“Tiki” is often associated with a basement bar outfitted with swanky furnishings, a bamboo serving table, dimmed atmospheric red lighting and many conspicuously-placed totem heads. The basement immortalizes the midcentury era of surf rock and tropical daydreams—but the living room refreshes the tiki style. So leave the bar stools and prints advertising Hawaiian getaways downstairs, and learn how to create a modern tiki chic living room.
An overabundance of kitsch is fun in the basement but obnoxious in a living room, especially if you’re into tiki chic. You don’t need to try that hard to emit a paradise effect in the room, so avoid filling the room with bamboo textures and palm tree accents. What you need is a few tasteful pieces that pay homage to the retro tiki culture, like this coffee table which you can purchase here. It’s surfboard-shaped but built from the same wood you’d use in any midcentury room. Another idea is to hang a black and white photograph of people at the beach circa the ’50s and ’60s. The monochrome colors and real-life subjects contribute to the intended sophistication of the living room.
Adorn the room with actual tributes to the Polynesian history in lieu of stereotypical icons of the tropical culture, like tiki heads. But don’t hang a detailed portrait in acrylics depicting ancient wayfinders navigating the Pacific Ocean on an outrigger canoe. Instead, look for decor that features a single pop-out element against a bold monotone backdrop, such as “Viking Ship” by Witco. If you can’t suppress your love for ’50s tiki decor, then purchase the half hull wall canoe wall decor pictured above here. It’s borderline retro, but the redwood material ties together all the wood accents in the room so that the piece doesn’t strike as uncomfortably flamboyant. The authentic yet simple display of a past civilization establishes that this is supposed to be a tiki-themed room, but with a modern flair.
Going from bar room to tiki chic doesn’t mean you have to lose the fun. You still want to be able to kick back and enjoy a rum cocktail, and black leather is the midcentury solution to relaxing in style. Look for a black leather sofa that has wood bases to remain cohesive with the room’s earthy theme, like this Borge Mogensen DB sofa that you can purchase here.
Two-toned Diamond Ottomans
Polynesian culture is big on tribal patterns. Midcentury culture is big on geometric patterns. Find a happy medium with these two-toned diamond-patterned ottomans, which you can buy here. As for color, sand and tan are your best best for achieving that Polynesian style.
Diamond-Patterned Shag Rug
Yet another case of combining two cultures for a hybrid space. A white shag rug contrasts with the black leather sofa to create a monochrome effect, an easy way to emanate chic vibes in your living room. But the brown diamonds, with their floating pattern making them appear as though they’re carefree, ironically keep the room in-line with the tiki theme. You can purchase this diamond-patterned shag rug here.
Mute out other walls and choose one to accent in your living room. Mimic the texture of woven straw baskets and Tahitian bungalows with a grasscloth wallpaper, which you can purchase here. You want a more tightly-weaved texture for subtleness—you don’t want your wall to be too much of a blast to the past. If your scared the straw-like appearance will be too clashing, you can purchase a faux grasscloth wallpaper here.