A Little Firm Big On DesignBy Palmer Hafdahl and Andrea Lincoln
Owner and architect, respectively, Palms Hawai‘i Architecture
Please tell us about your business. Palmer: Palms Hawai’i Architecture is Kaua’i’s biggest little architecture firm, located in Lihu’e. We’re really a broad-spectrum firm producing everything from commercial spaces to homes. We have been open on Kaua’i 15 years.
Andrea: We guide and help people design their dream homes or public spaces. We’re really very diversified. We can handle a large, costly residential project to very small renovations. We also work on industrial projects, commercial projects, retail spaces and hospitality.
Why did you start this business?
Palmer: The business has been a dream of mine since I was 14 years old. I’m just very fortunate to be able to employ a staff of four, including myself, and serve clients and the community on Kaua’i.
How did you start this business? Palmer: I first visited the Islands in 1976 for a windsurfing championship – I was a professional windsurfer and had my own small windsurfing business in California. I visited Kaua’i for the first time in 1977 and fell in love with the island. I found my way back to Hawai’i in 1986, where I renewed my career in architecture working with other firms. At that time, I coined Palms Hawai’i doing consulting on O’ahu. I worked on O’ahu and Lana’i, and then moved to Kaua’i in the beginning of 1992. It was Hurricane ‘Iniki that made a very large difference in my commitment to the island. I was here through the hurricane and worked with a company that ran the office of emergency permitting. That was a real eye-opener for me in terms of the need for building stable and secure structures, and it really committed me.
Palmer: My background is construction and art, and architecture is a happy marriage of those two.
What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do?
Andrea: To be able to realize and recognize the best fit for the client, as well as the environment and the community. And you know, it’s a little bit of a cliché, but at the end of a project, I really like to see the smiles on people’s faces and when they tell us we gave them exactly what they wanted.
What is a project that you are proud of?
Palmer: Right now, I’m really excited about the Waipa facility – a small multipurpose facility in Hanalei. We’re really honored to have Kamehameha Schools as a client.
What sets your business apart?
Palmer: It’s our breadth of project work and diversity. One of the things we really pride ourselves in is we don’t push our style; we try to express the client’s values. I think it’s the more difficult and appropriate thing to do – to match and express the client’s values in the appropriate context. We are willing to demonstrate that flexibility and skill.
Andrea: And besides that, we have fun!
What is your architectural style?
Palmer: There is a sense of physical fitness here at our firm, and we take that personal fitness, both physical and psychological, and try to apply that to our projects and make sure they express that same fitness in the environment and fitness going forward. We also like to maintain a rural, attractive environment that expresses Kaua’i’s values.
Andrea: I studied in Europe and was heavily influenced by modern architecture. My contemporary style, however, has gotten softer over the years, and I think part of my style also is my ability to listen to our clients so that I can make necessary adjustments to my designs.
What makes you get up every day and go to work?
Palmer: Just having such a wonderful staff. We are also fortunate to have an opportunity to work with people who are doing what they want to do, not what they have to. We get to deal with really positive clients in a really positive situation, in general.
What are your plans for the future?
Palmer: A window for our office and an electric car for the business. Also, we are so encouraged by the general sustainability efforts of the community, and we’re ready and willing to support that. I look forward to being able to assist in that more and more. I like to look at buildings as having something to offer, to fit in the environment as a help rather than a hindrance.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
Palmer: Building sand castles.
Andrea: A clothing designer or a ballet dancer.
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