Tiki is all about escapism and getting away from the real world, but for most people, they have to come back to reality. What if you could just make Tiki your reality? This is what I find most fascinating about having your entire home Tiki. The lines between Tiki escapism and real life no longer exist.
When I visited Dave and Eva’s place in Elk Grove, CA, I was blown away. There was so much to take in and I had only taken one step inside…
The Headhunter’s Hideaway And Voodoo Lounge!
What brought you into the “Tiki lifestyle” and how long has it been part of your life?
Dave– Shortly after my wife and I met in 2003, she introduced me to her cousin Judd, whom I was told has a Hawaiian-style band and plays ukulele. When his band—the Maikai Gents—were playing in San Francisco, we decided to go see them. When we entered the night club, we were the only people NOT in Hawaiian shirts. We were invited over to a friendly crowd of colorfully dressed individuals and they asked us how we had heard about the show. We replied, “Judd is Eva’s cousin.” Suddenly, they all started gushing about how much they all loved the Maikai Gents and started buying us drinks. By the end of the night, we had heard three very different Hawaiian and exotica-style bands. Besides The Maikai Gents there was also Project Pimento, who were so influential that my wife now owns a Theremin of her own. Our first ever impression of the Tiki “scene” was that we didn’t know much about it, but these were the nicest people we had ever met and we wanted more! We discovered after the fact that we had crashed the San Francisco Bay Area Tiki Crawl.
When and what made you decide to transform your home into a Tiki escape and what’s the story behind the name the Headhunter’s Hideaway And Voodoo Lounge?
Dave-After several years of collecting Tiki items and mugs and attending events such as Tiki Oasis, I had lost my job of twenty-plus years as an offset printer in 2006 when my employers retired. Little did I know at the time that my job with so much job security had been pretty much replaced by technology leaving me in a tough spot. We discussed our options and decided that we LOVE the Tiki scene and people involved, we’re attending the events anyway, so why not start a Tiki business of our own? There were none in Northern California at the time. So we created “TIKI HUNTER” and weeks later had a beautiful Tikified custom Woody PT Cruiser as our company car and traveled to Seattle for the Seattle Home Tiki Bar Crawl. This was not only our first ever event as vendors, but our first ever home Tiki crawl and literally the defining moment for us in learning just what an incredible variety of decorating styles and ideas the Tiki lifestyle held. We witnessed voodoo basement man-caves, retro 1950s designs, nautical inspirations, an African-Tiki blend, and one of the most inspiring Gilligan’s Island hideaways, complete with a bamboo bicycle powered blender, bamboo coconut telephone, peewee golf, and an entire family dressed as the cast from Gilligan’s Island. It was simply amazing that they had covered every detail down to dressing the parts that entire event remained with us to this day.
Sadly, the timing on our business was just before the big economic crash and since the majority of what we sold were art-type items and collectibles, no one was spending money on Tiki items for awhile. That combined with some bad luck: a break in to our car returning from vending and photographing Tiki Oasis in 2008 with a huge loss to theft left us having to close the business that same year.
Now we not only had all of the Tiki items I had collected for five years, a plethora of items collected during world travels including actual Tikis from Hawaii, but also a leftover inventory from the failed business. This had been nothing more than clutter until we moved in 2011 from our 1895 Queen Anne Victorian home in Vallejo to a condo I owned before Eva and I married.
We discussed the fact that we had now been seriously involved in the Tiki scene for eight years and still loved it. Since our move was only temporary while we shopped for a new place to live, this might be a good time to “experiment” with the idea of living full time in a Tikified home. I did all of the decorating using left over items from TIKI HUNTER and my personal collection and WE LOVED IT! More surprising to us, so did everyone else that visited our condo. Our home search had gone all over the San Francisco Bay Area, where I was a native, but the increased cost of living there left us few good options. During our time with the Tiki business, we had become involved with the Cap City Home Tiki Crawl in Sacramento, driving out to sell remaining stock out of a garage and participate in their home crawl. Every part of Sacramento and it’s surrounding areas that we visited we were impressed by along with how the people there were the nicest ever and had some of the most impressive Tiki collections we had ever witnessed, I believe inspired by the extreme lack of anything remotely Tiki anywhere near there.
That led to our decision to start home shopping in the Sacramento area where we discovered the home prices much more accommodating than the Bay Area. Soon we learned of a local home builder named Streng, who followed after and was similar in style to the Mid-Century Modern Eichler designed homes which we loved but could never hope to afford. We placed several offers before one stuck. The last offer before the home we bought had been customized by previous owners, turning the attached garage into more living space, but leaving a strange three feet of space behind the garage door that remained in place. This along with the little path to it and it’s remote location between the new detached garage had already inspired the name the Headhunter’s Hideaway. We drew from Disneyland influences and many of the Exotica album covers like Arthur Lyman’s 1960 album “Taboo 2” with it’s shrunken heads, to Yma Sumac’s “Legend of the Jivaro.” These along with a very difficult year-long search for a home left us feeling a bit like headhunters ourselves. When we landed the Streng Atrium home of our dreams in Elk Grove, it had a previous home owner who was very tropical island-minded and the entire front yard was filled with various palm trees, pathways, and a pond and waterfall in the backyard. It was perfect.
Even though no one in the Sacramento Ohana had ever seen where we lived before or our personal decorating choices, we were asked to participate in the upcoming Cap City Home Tiki Crawl in 2013. Between our move, unpacking, decorating, and preparing to host fifty people, we had eight weeks. This has become our tradition every year we’ve hosted since and it was a resounding success! Our original name was the Headhunter’s Hideaway and Jungle Room Lounge, which was a tip of the hat to Elvis, but we had forgotten that our neighbors and Tiki mug designers Wendy and Dan Cevola also had a Jungle Room of their own, so we quickly changed it to the Voodoo Lounge, again from an Exotica influence and love of New Orleans. Our Disneyland experiences inspired us to control every bit of the environment here when people visit: sights, sounds, smells, touch, and taste. We seek to do it all in an effort to create the ultimate escapism from reality.
What is your favorite Tiki drink?
Dave– Eva and I are both huge fans of the Painkiller at our new local Tiki bar the Jungle Bird.
What is your favorite Tiki bar, not including your own?
Dave– That’s difficult to answer. Forbidden Island in Alameda was our first true Bay Area new Tiki bar in the beginning of the Tiki Revival, which to this day stands out with its amazing design, award-winning cocktails, and fantastic staff that always leave you with a true exotica experience. Then there is Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco. Going to our Tiki roots, Trader Vic’s Emeryville is always a pleasurable experience. Now Sacramento has its own slice of Tiki magic with the Jungle Bird, which hits all the right marks of design, excellent food and drinks, and music. I gotta say it’s nice to have choices.
Do you feel that music has an important role in creating a great Tiki experience?
Dave– Absolutely! I hate going into any Tiki bar or place that calls themselves a “Tiki bar” and hearing nearly anything but Exotica, Hawaiian, or surf music. It simply ruins the entire vibe of the overall experience.
What about sound effects?
Dave– Yes, sound effects help the overall atmosphere at a professional Tiki bar or home Tiki bar. During previous Home Tiki Crawls, the Headhunter’s Hideaway and Voodoo Lounge has had sound effects paired to the overall design of each room. Oh, did I forget to mention that EVERY room in our home has a different theme? The Voodoo Lounge we have set up for live music, but the usual sound track to the main space of it and the atrium is a wonderful Jungle by Day and Jungle by Night sound effects…
Then there is the Pirate’s Lair (my office), which plays sound effects of crashing waves, creaking masts of tall sailing ships, and pirates calling out orders along with the sound of clashing swords and musket fire…
Next, we have the Under Sea Theater (our dedicated TV/media room), which has bubbling noises of sounds beneath the sea and whale calls…
There is a Belly Dance studio in our garage and themes from other world travels…
What does the future hold for you and your Tiki home?
Dave-Amazing things! Not only is our home in a constant state of change, but we have a wealth of plans, dreams, and ideas for what’s to come. A hint on one over the top plans is my desire to add a REAL sailboat to the backyard as a shipwreck in the expansion of our Koi pond. We host regular annual parties here already and hope to expand that. Our home already has it’s own Facebook page. and I’m in the process of designing a webpage for it and seeking sponsors for projects and events here. It is our passion and we love the way people react the first time they experience our crazy home. We like entertaining and making people happy and the house does part of that without our even trying.
Anything else you would like to add?
Dave– I would offer a reminder to anyone who has ever wanted to get into creating their own Tiki space or whatever your wildest desires to live in are, that life is short and your home is your castle and private oasis from the outside world. Forget worrying about resale and living with white walls. You may only have right now to live your dream, so make the most of it. Create the space that YOU want to live in and makes you happy everyday that you come home to it. You will never find any greater value than that and when you have the place you would want to vacation at and others dream of that is the one happiness money can buy.