Even the most unconventional spaces, like this pair of shipping containers, can be tranformed into a functional, stylish and relaxing environment

You may have seen Russell Hata, CEO of Y. Hata, on the cover of last week’s MidWeek and read about how the company is celebrating its 100th year. Russell shared with me that one of the main reasons Y. Hata is not only still around, but also one of Hawaii’s leading food service companies, is because of its employees.

He took me on a tour of the company’s 100,000-square-foot facility in Kalihi last summer and asked if I would take on the task of remodeling 14 spaces. In the next few weeks I’ll be sharing with you a few of these restyled spaces, including the most exciting part of the project, his gift to the employees.



The company had never had an employee lounge, so they had to make one. They brought on-site two shipping containers from Aloha Containers that we combined to create a 30 by 16 foot space. Generally, these are used as makeshift offices at contracting sites and are not meant for stylish, inviting decor.

This was about to change. Russell gave me carte blanche, and I knew right away that I wanted to create a Google-like setting that was fun and inspiring for everyone from drivers and warehouse crew to salespeople, office staff and executives. And it had to be a setting you’d never know was a container. Y. Hata’s color palette is red, black, gray and white. I laid the foundation of the containers with vinyl plank flooring in a lighter scraped reclaimed finish and clad an entire wall with 4 by 8 foot steel Diamond Plate panels, which you normally see on foot plates of industrial trucks. This material would not only be cool and unique, but make the guys feel right at home. We adhered die-cut letters of the logo we designed from Jet Graphics for the space.

The last wall we covered in commercial vinyl wallpaper in two gray tones and fashioned a counter out of the reclaimed Radford High School gym floor, which featured the colors red and black. And above that, we put a focal point: a dry-erase board shaped like a giant cartoon thought bubble that employees can use for meeting notes or tic-tac-toe!

It’s a functional counter where they can plug in, get recharged, eat lunch or have fun. And that’s what this space is all about. There’s a chalkboard wall with a dartboard, a foosball table and a game table that can be used to eat, play Scrabble, have meetings or anything else.



Finally, on the opposite end, we added a sitting area with mushroom-colored leather sofas, a reclaimed-wood coffee table, floating shelves and a plasma TV, the space grounded by a red Moroccan-inspired dhurrie rug. There was no doubt in my mind that guys would love the lounge. I added this super-stylish area to be sure that women would feel comfortable as well.

So how can you apply some of these principles to your employee setting or family room? Consider who you’re designing for. If it’s for both sexes, go for colors, styles and elements that will appeal to both. Be creative. Include touches of fun, but do it in a stylish way with colors that you love or that reflect your brand.

The most rewarding thing as a designer is to see people comfortable and happy in a space. I walked into the finished lounge one day and saw guys talking story at the table, playing darts and foosball, and women lounging on the sofas. That’s when I knew we’d done our job.

Next week, I’ll continue with more Y. Hata spaces I restyled to inspire you for your home or office. To see more photos from this project, go to www.cathyleestyle.com.


Cathy Lee is president and designer of Cathy Lee Style and Cathy’s Marketplace. She recently opened reStyle Hawaii as well. To find out more, go to www.cathyleestyle.com.