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Tiki Central Forums Home Tiki Bars Black Lagoon Room - Outside of Milwaukee, WI

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Black Lagoon Room - Outside of Milwaukee, WI
Ragbag Comics
Tiki Socialite

Joined: Feb 24, 2009
Posts: 208
From: The shores of Lake Michigan
Posted: 2017-01-24 4:59 pm   Permalink

Hey all -

I've been on TC officially since '09 (unofficially since long before that...) All that time, I've been reading/scrutinizing/pondering/drooling over all the INCREDIBLE home Tiki bars in this section.

We lived the apartment/condo life in Chicago for far too long, and finally made the leap out of the Big City for more of a smaller-case big city, lovely (and lovable) Milwaukee, WI a year ago this past October.

A full year of renovating and restoring our 1953 MCM Frank Lloyd Wright-acolyte designed split level on the shores of Lake Michigan, just south of the city, and finally - *FINALLY* - I can start working on the basement bar!

There's a lot of Tiki stuff and Witco all over our house, but a bulk quantity of awesome stuff (including probably 2/3 of our 300-400 mugs) has been boxed up sitting in the basement for over a year, just waiting for its time to shine... see...

All the years spent lurking on TC, tropical tipple in hand, culling through the Home Bar Builds section while sitting in a little one-bedroom apartment, looking out at piles of snow, HOPING for the day I could someday build my own tropical retreat... well... let's just say we're well on our way.

Welcome to the Black Lagoon Room... what will be a (sort of... loose...) melding of two of my favorite things in the world: Tiki and old monster movies (in this case, specifically, Our (Gill)Man in the Black Lagoon.)

I don't want it to feel like a theme park ride, or like you're in the movie or something, or even a collection of memorabilia from the movie... the hope is to make a spot that feels like an old school bar that could have existed in the same world (and one that we can showcase all of our decade-plus worth of collections of Tiki stuff... soo...uhh..I guess not really like a bar from that same world at all..) A light homage, so to speak... a Tiki Bar, through and through, but with some nautical touches and a few little elements of Creatch thrown in for good measure, with some references to his home in the Amazon.

But... on to the good stuff.

Fair warning, updates will be SLOW GOING... we dumped just about all of our ready cash into de-crap-ifying our house this year. Wall to wall bright red shag carpeting, the falling-apart kitchen, 1990's appliances and walls of mirrors had to GO. We want to do the bar RIGHT and not cut any corners, so there will be some delays waiting on the electrician and some other structural things we need to address first. I hope to have "finished" (we all know its never REALLY finished) photos in the next few months... ideally by summer.

But this weekend, we did a TON on the entryway to the bar itself, and I was so giddy, even with fingers full of bamboo splinters, I needed to share. We are not handy people, but we jumped right in.

Without further to-do...

When we moved in... a white hallway. The previous owner had some photos and things hung in here... normal stuff. There was a thoroughly unremarkable late-70's globe light... not anything too exciting.

First thing we did, probably a year ago, was at least change out the light fixture. This Orchids of Hawaii beauty was purchased from our pals at BambooLodge Vintage. It once hung in the wonderful Aku-Tiki Room in Kewaunee, IL (which has certain sentimental value to me, even though I barely saw it, as Kewaunee is about 20 minutes outside of my hometown... I remember going to Andris Waunee Farms on field trips as a kid.) It's purdy...

More recently, after months of tearing out floors and cabinets and living out of one room of the house, we were able to paint the hall a more respectable shade of dark, atmospheric brown...

Finally, the past two weekends, we were able to start chopping up matting and sawing bamboo. The matting, it should be noted (along with some really incredible carved trim we'll be working into the bar itself) came from Milwaukee's own Lake Surfer... he moved recently and had to take down his wonderful home bar Hale Nalu. We'll keep at least a portion of it alive in Cudahy, continuing the trend of existing in the only Tiki bar in Cudahy (a city with plenty of non-Tiki bars...)

Goodbye boring, plain hallway... Matting up:

The Witco mask with spears lights up. It is awesome. It was the last piece of Witco we found in the wild in Chicago before officially moving out. It wasn't cheap (though... I'm sure in the right conditions it could sell for a lot more) but it fits this particular wall *EXACTLY*. So we had to bring it home. We'll be running the wire down to the basement so it can light up, too.

You'll also see some KILLER wallpaper we bought from Spoonflower, a design by Michael Uhlenkott... it's SO F*&$ING COOL! It works perfectly in our space!

Getting this far felt like the theme from Chariots of Fire should be playing in the background.

But then... oh god... us city folk bought a saw and started cutting bamboo! Somehow, miraculously (a.) we didn't screw anything up too bad, and (b.) we didn't cut off any of our fingers. It went surprisingly fast, to boot... All the bamboo came from our pals who run the wonderful Tip Top Atomic Shop in Bay View. It had all been lurking in the rafters of their garage, just waiting for us to show up one day with a not-big enough car for it to jut out of sharply for a mostly white-knuckle drive back to our house.

Wall 1, framed out:

Wall 2:

The whole deal:

The big poppa Tiki at the top of the stairs is a later-era Orchids fiberglass totem we found in a thrift store in Chicago years ago... it had been in a Chinese restaurant (the guy we bought it from didn't know what one... if I had to hazard a guess, I'd say the defunct branch of Tong's Tiki Hut, given that HE found it at Wolf's Flea Market in Rosemont.) Here's a close-up of part of him... thankfully, this was fron before Orchids started using the *REALLY* garish neon colors on their Tikis.

All-in-all, we're REALLY glad with how it's coming together. Over the next few days, I'll be hanging some fish floats and other assorted flotsam and jetsam from the hallway ceiling. I already started with a bunch of shrunken heads at the bottom of the stairs just before entering the bar (these will tie in with a joke... the joke part just isn't there yet.) Sorry for the flash - too dark to get a photo on my crappy phone (or crappy digital camera) The matting is some seagrass beach mats from Walgreens that we cut up - they were $2.99 each, 6ft long. We bought a bunch and will be using more in the bar, for sure. It looks great...

Then, this weekend, we start hanging masks, weapons, etc on the walls and I'd say this part is actually done!

The bar, on the other hand...

Here's some "pre" photos...

The current view at the bottom of the stairs:

An old view of one of the sitting areas we staged, temporarily:

Another old view of a different sitting area, also staged temporarily:

Our phenomenal Witco bar we picked up for a (mostly) song at an antique furniture auction in Oak Park, IL... it has three awesome bar stools, too, cheetah fabric and all:

A shot of the barback... we found the lower shelves and the upper bamboo shelves in two different parts of Wisconsin. Both were dirt cheap Craigslist finds... luck would have it, they fit together exactly right!

You can see from the terrible harsh fluorescent basement lighting that that will be the most crucial part of putting this whole damn thing together:

Excited for the progress so far... I'll have more soon-ish!



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