Editor’s Note: Of all the places in the world to call home, Hawaii offers a life that is wholly unique. In this three-part series, Modern Hawaii, we’re profiling business owners on Oahu who are choosing the Hawaiian lifestyle above all else.
It’s been more than a decade since John Reyno left California to begin anew in Hawaii. Trading a successful career as a welder, he, almost by chance, has become the go-to purveyor of mid-century modern furniture on the island of Oahu.
“After that career, I was collecting furniture for fun,” says Reyno. “I really got into design. There wasn’t a lot of it being restored here so I started doing it by necessity.”
“I did that for 23 years, working 6 days a week. That can be lucrative but it’s not so fun for the soul. I realized at 39 that by 40 I wanted to be done with that. I took a chance and moved to Hawaii to slow down really and appreciate another part of my life.”
Isolated some 2,390 miles from California and 3,850 miles from Japan, Hawaii’s population center is the most isolated on earth. While that impacts its inhabitants in a variety of ways, for Reyno, it has meant there is an abundance of mid-century furniture to reclaim.
He credits the uptick of air travel and tourism in the 1950s and ‘60s for the design boom on Oahu. “It started growing as an island — everyone was building. Homes built in that period were filled with these pieces,” he says. And most of that hasn’t left. “It’s really expensive to ship off the island so stuff stays here. It’s not collected as much as it is on the mainland so it’s still in nooks and crannies and auntie’s houses. There’s a lot of it here.”
As Reyno has established himself on Oahu, the need to knock on doors to find furniture to restore has become less and less. “It’s gone from the thrill of the chase to having a lot of stuff come to me. People know I am the source for it so they offer it to me first.”
Though Hawaii Modern has become the ultimate source on the island for timeless mid-century design, his life is more than just work. The initial draw to Hawaii still stands. “It’s the things that you do rather than the things that you have,” he says. Situated in picturesque Kailua on the eastern side of Oahu, Reyno’s daily routine is far from monotonous. Days are slow paced, interspersed with surf and good pour over. And while he is passionate about his business, Reyno isn’t trying to scale. The success he has found on this rugged and isolated island extends far beyond his workshop.
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