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No Place Like Home

After making her mark on the West Coast, luxe designer Summer Jensen is returning to Hawai‘i.

Interior designer Summer Jensen has set her sights on coming home to the islands.

Some interior designers simply work on spaces. Summer Jensen brings them to life with her presence alone. She catches your attention—but with a judicious amount of restraint. Perhaps, she’s in a simple ecru Ralph Lauren shift, accented by the perfect bracelet. And much like the immaculate temples of cool that she has created in California and elsewhere, Jensen offers more than a sophisticated exterior. The moment she speaks, her face lights up with a palpable warmth that just illuminates. After all, this Punahou graduate isn’t just a gifted designer, who has sharpened her skills in L.A. and London, she’s also an island girl at heart. One who can kick off her shoes off and perform a stunning hula. (Rumor also has it that Jensen throws a mean lū‘au.) This combination of talent and heart sets her apart.

Perhaps, it was Jensen’s family who set her on this course. Her father was the late legendary entertainer Dick Jensen, who once filled nightclubs in Waikīkī, Las Vegas and New York. Much like her dad, she would garner attention herself, spending her teenage years on the beauty pageant circuit and later onstage as a professional dancer. She inherited his broad sense of perspective, as well. “My father was enamored with looking at things in a different way,” she says.

This eventually led Jensen to a different kind of a spotlight. Even as a performer, she’d be involved with set and stage design, which led her to an interior design degree at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising. Soon thereafter, Jensen quickly began earning professional kudos. One of her earliest achievements was heading the interiors department of Commune Design, the firm responsible for Juicy Couture’s rebranding. From retail environments, the maven transitioned into hotels and resorts as a project designer for A-list Angeleno firm Dodd Mitchell. But it was a stint with Candy & Candy, the world-renowned luxury interiors firm, where she discovered a passion for residences. After earning a lustworthy portfolio, Jensen opened her own firm, Hawk & Co., in 2009.

Despite the stalwart, almost Brit tone, the moniker actually pays homage to her Native Hawaiian family roots. Jensen and her siblings’ Hawaiian names all incorporate the name for the ‘io, the native hawk whose magnificence inspired the ali‘i to adopt it as a royal symbol. The noble reference is a fitting one. It matches Jensen’s dedication to her design sense: a play of light and shadow, an exquisitely meticulous attention to detail and a deference to the natural environment. “I’m a perfectionist,” she says. “I’m always looking for simplicity.”

Luckily, for Hawai‘i’s cognoscenti of interiors, Jensen is ready to bring her brand of perfection back to the islands and take pause from the City of Angels. Her main reason is close to home. “I want to come back here because I want my daughter to be raised in a Hawaiian way,” explains Jensen, who had her first child in 2011. “I want her to grow up in the surf.” This kind of dedication to family directly applies to her work. “I’m shaping people’s lives and how their children grow up,” she explains. “Even when I work long nights, knowing these children will grow up in a better place or better way touches me.” Add to that her aesthetic sensibility, which balances between urban chic and outdoor luxury, and discriminating islanders will have much to gain as she begins to make repeated trips home over 2014.

As the new wave of chic residential buildings open in Honolulu over the next few years, posh city pads will especially benefit from the designer’s keen eye. Take, for instance, a recently completed bachelor pad in downtown L.A. that combines masculinity with chic sensuality. To Jensen’s credit, perhaps, the bachelor pad lost its status even before it was completed: The client had become engaged.

On the other side of the spectrum, there is the Revello residence in Pacific Palisades, Calif., a true stunner that shows the new kind of chic that Jensen will most likely bring to Kāhala or Wailea. Collaborating with noted architect Russell Shubin, Jensen brought a sense of luxurious comfort, even adding a subtle Hawaiian touch. Throughout the home, Jensen used precious koa wood panels in a distinctly clean, contemporary fashion.

Design possibilities like these and more await. (Just ask Jensen about installing rotating walls and trap doors—a skill she learned from Candy & Candy.) And that’s not all. Besides setting up her Hawai‘i operation, Jensen has also just unveiled her own line of furniture. Expect lean, sexy contemporary designs with an edge. 310.909.7102