Modernism Week Tour of Royal Hawaiian Estates – Palm Springs

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We had a great time last year at Palm Springs Modernism Week, but I was even more compelled to come back this year when I found out there would be a tour of Royal Hawaiian Estates, a 1960s condominium community that merged mid-century modern architecture with a Polynesian theme. It’s mentioned in Sven Kirsten’s book Tiki Modern, but I really took notice of it after seeing Bosko’s painting at The Book of Tiki 10th anniversary art show.

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Borrowing its name from the famous Honolulu hotel, Royal Hawaiian Estates was initially intended as a Jewish retirement community. It was designed by the architectural firm of Richard Harrison and Donald Wexler (the latter made a special guest appearance the day of the tour). The five-acre complex is made up of 12 buildings, divided into 40 units, surrounding two pools where Moai bask in the desert sunshine.

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After checking in at the front, we were given a map with self-guided tour information that highlighted unique architectural elements like the “tiki apex,” the orange flourish at the end of the center beam, and the parallel lines that flank it. These were once all over the property, but as they deteriorated in the 1990s they were removed rather than replaced.

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In 2010, the Royal Hawaiian Estates HOA used grants from the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation to commission a new tiki apex prototype from o2 Architecture, who designed one with low-maintenance sheet metal instead of wood. Several of these have already been put in place, and our tour fees raised enough funds to restore the remaining 30 that are missing.

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Another signature are the “Flying 7s,” these triangular buttresses supporting the patio roofs. They’re said to have been inspired by the lateral supports on an outrigger canoe.

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Several homeowners graciously opened their doors to us so we could also appreciate the interior designs, with their vaulted ceilings, clerestory windows, exposed beams and open layouts.

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Some units have been remodeled over the years, but others like this one here still had many original 1960 features, like terrazo floors and this shoji screen divider between the kitchen and living room.

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It was also interesting to see how each owner put their own personal stamp on their home, whether it was through collections of vintage barware, Heywood-Wakefield furniture or tiki mugs. (Not surprising as liking tiki often goes along with having an interest in things mid-century.)

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One of the units was literally a time capsule. Even though new owners had recently purchased it, they had kept nearly all the original furnishings, including the lush shag carpet, vinyl couches and vintage artwork.

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We were really blown away by all the different outrageously patterned wallpapers, which were still in surprisingly good condition. My favorite was the green bamboo in the guest bedroom — it’s a difficult thing to pull off, but I think they did.

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Admiration for Royal Hawaiian Estates was apparent in many of the owners we talked to, particularly this other couple who had on their wall an enlarged version of the original marketing brochure from 1961 (as seen in Tiki Modern.)

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I took many more photos than I could include here, so head over to Flickr if you’d like to see more. To really get in the mid-century mood, listen to the playlists on the Royal Hawaiian Estates web site, inspired by the music that used to be played at the pool area 24 hours a day.

Related Posts:
Modernism Week 2012 – Mid-Century Mermaids Lecture
Modernism Week 2012 – Architecture Bus Tour
Modernism Week 2012 – Vintage Airstream Trailers

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Lihue Airport Tempts Travelers with Tiki T-Shirts

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I encountered so many tiki-related things on our trip to Kauai last summer, but I didn’t expect it to continue with the airport. We had awhile to wait before boarding our flight back to LA, so I browsed the Island Marketplace store.

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Along with the inevitable stacks of chocolate covered macadamia nuts, they also had a few interesting souvenirs, like rooster cookie cutters in honor of the wild chickens that roam the island. Of course, what really caught my eye were the shirts with tikis — and there were surprisingly quite a few.

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My favorite of the styles was probably this one with its stylized tiki, volcano, ferns and flowers in earth tones.

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And on the other hand there was this ugly, clownish tiki-style mask on a shirt with a fake advertisement for Freaky Tiki Dark Lager “erupting with pleasure” and “no sacrifice in taste.” Yeesh.

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Next to a bunch of tiki figurines, I spotted this girly shirt with pink, purple and turquoise Ku tikis. Not really my style though, I must say.

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Anyway, Kauai was completely captivating and I can see why many people call it their favorite of the Hawaiian Islands. Plus, Kauai is about to get even more tiki with April’s opening of Tiki Iniki in Princeville, a new bar with the interior done by Bamboo Ben.

Related Posts:
Tahiti Nui Tiki Bar – Hanalei, HI
Havaiki Oceanic & Tribal Art – Hanalei, HI
Koloa Rum Company Tasting Room – Lihue, HI

Koloa Rum Company Tasting Room & Gift Shop – Lihue, HI

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On Kauai there are tons of things you can do on vacation, like riding in a doorless helicopter (highly recommended!), ATVing, hiking, kayaking… and free rum tasting!

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In 2009, Koloa Rum Company began bottling their rum and they opened a tasting room and gift shop in Lihue at Kilohana Plantation, a tourist destination that’s home to a railway with vintage trains that tour the farm, Luau Kalamaku, Gaylord’s restaurant and a bunch of boutiques housed in the circa-1936 mansion built by Gaylord Parke Wilcox on his sugar plantation.

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As soon as you arrive you should go inside the gift shop (located in its own plantation-style building) and ask the cashier about signing up for the rum tastings. They are held every half hour but there are a limited number of spots for each one and they can fill up quickly.

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However, the gift shop has plenty of stuff to occupy your time with browsing. It’s decorated with tiki mugs, small fishing floats and colorful local art — all for sale, of course. It’s clear they are masters of merchandising here, putting their company logo on mini bottle magnets, coffee mugs, shot glasses, flasks, hats, visors and severals styles of t-shirts. Koloa also sells a bunch of products that are made with their rums, like soaps, sea salts and buttered rum coffee, plus sister company Kukui’s tropical fruit jams and jellies. A lot of these goodies can also be found in their online store.

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In addition to a few tiki t-shirts, they’ve also designed clothing and shot glasses (with recipes imprinted on them) to correspond to signature cocktails they’ve created, like the “Kukui Mai Tai” with a flaming tiki head, western-themed “Rum Slinger” and “The Rumpress” with a crown and pink and purple to appeal to the ladies.

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At first glance I had thought this was just a regular pirate-y shirt, but then I noticed the intricate details in the design, like the tikis for teeth, mermaids for the nose, and surfers riding waves for the eyes.

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Next to the gift shop is the tasting room, a separate, light-filled space with a long teak bar (where you can spot a small green tiki) and a display with pictures of the distillery in Kalaheo, which used to be an old warehouse that had been damaged by Hurricane Iniki.

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Two shot glasses were doled out to each person at the tasting — one with a bit of their Mai Tai mix. After sipping a little of the white, gold and dark rums from the other glass, we were told to pour the rest into the one with the mix to make a sort of mini Mai Tai. We also tried their spiced rum, which was my favorite of the four.

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The white and dark rums each run about $30, so the Mai Tai Special would seem to get you the mix for free. Obviously it’s no traditional Mai Tai — their recipe calls for orange or pineapple juice — but I could see possibly stopping by here from the airport (it’s just a couple miles away) and picking this up to make easy cocktails at the condo. (Apparently the nearby Costco has good deals on their rum, too.) If you wanted to be even more lazy on your vacation, they also sell a ready-to-drink Hawaiian Mai Tai ($29.95) made with their gold rum.

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At the tasting they also brought out bites of rum cake with macadamia nuts in a (successful) ploy to get folks to buy it ($7.50 for small, $25.50 for large). We opted for the $18.95 combo of a small cake plus the rum fudge sauce, which costs a whopping $15.50 on its own.

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I liked that they had sample bottles (50 ml for $4.95) that were a bit more wallet-friendly (and carry-on friendly), that way I could bring a few home to see how they go with the cocktails I like to make. At least in Southern California, Koloa Rum isn’t too hard to find.

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If your state has less enlightened liquor laws, you can try protecting a bottle in your luggage with one of their rum skins ($2.95). However, it might be more convenient to order onlineMel & Rose apparently ships to all states, while Hi-Time Wine Cellars has good shipping rates for California and Arizona.

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Koloa Rum Company is open every day for tastings starting at 10 a.m. Closing hours vary depending on the day (usually around 3 p.m.) but on Tuesdays and Fridays they stay open later for all the people going to Luau Kalamaku, with the last tasting at 7:30 p.m. and the gift shop open until 9 p.m.

Koloa Rum Company Tasting Room & Gift Shop
Kilohana Plantation
3-2087 Kaumualii Hwy.
Lihue, HI 96766
808-246-8900

Related Posts:
Tahiti Nui Tiki Bar – Hanalei, HI
Havaiki Oceanic & Tribal Art – Hanalei, HI
Keoki’s Paradise – Koloa, HI