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When did houses start to go Tiki? How common were they?

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Every so often, in my garage-sale expeditions, I'll come across a house from the 1950s or 1960s that has clear Polynesian influences to its architecture. I'm not talking so much about whole housing developments that had a Tiki theme, of which I know several, or the faux-Japanese architecture of many houses in the 1950s, (The neighborhood of Lomita has whole blocks of them). I'm talking about Polynesian-influenced houses that were built solo, that are just different enough from the other 50's Ranch-style houses surrounding them - like this one I spotted in Harbor City on Saturday:

Besides making me wish I could buy this house and hange a huge globe lamp from the A-frame and stake some large tikis on either side of the front door, this house raises the following questions for me:

When did architects start building these? Was it after tiki restaurants, bowling alleys and apartments? Or somewhere in that timeline?

Why are they so much rarer than tiki apartments? Was there no market for them?

Are they more common in other areas? I've only found a few here in the South Bay. Or have they all been torn down?

Any insights would be appreciated.


I've also noticed many chuches that have lava rock, outriggers and a vaulted A-frame. No craven images though.

I can remember as a child going with my parents to see showhomes in a new subdivision (this would be early to mid 60's) and one of the models had a Hawaiian theme, about which all I can remember is that it had gas torches in the front.

Just to play the devil's advocate from the historic preservation angle, the features distinguishing that building from a typical rancher are not necessarily from the time of its original construction. The A-frame dormer, gable-end exposed ridge beams and detailed rafter ends could have been added at a later date. Just my $.02.


I have seen a couple that have definite tiki influence in my vintage house plans books... A-Frames and such... but that one kind of looks weird - like it was added later.

I posted these a while ago but it's time to see them again thanks to Sabu. Actually, I can't answer any of your questions but I can show some pictures.
On the Balboa peninsula in Newport Beach, there are a couple of tiki houses around. I went into this one for a party one night. That lava rock fireplace continues on the upstairs inside. The ceilings are super high too.

This is a whole neighborhood full of tiki houses just off PCH. If you can find my original post, I think I had more to say about them.

Good topic Tim

I grew up in the second picture Lucky posted.(deja vu?) Newport Shores . We had lava rock and an A-frame too. But it was just normal life for us. Like having your Grandfather be Eli Hedley. It was just normal life.

Sabu, Huntington Beach is the land of tiki/poly houses. It would takes weeks to view them all.

p.s. the early 60's.

Speaking of which, HB has a tiki house right on the corner of Newland and Slater, which is right by the house of a Polynesian tiki carver that had tikis in his front yard and was featured in a past Tiki News.

I have to apologize that in my "Evolution of Polynesian Pop" chart on page 46 of the Book of Tiki the "Motels and Apartments Go Tiki" icon is so low that it looks like it happened in the late 60s.
Ben is right, it was from 1960 to 1967, as a reaction to the statehood of Hawaii, parallel to A-frames becoming modernist jet age icons. First came the restaurants, then the Motels, then the apartments, and then the houses.
In my opinion, real Tiki houses are rare individual cases, the ones you shot are modernist, based on classic Asian/Japanese houses, and are not true Tiki. Japanese style was considered more classy modern than Polynesian, because of it's simplicity and elegance. The term "outrigger"-beam stuck because of the Poly Pop influence, but the feature actually came from Japanese architecture.


Lots of those type of houses,churches and apts. here in Florida. Most seem to have been built in the 60's.


Check out these photos from a house plan book I sold on Ebay a while back... the last two are rather standard cottage A-frames but the first one is really spectacular!

[ Edited by: tikifish on 2003-11-20 08:27 ]

Hey tikifish,
can you post the name of the book, please ?

It was the 1968 or '69 encyclopedia of home designs... Very hard to find. Not available in stores. It sold for 125 bucks.

However if you want a copy of the plans, I can send them to you...

It will be very nice, if you email me some of the plans, tikifish.


A couple years ago we went upriver a few miles to an estate sale. The house was a really cool riverfront octagon shaped Polynesian bungalow. I was certain I was gonna find some huge Tiki scores inside. The house was very simple on the inside. Open beamed ceilings all pointing towards the peak in the center, lot's of cedar and natural wood, and still very '70's in colors carpet and furniture. An obvious retirement home for some polynesian lovers.
Mrs. Seamus and I did our usual routine of splitting up and scouring the place top to bottom. I found nothing. When I located the Wahine to say let's move on to next one, she showed me her boxes she'd set aside. Included in her finds was a really cool Treasurecraft figure of a Hawaiian Drummer,
A small Trader Vic's drink booklet and 11, yes folks, eleven Trader Vic's gold stemmed Tiki Martini glasses! The very ones TBOT refers to as The Holy Grail of the Tiki collector. What a house that was! And what a gal I have! She's always had the better eye for hunting Tiki.

On 2003-11-20 10:19, tikifish wrote:

However if you want a copy of the plans, I can send them to you...

Me too, Miss Fish. I am collecting everything on A-frames I can find, for a future book project on the concept. To most people they are known as vacation homes, indeed. Or churches.


There are TONS of A-frames up here in the great NW.


I have more A-Frame plans than you can shake a stick at. Though why you would want to shake a stick at them, I do not know. DO you need good color copies of the plans, or just black and white photocopies? I can start putting some aside for you. Email me and we can speak further on the subject!

I have turned into a total architecture freak, with collecting vintage house plans something of an obsessive hobby, perhaps even, dare I say it, surpassing the tiki obsessive compulsiveness.


Smokin Devil - I will have to scan them... I only have photocopies at the moment. I should really buy a scanner - what are they now, 3 bucks and a pack of gum?

Pages: 1 19 replies