Kailua Living carries locally designed Boho chic goods. ©Jay Parco
By Powell Berger
Think Kailua, and you envision beaches, Buzz’s Steak House and the Pali Lookout. But shopping? Not a chance. Right?
Trendy boutiques are popping up around Kailua like mangos falling off an over-stuffed tree, each one bringing a different flair and vibe to Oahu’s sleepy beach enclave. Kailua Living, the latest addition to the collection, is the brainchild of Kailua kama‘aina Michele McArdle Baginski and Shanon Jenkins Schubert. Baginski’s artistic flair is no stranger to discerning Windward homeowners. Her handcrafted pillows, table textiles and bedding already enjoy a loyal following, mostly through word-of-mouth and craft fairs. Her work is extraordinary — not just because of the perfect seams, mitered edges and dazzling designs — but also because she creates her magic while suffering from Stargardt Disease, a form of macular degeneration that leads to blindness.
“I got tired of going to craft fairs,” laughs Baginski, as she shares her story. “I depend on others, and I feel like I’m burdening people. I decided it would be easier to just have one spot.”
With the sweat equity, materials and expertise of her husband and friends, the little spot Schubert and Baginski admit felt ever so slightly ghetto at first transformed into the their permanent craft fair — a beach cottage oasis of calming colors, hardwood floors, eye-candy merchandise and even a quiet lanai in the back.
“We figure everyone needs a break from shopping, a spot to hang out, use the Wi-Fi, and maybe have an espresso,” Baginski says.
When Schubert and Baginski partnered, their goal was simple: The magic they know to be Kailua Beach had to ooze from the shop’s every nook and cranny. “I grew up on the beach,” Schubert explains. “It makes my soul happy.” That spirit inspires her collection of bohemian and beach fashions, a stunning array of dip-dyed tops and dresses, an assortment of hats, totes, beach blankets, and even some edgy yoga accessories.
“I can’t sew so much anymore,” Baginski says, “so I found local seamstresses and I oversee them. I know what’s right. My clients only buy it if it’s right.” Now she focuses her artistic energy on her new love — stamping and hand painting island- inspired pillows and other textiles.
Schubert’s and Baginski’s commitment to local artists and designers runs deep. Chic, beach-casual jewelry comes from local artisans; Baginski’s home textiles are handmade by windward seamstresses using only domestic materials; and locally inspired and crafted art hangs from the walls. “My community has been good to me, says Baginski, tears welling up as her voice trails. “This gives me a chance to be real and give back, to be connected.”
The slippahs gathered by the front door and the hugs exchanged every time a new shopper arrives suggest that connection’s already there. Their little shop is Kailua’s new living room, and their handiwork and merchandise, a peek into the heart and soul of the community they call home.
Kailua Living, 22 Oneawa St., 261.2200.