Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Tiki build-along

Anyone who's been following here in recent months will notice I've been trending tiki for a while now. I'm a little late to the tiki revival, but I come by it honestly. We moved into the new house a little more than two years ago, and we really lucked out to get a place with 1) a swimming pool, 2) a covered patio built for entertaining, and 3) tropical landscaping around the pool. I spent the first year here building The Wife a photography studio. That took some serious effort, since the majority was DIY. Last year was consumed to great extent by my book's publication, plus my office-build-along. Early in the summer, though, The Wife came home with some silly light-up tiki statues, and on our vacation we picked up some additional tiki masks in Key West. At that point I said to her, "I'm going to build a tiki bar."

Mind you, at that point I was unaware of the larger tiki revival going on. As far as I knew, tiki culture was something from the 50s and 60s that had long since vanished. So I set about building my own tiki bar armed only with my own undaunted ignorance. I didn't know what I wanted, but I knew what I didn't want. Eventually, I settled on these plans for a 6-foot bar as my template. Note that these plans are for a more upscale bar than a tiki bar would normally qualify for. So I made some adjustments of my own. I extended the right side to make it a wrap-around. The drawers were radically simplified, and the wine racks do not pull out. For lumber, I used pine plywood rather than oak or similarly expensive hardwood. I coated all the wood with UV/water resistant stain (cedar color) before applying several coats of polyurethane, which I then topped with several coats of spar urethane. From the beginning, I knew I wanted to have palm thatch wrapping around the bar. We have a dozen or so palm trees around the house, so there will never be a shortage of palm fronds if any need replacing. The bar top is laminate flooring pulled up from my office, as are the drawer fronts. When I get some more long pieces, I'll probably use more of the laminate for the backing on the inside of bar. The moso bamboo culms edging the bar top came from Bamboo Branch in Austin. I also built it on casters, so it can be easily moved. It made its debut at my book release party and attendees seemed to get a kick out of it. Overall, I'm pretty happy with the way it turned out.

In hindsight, there are some things I'd do differently. The bottom shelf initially didn't extend the entire way across the bottom, because I had some notion the bar refrigerator would go there. Well, that proved completely unworkable, so I retrofitted an extended shelf there. Not terribly pretty, but it works. It's also not a full wet bar--no running water--so there are limits on its functionality. Looking at all the incredibly inventive home tiki bars out there (now that I know what to look for) I'm struck with all kinds of ways I could improve it.

And so begins the grand tiki adventure. I have a tiki bar. I now need a full-blown tiki lounge space. Our covered patio area is 64' long by 10' wide. That's a lot of room to spread out. And we have plans, oh yes. Below is the view from the bar, looking out to the pool.

This view is from the waterfall, looking back to the corner of the patio. The cabana umbrella is synthetic for now, and not terribly convincing, but a real thatch one lies in our future.

From the waterfall, looking back at the bar. I initially placed the bar here, because the outdoor stereo/CD player is behind those cabinet doors. It seemed a natural spot, but the more I think about it, I'm becoming convinced the bar should switch places with the dark wicker furniture to the right. There are electric plugs there, so I wouldn't have to run long extension cords for the fridge, plus there's a sink in the garage, right behind the wall next to that solid door. It would be relatively straightforward to build a back bar in that area with a sink, making it a full wet bar.

Because I'm a completist, here's the view from the house looking back the opposite way. I'm in the process of constructing a garden shed off in the yard, so the lawn mower and wood chipper currently parked on the far end will have a different home in another week or so. All in all, quite a bit of potential. The only thing holding me back now, apart from hours in the day, is money in the bank account. I could easily blow a lot of cash on this, but as with everything we undertake, it will be on a budget.

Case in point, the sconce lights on the wall. It's a western star motif. Pretty much every light fixture in the house is along this design aesthetic, which is all fine and dandy, but it's just not us. And the house isn't really rustic enough to carry it, you know? Since we moved in we've talked about changing them out, and on the back patio they really clashed with the tiki vibe. Looking online, however, I quickly learned there was not much commercially available that could pass as tikiesque, and what little there was cost way beyond what my budget could shoulder.

Here's a closer view of one dismounted from the wall. Not terribly tiki, is it?

To make matters worse, the previous owners had an unhealthy obsession with Tanglefoot. If you're unfamiliar with it, this is a very, very sticky substance used to ring the trunks of trees to keep leafcutter ants from climbing the trunk, things like that. For some reason, they seemed to think the stickiness acted as a repellent, that if they slathered the stuff on things they didn't want insects, reptiles, spiders, etc. on, it would keep them away. They slathered that stuff on all the outdoor speakers, the patio columns and worst of all, the tops of the wall sconces. Until I took a closer look, I'd assumed the tops were opaque. Not even close. So many dead bugs, spiders, geckos, dust, dirt, twigs and unidentifiable gunk had built up over the past decade that it completely blocked out the light from the bulb below. I can assure you, it's nasty. And every light had this mess slathered over the top of it. You should see the outside speakers.

Fortunately, Tanglefoot cleans up with mineral spirits. That's not to say it cleans up easily. It doesn't. But after far too much time and effort, this is the result. Quite dramatic, no?

Now the sconces are clean, but not any more tiki than before. What to do? For that, I turn to the tikiphile's answer to duct tape--reed fencing, commonly available in garden centers and home improvement stores nationwide. The sconces are roughly 10" high, so I cut sections of the reed fencing 12" wide and long enough to wrap around three sides of the sconce, twice. Turns out the fencing isn't terribly tight, so the western star is painfully obvious with a single layer. Two layers, though, that works nicely. The wire ties are loose, though, so the reeds slip out easily. Too keep it held together, I applied a flexible glue to the wire ties. Also, I slathered the reeds in spar urethane to protect them from UV and moisture. They'll be protected from the elements under the patio overhang, but reed's not the most durable substance on Earth, you know? I figure a little insurance wouldn't hurt.

Next, I took thin, black craft wire and looped it around the reeds.

The sconce had a perforated hole pattern above and below the star. This turned out to be perfectly situated to thread the wire through to anchor the reed.

Once I got both ends of the wire through the holes (which sounds simple enough, but in practice was maddening) I simply tied them off.

Voila! Instant tiki wall sconce. Most of these are on a dimmer switch, which makes it all the better--I can turn them down when necessary to get that coveted, dimly-lit tiki atmosphere.

Updates on this project will be few and far between, but I've got some grand plans and hopefully I'll be able to pull off a few as we get deeper into spring.

Now Playing: Billy Joel 52nd Street
Chicken Ranch Central

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