After traveling through the Polynesian islands, a man named Donn Beach brought tropical flair and Polynesian culture to the states to create a one-of-a-kind experience. By combining fruity drinks and Chinese food, Beach started a restaurant and bar, called “Don the Beachcomber,” in the 1930s. After it became a hit, many of these upscale restaurants opened up all across the country. Tiki statues were placed outside of these restaurants, often in the form of torches and later became a symbol of the restaurants and a symbol of tiki culture. Unfortunately in the 60s, the popularity of these restaurants began to decline and tiki culture was seen as tacky or passé. Fifty years later, decorations and props used in these restaurants are now collectible items with specific authenticity. Tiki items add a subtle yet interesting bit of flair to the mid-century modern home.
The Tiki Bar
Getting the island vibe in your home is easier than moving to Hawaii. What really defines this style of decorating is incorporating bamboo with dark stained wood. With the addition of tropical plants, waterfalls, hand carved statues, and dancing hula girls, you can have your very own tiki bar in your home. Authenticity is key. Tikiphiles claim that anything made with plastic is considered taboo. Finding an item that was used in an actual tiki bar is a bonus, but simple hand carved signs, statues, masks, and other pieces of art still make a great addition to your tiki bar and even your living room.
Enchanted Tiki Living Room
While many Tikiphiles have tiki bars in their homes, incorporating this style into living room and bedroom has become popularized over the years. Witco furniture is a brand, as well as a style, that has created an interesting Polynesian and mid-century modern combination. It is said that Elvis Presley decorated Graceland’s Jungle Room entirely with Witco Furniture. Although Witco is no longer manufacturing pieces, many companies have taken over this style and made replicas. Tiki style has made its way into most areas of the home. There are many kitchenware items, like bowls and mugs, and decorative items, like light fixtures and vases. A staple of this style is woodcarvings. These carvings can be anything from wildlife sculptures to floral wall décor. Pairing this dark wood with bright tropical wallpaper can tie this style into a modern home without looking too much like a tiki bar.
Tiki culture means a lot of different things to many different people. For some, it represents the period of escapism in the 50s, while for others tiki culture is about preserving the convergence of Western and Polynesian cultures.