Iolani Palace: New Room Opens

Pitch Perfect: Iolani Palace restores the colors of the past in the newly renovated music room.


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When the original furniture can’t be found, restorers bring in appropriate reproductions.

Photos: David Croxford

It took a team of expert eyes and more than 300 pages of two-dimensional documents to turn Iolani Palace’s newly opened music room—once seen only in a few black-and-white pictures—back into blazing Technicolor.


A green and gold cotton cut velvet band trims the drapes.

The so-called Gold Room regains its title with rich, golden mohair satin drapes that frame the nine floor-to-ceiling windows. Tones of gold and brown echo in the wool carpet, accented with shots of indigo and deep rose. Each hue has an almost CSI-like story. Textile expert Deborah Kraak, a Roosevelt High School alum with 30 years’ experience in historic fabrics on the East Coast, took on the challenge of working with experts and craftsmen from around the country to find the pigments of the past.

The buttery gold in the Music Room draperies was culled from the inner threads of a curtain tieback, one of only three original fabric samples left in existence. The gold and brown pigments in the Japanese-design carpeting were pulled from those tones and re-created in England. The blues and pinks are true to the styles of 1882, the year the palace was completed.

The furniture finish described on the A.H. Davenport pieces was a mystery, called ebony by one newspaper of the day, and light and airy by another. It was a confusing contradiction, until Kraak visited Davenport’s home in Massachusetts and stumbled across a curtain rod with a semi-sheer ebony wash, forgotten in the home’s attic. Fabric swatches examined in Kraak’s Delaware home were even sent to the Islands, to see how the colors changed under the tropical sun. It was a real treasure hunt for the royal residence Kraak considers the emotional heart of Hawaii.

“I hope it makes the royal family seem more real,”  Kraak says, so that, when visitors walk in, they can almost hear the music.

 

Lost and Found

Re-creations are amazing, but nothing thrills Iolani Palace curators more than rediscovering artifacts thought lost forever. That’s the story behind a music-room table on public display for the first time since the years of the monarchy. King David Kalakaua received the koa table with a pair of elephant tusks for his 50th-birthday jubilee in 1886. It showed up in later pictures sporting just one tusk and missing the engraved silver plaque that came with it. Soon those pieces disappeared altogether.

Friends of Iolani Palace recently found the table and tusk in Minnesota, where it had been moved to after it sold at auction in the early 1920s. The Hedin family donated it and it is now reunited with the other tusk, which had been passed down through the Kawananakoa line.

You can see a list of Iolani Palace’s most-wanted items at iolanipalace.org/index.php/history-most-want.html.

 

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