In the 1950s, tiki bars became all the rage, providing an exotic escape from bland tract housing and mundane middle-management manufacturing jobs. Remember those?
Pleasure seekers who couldn't afford family vacations in Bali brought the island life home to their lanais and patios, decorating with rattan and wicker furniture and Polynesian accents — Pacific Rim totems, tropical scenes and colorful cocktails served in festive glasses, coconut shells and even hollowed-out pineapples. They played Hawaiian music on their stereo consoles and hosted swinging parties decked out in Hawaiian prints.
In the 1970s, the tiki aesthetic became dated and corny, replaced by space-age age egg chairs — a whole other realm of kitsch. The tiki enjoyed a resurgence in the late 1980s, and it's still enjoyed today by a thriving subculture that keeps the tiki torches burning.
Websites such as tikiloungetalk.com provide a how-to on setting up your own tiki lounge at home, but you can get help locally from tiki and cocktail culture maven Carol Cortright, owner of Roadside Attraction in Largo. Her boutique specializes in mid-century modern decor, tiki, tropical furnishings and other vintage (or vintage-inspired) home decor as well as jewelry, cocktail goods and souvenirs.
If you're going big, start with a tiki-style bar, refurbished by Carol's husband, David Cortright. The bar with two stools costs $599.
Local sculptor and "guerrilla tiki artist" Jeff Chouinard says that Carol makes "one hell of a mean Mai Tai" and you can learn about making old-fashioned cocktails from her at open house events she hosts at the store.
Speaking of cocktails, Roadside Attraction sells not only the glasses ($10 and up) and rattan pieces (prices vary) to create the look of an at-home tiki bar, Cortright also sells a wide variety of mixers for the actual drinks, such as the concoctions of Cocktail & Sons ($20 each). They're all-natural, handcrafted by a small company in New Orleans. Recipe books, coasters and vintage glasses with cocktail recipes are also available.
Roadside is one of a few retailers (including Disney World) that stocks BG Reynolds' syrups ($15, $25). Wild Ginger, Cinnamon, Lime Cordial and other colorful, sweet and zingy flavors are featured.
Aforementioned tiki artist Chouinard creates totems under the name Surf Soul Tiki, but is well known locally for erecting surprise tiki installations in public. When he's not working as a renegade, Chouinard creates custom art for commission; his pieces run from $200 for small masks and statues to giant super-size totems for $1,500-plus. You can reach Chouinard at facebook.com/jeff.chouinard.7.
If you're designing a patio with a Polynesian-retro look in your back yard, you can find tiki torches anywhere from Walmart to the Salvation Army. Other kitschy lawn and patio accents can be found at Squaresville in Tampa. The funky shop has been going strong for nearly two decades and stocks a wide range of Hawaiian shirts as well as The Original Don Featherstone pink plastic lawn flamingos (a pair for $19.99). Ashtrays and other ceramic accessories run from around $12 and up.
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Furnish Me Vintage in St. Pete sells a pair of 1950s slatted wrought-iron chairs, recently updated with tropical fabric for $395. Quality Wicker & Rattan in Tampa offers dinettes that fit with the tiki theme for a wide range of prices as well as painted bamboo curtains.
Don't forget about the lights. Bed Bath & Beyond has fun patio umbrella string lights for only $9.99 (bedbathandbeyond.com).