On the last day of my stay, John-O, being the resourceful tour guide that he is, decided that we would go visit some of the tiki apartments that were along our route back to LAX. These little curiosities were some of many that once were prevalent in Southern California. Living la vida “native” meant that the escapist feeling didn’t end when you left your local Polynesian themed bar or restaurant, or your neighbor’s backyard luau. It could be at your fingertips, 24/7, too! Along with the endless amount of dingbat apartments that became popular in the 50’s, tiki/Polynesian themed apartments started popping up, as well. Sven Kirsten dedicated an entire chapter to them in the The Book Of Tiki, where you could see many similarities to their counterparts in the bar/restaurant world, such as A-frames, palm trees, waterscapes, and of course, tikis.
We began our tour in Redondo Beach with perhaps the most recognized of all the tiki apartments (at least, among those who have read The Book Of Tiki). It is simply called The Tiki. It is a quite striking building, due to the beautiful mosaic tile work on the exterior. Three tikis guard the area underneath the overhang near the entrance. We had a stroke of luck, as someone was leaving the building, so we were able to go inside and get a peek. The apartments looked well-maintained, for the most part, except I did notice one very old tiki who had definitely seen better days. But the tiki near the pool area looked very nice. I have to say, it looks pretty good for a place built in 1959!
Our next stop was The Eli Kai Apartments in Torrance. This one boasts a huge A-frame with a deck right above the entrance to the parking garage. It also had a cool-looking rock exterior next to the entrance, as well.
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to go inside this one, and it sure would have been nice to, because the photos I’ve gotten to see of the interior are pretty striking. However, I did find a website with some great photos, which I have linked here. It’s in three parts, so be sure to go to the bottom of the page and click on “newer post” to see all the parts.
Stop number three was the Tiki Aloha Apartments, also in Torrance. According to Critiki, they used to be called the Tiki Tabu apartments. There are two A-frame towers flanking the main entrance, which has the building number in Chinese-style lettering. We couldn’t go inside this one, either, but I did get to see that there are still plenty of tiki support poles throughout the community.
Our last stop was by far my favorite – The Islander Apartments in Gardena. This one is pretty dramatic – it has a spectacular A-frame, and is adorned with beautiful waterscapes, and guardian tikis (including a one-legged one along the driveway). Another thing I liked about it was the walkway leading to the entrance, which is lined with nautical chains, and leads to a little bridge over the waterscape. There are also palm trees and lush tropical foliage everywhere.
Just from seeing the outside, you could imagine how this could be a very well-kept apartment community. I was just in awe at how amazing it looked. I wish we could have gone inside so I could get some photos, but I found a link to the property’s website, which you can check out here.
I really enjoyed getting to see such wonderful examples of how tiki permeated the world of architecture and home living. So many tiki-themed apartments have either fallen into disrepair, been remodeled, leaving them with no trace of what they once were, or have been completely demolished. I’m hopeful I get to see more when I have some more time – they are truly a sight to behold. Also, another huge thanks to John-O for being my tour guide and photographer. Stay tuned for the last part of my So-Cal tiki tour later this week, and thanks, as always, for reading!