A Designing Woman: Monica Ament

Hawaii Island interior designer Monica Ament draws inspiration from her multi-cultural roots and the place she calls home.

Long-time Big Island resident Monica Ament is the owner, designer and project manager of Monica Ament Interior Design. She lives and works in the charming hillside town of Holualoa just about three miles up Hualalai Mountain from Kailua-Kona. She was born in Oakland, California but she grew up with one foot in that East Bay city with family, and the other foot in Kona also with family.

“It was important for my mother who was from Kauai to stay connected with the islands, so we were back and forth throughout my life,” she says. 

Monica says she likes to refer to herself as a “mix plate’, explaining that her mother is Filipino, Hawaiian and Chinese, and her father is 100% Native Indigenous/First Nations.

“I am half Native and my tribes are Navajo, my clan is Kinyaa‘aanii’ Towering House Clan. I  am also a member of the Pueblo of Laguna. Add in my mother’s heritage and I am truly a mixed plate,” she says.

She attributes her experience of living in the East Bay and Hawaii Island, layered with her, cultural background, as major players in shaping and inspiring the way she lives her life and channels her creativity and design style.

Couple all that with her pursuit of training at the Interior Design Institute in Newport Beach, California where she earned her certification in 2007, and her passion for a career in design was formalized. 

“School was always a challenge for me, but when I entered the design institute I literally found my calling,” Monica says.

While studying design there, she put her ideas and skills to the test working at Chameleon Design in Laguna Nigel, focusing on and learning more about luxury coastal style. Before heading back to Hawaii Island, Monica spent time in Lake Tahoe where she worked with a contractor learning everything about drywall and painting – skills added to her growing repertoire. She returned to Hawaii Island in 2013 and among the established designers she initially worked with here, she cites her time with lighting specialist Diane Kanuha as her major inspiration for diving into her own journey with a business of her own.

“Diane was the ultimate ‘Boss Babe’ so smart, confident and in control. At that point in my career I never personally knew a woman with her own business. By then I knew my place was meant to be in the design world working with clients, yes, but directly with contractors as well,” Monica says.

She took the leap of faith in 2016, setting up her own design firm and growing her roster of luxury residential clientele each year since. While she works primarily in home design, she has dabbled in commercial design as well. Her signature coastal style is on display at Umeke’s Restaurant Bar & Grill in its new location at the Brewery Bloch in Kailua-Kona. Monica designed the panels separating the hostess waiting area and the private dining room, using repurposed glass and Iron to create what looks much like mermaid tail scales.   

“My approach with every project is to listen to my client’s personal needs and taste, then execute them with my knowledge and expertise – and always with a dash of my own secret special sauce! This makes every project different and uniquely the client’s own,” Monica says.

The process, she says, begins with a sit down with potential new clients, an interview of sorts to make sure we are a good fit. Many projects require a long-time commitment, she adds, so it’s important to know that the relationship will be comfortable and agreeable. 

“Fortunately, in the end, my clients always become good friends,” Monica says.    

She encourages all of her clients to “let your home tell your story”. She believes that not one space is truly alike because those who live in it cannot be replicated. 

“Every fabric, every curve of a chair, every piece of art tells a story of who you are and where 

you have been. We design spaces that complement not only the architecture of our client’s home but the lifestyle that they thrive with,” Monica says. 

Each project she works on emphasizes the importance of sourcing local, she says, with the goal of supporting the community while designing artful and functional spaces that reflect the land and the people who live on it. 

Warm, rich native island woods, ocean colors, highly textured print-on-print outdoor fabrics, and clean design lines all figure prominently in Monica’s signature style as seen in her most recent work at Hualalai Resort, Kohanaiki and in upcountry Holualoa.

“At Hualalai, we were chosen to do a complete villa re-model in the resort’s Ahli‘ipua development. The clients are a young couple from Canada who had a clear vision of the look they wanted – a tropical ocean getaway with a contemporary beach vibe,” Monica says. “We basically started from scratch, re-doing everything from the existing cabinetry, wall-coverings, flooring, countertops and kitchen backsplash in the three bedroom, four bath villa.”

Following three months of research, Monica delivered their vision in just three and a half months. She credits the client’s quick decision making in achieving the fast turn-around. The newly re-invented villa is available for rent now through Hawaii Island’s Elite Vacation Villas.

The work at Kohanaiki focused on re-imagining a family media room, including the introduction of island-inspired artwork and decorative pillows. The Holualoa project was a new construction luxury home with the design blending modern clean lines with rich wood tones and natural textures. 

“With every project we learn something new and that’s what keeps the work really exciting,” Monica says. 

Earlier this year, expanding her design studio from one small room to two, Monica opened a luxury retail boutique adjacent to her workspace. It offers up everything from hand-crafted ceramics by Claire Seastone and abstract paintings by Bailey Ferguson (inspired by surfing wipeouts) to luxury fabrics, decorative pillows, wallpaper, and much more – all locally sourced, of course.

She shares the rustic building, situated in the heart of Holualoa, with Ginger & Koi, Kimi & Li Bikini, Sky Cody Leather & Coco + Lita – all female-owned businesses. “I’m so happy to be surrounded here by a group of such amazing women.

A self-described family woman, Monica is married with two children. When she’s not busy in her studio or out at one of the many luxury homes she is working on, you can find her out bodyboarding or longboard surfing at one of the Kona Coast’s great surf breaks.

Monica’s luxury boutique is open Monday through Friday from 9am to 4pm and Saturday by appointment only; and closed on Sundays. Contact Monica at (808) 294-5176 or design@monicaament.com. Visit her online at monicaament.com.     

“My studio and boutique share space in a building filled with amazing ‘Boss Babe’ business owners – I’m so grateful to be surrounded here by such creative women.”

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