Lawrence O'Toole with the Lotus Table and Seat

Lawrence O’Toole with the Lotus Table and Seat

Unless otherwise noted, photos are by Lawrence O’Toole

Lawrence O’Toole has worked for over 25 years in the design industry. He is a licensed architect and engineer and specializes in architecture interior design and product design. He will teach four classes in Design Fundamentals at Kaua`i Community College beginning on February 2.

For Kaua`i asked him to elaborate on these courses and his interest and background in Design. More information about each course may be found at the end of this Q&A.

Q.       Explain your intent in offering these four classes.

A.       My intention is to bring new insights and understanding to the community, young and old, regarding the world of design. It’s a huge part of who we are as a society and as individuals. From where you are sitting at this moment to what you are wearing —every element was designed. My goal is to bring awareness and intention to the spaces and things that surround us. The classes will include: Introduction to Design Fundamentals; Industrial Design: Form & Function; Environmental and Interior Design; and Graphic Design Fundamentals. I believe the knowledge of Design can greatly enhance the experience of being alive and inspire creative new vision.

Q. Who should take these classes and why?

A. The classes are for everyone, from beginners to professionals looking for an inspiring refresher.  Renowned artists from Kaua`i are interested in taking the courses as a way to sharpen their skills in alternative disciplines, as well as novices looking to increase their understanding of the design world. The courses are engaging and fun with an emphasis on learning through visual presentations and simple hands on exercises.

Koolau Residence, Mountain View Elevation, Kilauea, HI

Koolau Residence, Mountain View Elevation, Kilauea, HI


Q. What can participants expect to walk away with from these classes?

 A. The courses are designed to bring a greater awareness to the creative process and to inspire new ways of seeing and creating one’s environment.

Q. As you structured them, do these classes lead from one to the next in a logical fashion?

A. Ideally, it’s best if students take the broader Intro to Design Fundamentals course for greater perception and understanding prior to continuing to the more specific courses.

Q. Why are you offering these classes at this point?

A. I’m offering these classes to provide an opportunity to those interested in learning about the world of Design. To my knowledge, nothing like this has ever been offered on island and KCC provides a great outlet for sharing some of my insights.

Q. What in your career to date has offered you the most satisfaction?

A. Bringing beauty into the world gives me the greatest fulfillment. This includes pieces ranging in scale from the simplest 2-dimensional pages and area rugs to the more complex 3-dimensional works of furniture and architecture. The energy of a well-designed piece or space is probably the top inspiration — you can actually feel it.

Q. Do you favor one school of thought over another?

A. I prefer to look forward and to experiment with the new while keeping a keen eye on context. What are the cultural or physical properties surrounding a project?  What came before and why? Given our place in time, can we improve upon precedents with new materials or new ways of seeing? These are just a few of the questions that bring good design to fruition.

Q. Are you a traveler and if so, explain how travel may have influenced your philosophy, thought, design.

A. I’ve had the experience of travel since an early age.  Being a member of the design community and my appreciation of design stems from the expansion that occurs via travel to foreign lands. It’s no secret that a good designer has to be open to all possibilities and what better introduction to this concept than to see new ways of living and doing in other cultures. I still travel quite a bit, generally to the cultural hubs for inspiration. Recently, I was in Milan and was impressed by Italian culture’s high value on Design. I also cherish my time in Japan, especially Kyoto; the simplicity and honesty of traditional Japanese Design is an enormous influence in my work. Travel is what led me to Kaua`i and I’m inspired by the natural beauty here everyday.

Q. When did you first realize you were drawn to design?

A. That’s an interesting question. Thinking back, it was definitely not a moment, but an evolution. I simply did the things that were interesting at the time. All the play forts I made and things I took apart to see how they worked were a pretty good indicator of my direction. There were a couple of first places in art contests and walls full of inspiring design images along the way that were clues as well. This evolution continues and I’m inspired to learn and experience good design daily.

Q. Where did you study? Do you have a degree/degrees? From where?

A. I attended SCI-Arc or the Southern California Institute of Architecture, where I received a Master of Architecture with emphasis in Furniture Design. The Graduate School of Architecture is internationally recognized and was voted No. 2 in the U.S. for design last year.

Q. Are there local projects where people can view your work online or when they travel?

A. My architectural projects in the islands include Stüssy’s Hawaiian flagship store at Ala Moana in Honolulu and hideaway residences on Kaua`i. I’m working with Kukui Grove Center on a few special projects that should finish this year. The majority of my architectural work is on the mainland. The best way to view these works is on my website or on Facebook at

Q. What is the most interesting project you are currently working on?

A. At the moment, I’m most excited about the O Table Series. I create the tabletops using 100 percent renewable surfboard foam from reclaimed broken and old surfboards otherwise destined for the landfill to create new living pieces. It’s an inspiring project using knowledge from two of my favorite subcultures —surfing and contemporary furniture design — to produce a hybrid product that has been well received in both worlds. I’m currently looking for skilled shapers and glassers on all the islands.

Q. How may readers reach you?

 A. E-mail me at



Introduction to Design Fundamentals

Thursdays, February 2, 9, 16 & 23, 6-9:00pm: $110.00

Learn the essentials of design via an overview of the major design disciplines. This course is an introduction to basic design and techniques including design history & theory, two dimensional foundation, three dimensional foundation, & color foundation.


Industrial Design: Form & Function

Thursdays, April 5, 12 & 19,

6-9:00pm: $85.00

Explore the essentials of industrial design including form, scale & color. Study human factors like physiological and social considerations in creating with meaning.


Environmental and Interior Design

Tuesdays, April 24, May 1 & 8,

6-9:00pm: $85.00

Learn the fundamentals of space including form, light, color, healthy & inviting environ-ments, space planning, and even explore materials like furniture and surfaces.


Graphic Design Fundamentals

Thursdays, April 26, May 3 & 10,

6-9:00pm: $85.00

Study two-dimensional design including page layout, balance and composition, lettering, font styles. Explore flat space with new insights and meaning.

To register, call KCC-OCET at 245-8318

To see all KCC course offerings, visit


Discover more from ForKauaiOnline

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.