Raise a Mai Tai to these tropical totems and Polynesian-inspired patios.
As with B-movie memorabilia collectors and ‘50s fashion fiends, modern tiki enthusiasts must have an appreciation for kitsch
But just because you draw design cues from Hula’s Modern Tiki bar or reruns of Gilligan’s Island doesn’t mean you have to descend into tackiness – look to the latter’s well-heeled Howells, not its titular bucket-hatted boob, for inspiration.
Embracing tiki mainstays – torches, statues, waterfalls and tropical prints – but doing them in an elevated way prevents your outdoor oasis from turning into a garish display. Woven natural fibers take tiki torches up a notch, providing “extra lighting and ambiance,” says Julie Buchkowski, owner of Paul’s Ace Hardware. “The added benefit is they’re keeping away bugs” with their citronella flames.
Dramatic tiki statues flanking a fire pit or waterfall offer an imposing majesty with their long lines and hand-carved faces. They’ve “got to hit the right hand and the right garden,” says Brenda Dempster, co-owner of TB&D Nursery in Cave Creek. She recommends clustering the nursery’s palm tikis, handcrafted exclusively for them by palm trimmer Joe Vandenberg, and setting them off with explosively colorful flowers and palms for a jungle-like feel. “They look great by a little fire pit,” Dempster says. Or a waterfall, says Linnzy Foster, marketing manager of Presidential Pools & Spas. “Hearing water running relaxes you and it’s always beautiful just to see water features in your backyard,” he says of the transportive, vacation-simulating power of water crashing onto boulders.
At Today’s Patio, exterior designer Robin Rodriguez advises clients on how to give their backyards a resort-like feel to continue the vacation vibe. Tommy Bahama lounge furniture in its signature tropical fabrics are “incredibly elegant. They pattern a lot of their styles from interior styles so they’re really bringing the inside out to create more of a formal look... than the average outdoor furniture,” Rodriguez says.
Thurston and Lovey would approve.
Hand-carved, one-of-a-kind palm tikis ($375-$450+) hold court with Phoenix palms and diplandia vines, double rose hibiscus, red bells and blue plumbago
(left to right, price upon request).
TB&D Nursery 5335 E. Dixileta Dr., Cave Creek 480-473-2230
Presidential Pools & Spas
Locations: Gilbert, Surprise, Scottsdale, Tucson
Water crashes and falls down artificial rock boulders into a pool of crystalline blue water at Presidential Pools’ display pool park in Gilbert. The 12-foot water slide and the glass beads and abalone in the company’s proprietary Pebble Radiance surface lend a Hawaiian resort vibe. “It makes the environment pop,” Foster says. “That extreme blueness of the water helps with making sure your pool always looks clean as well.” Price varies by project.
Paul’s Ace Hardware
Locations: Scottsdale, Fountain Hills, Tempe, Gilbert
Citronella-spiked tiki torches provide light and insect repellent (right, $227.76 for a 24-pack) while Friki Tiki Tikiette figurines “add nice little pops of color all over the place,” Buchkowski says. “I would definitely stick with grouping them. Instead of one little figurine on a table all by himself, maybe a group of two or three. More is better.” ($101.94 for a set of six.)
Locations: Phoenix, Scottsdale, Gilbert, Glendale, Tucson
The Tommy Bahama Island Estate Lanai gas fire pit ($4,299) and high-back wing chairs (starting at $2,389, depending on fabric, cording and fringe options) turn a backyard patio into a resort-style lounge. “A lot of people have done away with dining groups [outside] because they grill very informally,” Rodriguez says. “They’ll just eat around a fire pit table because they’re more ‘chat-height’ (24-25 inches). It makes it a really comfortable seating area as well as outdoor lounge furniture.”
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