Friday, August 22, 2014

Mr. Tiny's Neighborhood Watch: Tiki Go Bragh

Limerick, Shamrock, Donnybrooke, and Kerry, these names offer the promise of a wee bit o' Ireland in the form of rolling green hills, stone cottages, and colorful village pubs.

What if I told you that there was a wacky tacky neighborhood in Southern California with street names as Irish as Irish Stew but whose architecture couldn't be further from the Emerald Isle - homes where fieldstone is replaced by lava rock and cozy thatch replaced by high-pitched roofs with longhouse beams?  Only about four suburban blocks long in either direction, there is a neighborhood that somehow manages to seamlessly blend the shillelagh with the ukulele.  

It's true!
Costa Mesa's Killybrooke neighborhood is an
island of island style in a sea of '60s ranch houses.

A half century of makeovers, remodels, and incongruous paint jobs have obscured some of the details of this tiki-tastic neighborhoood, but as the old saying goes, "The [tiki] devil is in the details."

Some people might tell you that these houses aren't anything special, but that's just a bit of the blarney.
The lava rock, decorative screens, assorted stone, and beautiful trim work all speak to their polynesian provenance.

Many of the homeowners, probably unaware of the treasures they have, try their best to disguise some of the tell-tale tiki signs.  If a homeowner has made it difficult to detect the Hawaiian-style heritage, one need only look up; it is easy to put on a new front door or slap on a coat of paint, but very few people change the roofline.

Some rooflines are high-pitched, some are supported by decorative beams.
My favorites have the extreme angled notch and the longhouse beams.

Beyond the Irish names, the most surprising part of this neighborhood is that not a single homeowner has truly embraced the original architecture.  The most exciting homes are those that have essentially just been left alone.

All it needs is a bit of landscaping!

Not the most ostentatious house on the block, I appreciate this one for the louvered
vents on the garage, the roll-down window blinds, and the dynamic roofline.  In its way it does
faintly echo the architecture of some of the modest plantation homes on the islands.

Take a peek at that peak!

The stone chimney and garage gable are great!

I kind of love the monochromatic scheme of these two houses.  In a way it makes the trim more of a textural element.

My favorite roofline!

This garden is headed in the right direction!

Contemporary garage doors just don't do these houses any favors but a polynesian paint scheme
(and maybe a couple of masks on those white insets) would do wonders for this house.

I think this home has got it down - the tropical foliage, the covered atrium with decorative screens, and the rock walls.
It definitely wins the Mr. Tiny's Neighborhood Watch Award!

Do these homes actually look like the type of architecture one is likely to encounter in Hawaii, Tahiti, Fiji, or Samoa?  Probably not.  There is no denying, however, that these houses are wonderful relics of America's obsession with polynesian pop in the mid-20th Century.  I can't wait for the day when a hardcore-tiki enthusiast brings the spirit of aloha back to this micro-community.  Just imagine the luau block parties!  

Saving the best revelation for last, I must disclose that in a near-adjacent neighborhood in the very same city, the streets, with names including Tahiti, Pitcairn, Samoa, Palau, Oahu, and Maui, are all named for islands.  Was this a major city-planning mistake?  I, for one, would like an explanation!!!  Maybe Mr. "Mele Kalikimaka" can elucidate...

"When Irish Eyes Are Smiling" - Bing Crosby
I guess as long as everybody is smiling, we should just be happy too.
I mean why wouldn't those eyes be smiling when gazing upon such 
an incredible neighborhood?

Do you have a polynesian-themed neighborhood where you live?  Would you want to live in a tiki-fied house?  Even better, do you live in a tiki house now?!  Have you ever been to Ireland?  Having never been there myself, it just occurred to me maybe there is nothing unique about this tract of homes; this must be exactly how all Irish neighborhoods look, right?!


Mr. Tiny


  1. The third to last picture has a very Brady feel to it!

    1. Our California architects all went to the Mike Brady school of engineering and design!