Monday, December 27, 2010

Tiki Homes - Orange County, California - Part 1

A few years ago, the Orange County Register (Southern California newspaper) ran a story about tiki style residential architecture in Orange County. The article was pretty light on actual information, and in fact I disagree with several of the the author's points, but it did provide some references to potential hot spots to find tiki homes.

Orange County Register
Saturday, November 10, 2007

Tropical home revival
Evoke the island look without the kitsch


Is your tract home stuck in a time warp? Before you start thinking tear-down, I have some ideas to turn your outdated abode into a Design Forward haven.
Many of Orange County's homes were built during the architecturally challenged '60s, '70s and '80s. In this column, I'll zero in on the Pseudo Islander style of the '60s – one you might recognize as having a high double-pitched roof with a Polynesian theme.

Flash back to the '60s
On July 17, 1955, Walt Disney ushered in a whole new era as all eyes were on Orange County. Television broadcasts reached around the world as Disneyland's opening-day celebration captured not only the brilliance of Disney but the absolute beauty of Orange County. At that moment, little did anyone know the major effect Disney's dream would have on the development of agriculturally oriented Orange County. Cities surrounding Anaheim experienced a major surge in tract-home developments to provide housing for the new families eager to live the Orange County lifestyle. With land in such abundance, many single-story homes were constructed with large back yards.

The inspiration behind tract housing designs
The '60s brought more airline travel for the masses. One of the favorite destinations was (and still is) Hawaii. Elvis Presley's "Blue Hawaii" (1961), Don Ho and "Hawaii Five-0" were seen as iconic symbols of the time. Naturally, a trend in fashion, design and architecture was born. Even Disney reacted to this trend with the addition of the Tiki Room to Disneyland's attractions. Builders too, were quick to borrow this new tropical style. Beach towns like Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach and Seal Beach began to feature new tract homes in Pseudo Islander – or, as I like to call it, the Trader Vic's Tiki Look. These homes are distinguished by steep double-pitched roofs, flared eaves, vertical board-and-batten siding and lava stone masonry.

Check out neighborhoods with Polynesian-style homes
A. Costa Mesa: This tract of homes is bordered by Fairview, Baker, Harbor Boulevard and the 405 Freeway.

B. Costa Mesa: This tract is bordered by Mesa Verde Drive East, Mesa Verde Drive West and Adams.

C. Huntington Beach: The tract is bordered by Brookhurst, Hamilton and Magnolia and actually has Polynesian names; one of the streets is called Tiki Circle.

D. Newport Beach: This tract is located on the northeast side of West Coast Highway (inland side) and is bordered by the canal, 62nd Street and Canal Street.

American tiki: rise, fall and semi-revival

1934:Don the Beachcomber serves the first Zombie in Hollywood.

1941:World War II sends millions of Americans to the South Pacific.

1944:Trader Vic's in Oakland serves the first Mai Tai.

1948:Thor Heyerdahl's "Kon-Tiki" and James Michener's "Tales of the South Pacific" are published.

1959: Hawaii becomes a state.

1963:The Enchanted Tiki Room opens at Disneyland.

1960s: It's the tiki heyday, with hundreds of bars and restaurants popping up. Tiki eateries show up in major hotel chains.

1979:Luau in Beverly Hills is bulldozed, an early victim of tiki's waning popularity.

1994:Trader Vic's in San Francisco closes. Tiki News, a revivalist magazine, begins publishing.

2000: Kahiki in Columbus, Ohio, closes, despite preservationists' plea.
"Book of Tiki" is published, fueling a tiki revival.

2003:"Tiki Road Trip" is published.

Costa Mesa's Kona Lanes, built in 1958, is bulldozed.

2005:Disneyland's Enchanted Tiki Room makes a refreshed appearance.

After this article came out, I explored each of the four listed neighborhoods and will share pictures of what I found in the next post of this series.


  1. Oh my gosh, I actually learned something. Cool!!

  2. I remember when those homes along I-405 in Costa Mesa were under construction. Now if I could only remember what the development was called.

  3. I vaugely remember being contacted by the Register when they were assembling this article. I think the list of neighborhoods they published barely scratches the surface, but it's an excellent start toward building a public awareness of the subject.

  4. I don't think you give the Orange County Register columnist enough credit. The story was well composed and written in such a way that it would have people think twice before tearing one of these homes down. It's not every day you get a national columnist to bring awareness and appreciation to such homes.