Sheraton Kona Resort Embraces Traditional Hawaiian Design

Going Pono: A local resort embraces traditional Hawaiian design.

Ohia kii (wood sculptures)

The rotunda features scuptures by Jeff Gomes. “All the kii are made from ohia, inviting the deities,” says Zane. “At a certain point people stopped giving offering to the deities of [Keauhou]. We are giving back to them and asking them to return.”

It was supposed to be a simple uniform design job. When the Sheraton Kona Resort and Spa initially hired designer Sig Zane in 2011 as part of a $13 million, 285-room renovation project, it was because of his reputation as an alohawear maven. But when Zane overheard the interior designer’s plan to create Hawaiian-quilt patterned carpeting for the resort, he couldn’t help speaking out. Not only are Hawaiian quilts not traditionally meant to be sat on, let alone walked on, he said, the idea was clichéd. “People in the profession of interior design … get all of the degrees, but what they don’t have is what is real here,” Zane says. “They bring in their Hollywood conceptions.” The Sheraton liked Zane’s perspective so much, it put him in charge of the art direction for the entire renovation.

The result, which was unveiled in September, draws inspiration from plants native to Keauhou and uses Hawaiian place names specific to the site. Zane says the intent was to honor the kupuna and akua that came before, while giving the property a pono aesthetic.


The name of the staff’s alohawear uniforms literally translates to “the flowing currents;” but the figurative translation is “if everything is flowing good, success will follow,” explains Sig. “Like if the currents are clean in the ocean the fish will follow,” he says. “Same thing here: If everything is good in the hotel, then the guests will come because everything is flowing nicely.”

The silversword rotunda greets guests when they enter the resort.

“All of the plant [designs] have a cultural significance,” says Zane. “It’s not just a face value.”