jasper Morrison made my desk.

I really love my desk. After I graduated from college, I began to look for a proper table to work on. I decided on one of Jasper Morrison’s designs – the lines he draws are simple and elegant. At first glance, it looks rather minimal, but the tabletop hides a clever cable management solution. I really like the concept. His design aesthetic is minimal and functional, similar to my own aesthetic.

Where did you get it from?

Back then and until 2009, the table was produced as part of the ATM desk system by Vitra in Europe – so it had to be shipped all the way to Hawaii. The shipping itself was a little over $800. I really couldn’t afford it – but it was important to me. I had to wait months for it to arrive.

And what about the chairs? You have a lot of Eames designs in your apartment.

Yes, I have a few Eames chairs that I’ve acquired over the years from various sources. I started off with a vintage fiberglass Rocking Chair that I bought for a good deal at a local shop. Now, I am also the happy owner of the Wire Chair DKR, the Eames Plastic Chair DSR and the Eames Plastic Armchair RAR. I’ve also got the latter in a white miniature version. It’s really one of my favorite designs.

When it came to your desk chair, what factors went into your decision?

Truth be told – I had this old brochure for the ATM line that was given to me when I was looking for a desk. On the cover, the desk is pictured with an Eames Aluminum Chair and a Tolomeo lamp. Guess what I purchased? (laughs)

What drew you to the designs of the Eames’?

There is something to be said about design that stands the test of time, but beyond their designs, the Eames’ just seemed to be interesting people. When someone brings up the Eames’ I always think of a quote I read by Charles Eames, “Eventually everything connects – people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connections is the key to quality per se.” It’s a compelling theory that I apply to life in general.

A well-designed item is inspiring and I like to surround myself with things that inspire me.

What was your overall vision for your home?

After living in apartments and seeing all of the cheaply made pieces of furniture that I discarded while moving from place to place, I thought that instead of filling my first home with things that just “do the job,” I would invest a little more for items that do the job right. Pieces that are made to last and designed with both form and function in mind. A well-designed item is inspiring and I like to surround myself with things that inspire me.

You have a lot of artwork. Some are your own photos – do you have a favorite?

I have a print hanging on the wall next to my dining table that I really like. It’s a linear representation of worldwide airline routes by Mario C. E. Freese. I’ve had it up for a handful of years now and never thought of taking it down.

Tell me about the beginnings of Contrast Magazine. What is the magazine’s goal?

After college, a lot of my work revolved around the Internet. Some of the printed publications that I was familiar with were either downsizing or abandoning physical copies for digital versions. I love print. I love to flip through pages and smell the paper. I like that I can put a book down and pick it up after a year. Sometimes I discover things on the pages that I previously overlooked. There is something about the experience that print media provides that I enjoy, so when I was asked if I wanted to put together a magazine with a few of my friends, I welcomed the challenge. We started with the idea that Hawaii is often overlooked because of its size and geographical location. We wanted and still want to show people abroad what Hawaii has to offer in terms of art, music, culture and the like. There are a lot of passionate people here with great stories doing amazing things. Contrast Magazine is their platform. On the other hand, we also want to show our own community what’s going on overseas. In a way it’s a geographical exchange of creativity and inspiration.

What does your ideal day off look like?

I seem to be “never not working,” but I tend to take a lot of photographs when I have the time. I wouldn’t say that my ideal day off would be one spent with a camera per se, it’s more about the intention of photographing my experiences in that moment, wherever I may be.

Mark, thank you for sharing your home and taking me on an Oahu adventure.

Visit Mark's personal photography blog: Modussops and Contrast Magazine.


Publication Date: 1.10.2014
Author: Alexis Cheung
Images: Cassy Song