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Tropical Dreams

A pair of Orange County surfers have put the color, mystique and spirit of Polynesia into their line of bedding. 'These aloha prints are baaaad,' says one.

July 24, 1999|KATHRYN BOLD | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Doug Smith and Ed McLean are a couple of Orange County surfers in their 20s hoping to catch the next big wave in bedding design.

They've created a line of comforter covers and sheet sets with Polynesian prints designed to appeal to those whose beach-oriented lifestyle doesn't jibe with dull solids, stripes or Laura Ashley florals.

Their bedding sets, which they market under the name Dean Miller Hawaiian Island Prints, come in the same kind of island fabrics used to make aloha shirts and other surfwear.

"These aloha prints are baaaad," said McLean, who is prone to surfer-speak.

McLean, a 27-year-old Newport Beach resident, got the idea for Polynesian-print bedding when his search for a new duvet cover proved futile. He was too old for action characters but too young for plaids.

"I went surfing down in San O [San Onofre] and told [Doug] I needed some bedding for my room. But there was nothing for anyone our age and our lifestyle," McLean said.

So the pair developed bedding decorated with surfboards, hula dancers, hibiscus and other Polynesian motifs. A favorite with twentysomethings: a print festooned with zombies, daiquiris and other tropical cocktails.

"They're great for that Jimmy Buffett type of person," Smith said.

Though the line has obvious appeal to surfers and consumers of Hawaiian collectibles, Smith and McLean have found that the tropical sheets appeal to a variety of home decorators, including anyone who likes the ocean.

Judy Falk of Laguna Beach now has surfboards adorning a red comforter set on her bed, as well as island prints on her two guest beds.

"I hadn't bought sheets in 206 years," she joked, "and these were unique. I wear a lot of aloha shirts at work, and I love the beach and Hawaii."

She first worried that the island prints wouldn't mix with her home's French country architecture or her antique furnishings, but the orange, mango, red and other tropical colors looked good against her white walls.

BEDDING ON IT

Sailing enthusiasts have bought the bedding for their boats. The colorful prints also work in children's bedrooms. Some have used Polynesian-print bedding for their beach homes--a reminder to out-of-town house guests that they're not in Kansas anymore. The prints go well with rattan furniture and kitschy tiki furnishings.

Smith and McLean introduced their bedding line six months ago. Smith, 28, was finishing up his MBA at Chapman University when McLean brought him the samples of bedding he'd made.

"Let's do it," Smith said, and the two set up shop out of his Laguna Beach home. They hope to add the name of Dean Miller to Quiksilver and other Orange County surf-oriented companies, which were started by surfers like themselves out of garages and spare bedrooms.

A few of those local surfwear companies--including Quiksilver of Costa Mesa and Irvine-based Ocean Pacific and Toes on the Nose--are also getting their feet wet in the home furnishings department. In the coming months, they're introducing everything from pillow shams to sheets with their own Hawaiian prints.

Smith and McLean named their Hawaiian-print bedding after a legendary surfer of Hawaii named Dean Miller. While the pair were on a surfing safari to Kauai, locals told them about the legend of Miller, who lived in the island rain forest and slept every night on a bed of Hawaiian flowers.

"When I heard that, I thought it was a great name for our company," Smith said.

The pair order much of their material from Hoffman California Fabrics in Mission Viejo, the company that produces Polynesian prints for Gotcha, Billabong and other major surfwear companies.

Smith and McLean also make monthly trips to Hawaii to seek out fabrics not sold on the mainland, to give their line a distinctive look.

They sell their bedding in sets. The duvet covers feature wood buttons, a larger version of the kind seen on better aloha shirts. The sheets and pillowcases are made of solid-colored material with a stripe of printed fabric that matches the comforters--kind of like the striped aloha T-shirts.

"It would be too loud if it was all Hawaiian print. They can be overwhelming," Smith said.

They've started advertising in surfer magazines such as Longboarder instead of the traditional home decor publications, and they hope to sell the line at specialty shops, such as Gary's Island, that are already immersed in Hawaiian themes.

"We don't want to be in Strouds," McLean said.

They plan to introduce new fabrics each season "so we're not stuck with just one style," McLean said. Prices range from about $140 for a twin set to $190 for a king (sets include pillowcases, sheets and duvet), and customers can view the collection online at http://www.deanmillerprints.com or call (949) 497-8425.

"Everyone loves Hawaii. We just wanted to bring that into the home," Smith said.

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