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The making of a tiki bar – behind the scenes at Grass Skirt Tiki Room

Anne Evans Anne Evans The making of a tiki bar – behind the scenes at Grass Skirt Tiki RoomA tropical paradise with the hula girl in front of the waterfall feature. Photo by Jim Renauld.
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The Decor

Grass Skirt is definitely on the smaller, intimate size, but there is a good amount of seating and a huge bar.

“Our bar is double-level custom colored concrete inlaid with colored glass and mother-of-pearl, with an acid wash on top,” says Owens. “I designed it as a curvy snake shape, and put the glass and stones in it too, with the help of our concrete guy.” The seats along the bar have a high back and are very comfortable.

The cement bar in the making. Photos by Carmen Owens.

A couple of decor standouts are the lava wall and the waterfall.

After seeing the photos of his CAP-UP project on Facebook, LaRue asked local artist Nikos Fyodor Rutkowski for help with putting together a lava wall for the space.

Artist Nikos Fyodor Rutkowski prepping the wall for the lava feature. Photos by Carmen Owens.

“I was really happy to be asked to help out with the Grass Skirt, because I was always such a huge fan of the Kahiki,” says Rutkowski. “I begged to go there when I was a child, but I don’t think I was able to twist my parents arms that many times as a kid. I can only remember a handful of visits. But I was able to go there for my 19th birthday with my girlfriend at the time and get one each of the skull and tiki head mugs. Unfortunately within a year or so the Kahiki was gone, the girl was gone, and the skull mug shattered. But I still have the tiki mug, and now I’ll have the Grass Skirt!”

By day, Rutkowski works at manufacturing props for the haunted house and theme park industries, so he decided to use some of the same materials for the lava wall to minimize any challenges.

Nikos Fyodor Rutkowski’s completed Lava Wall in action. Photo by Jim Renaud.

“The wow factor involves a lot of foam and UV reactive paint where the ‘lava’ glows very intensely and really looks like molten earth” says Rutkowski. “The atmosphere of the restaurant is going to be absolutely awesome,” he says and he’s excited to see everything come together.

Mike Owens, Carmen’s father, worked on the water feature you’ll find behind the hostess stand. It incorporates a Sailor Jerry hula girl and real lava rock.

A tropical paradise with the hula girl in front of the waterfall feature. Photo by Jim Renaud.

For the gorgeous plants on the patio, Owens worked with landscape architect John Tierney of Meyers Landscaping.

“Another tiki-related area that I’ve been a fan of forever are tropical plants so the landscaping was such a fun project and it turned out better than I could have imagined,” she says.

Brennick’s father Mike Brennick came to Columbus from Boston to do a little carpentry for them. They found a cabinet from Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore and fashioned it into a bar cabinet with some paint and bamboo. You’ll also see shutters around the bar that create that laid-back beachy vibe.

Great find for dining room seating: free church pews from Craigslist, recovered by Amy Brennick in fabric chosen by Diana Lessner. Photo by Jim Renaud.

The Lighting

Some of the fun lighting you’ll see around Grass Skirt includes outdoor tiki torches turned upside down and made into functioning electrical lights. You’ll also surely notice the blowfish lights and skull chandelier.

Artist Lena Stiers came across an article that the Columbus Food League was opening a tiki bar and was excited to help.

“I love interior design and lighting is a huge part of it,” says Stiers. “As I was getting into this hobby, I fell in love with glass floats; they were used in fishing industry to hold up fishnets and have been around as early as 1840 and used by many countries, but mostly in Japan.

During the original tiki boom in 50’s and 60’s, they were beachcombed and placed into tiki bars and restaurants and later turned into lamps. They are still my favorite to this day and also one of the first lamps that I ever made.”

Artist Lena Stiers preps the skull chandelier for hanging, (left). Stiers shown with one of her blowfish lamp creations created for Grass Skirt. Photos by Carmen Owens.

In Grass Skirt, you’ll find 5 blowfish lights, and 6 others- including fish floats and two custom fixtures.

“I make all of my lamps,” says Stiers, “but I have collaborated with two amazing artists and friends Eric Immelt and Bob Bennett on two of the custom pieces for Grass Skirt, the Matau Skull lamp and the Kona style Lono Tiki Drum lamp.”

The skull chandelier in detail. Photo by Jim Renaud.

Stiers shares more details regarding the skull chandelier: “I have been interested in making a skull or shrunken head lamp for a while. I had a few ideas floating around, so when the Grass Skirt opportunity presented itself I had a discussion with Carmen about a skull lamp and she loved the idea and wanted to have a big piece for the middle of the room. After some more research and more brainstorming with Eric and Bob we set off to make the lamp. We used resin cast skulls, modifying and painting them to have tiki polypop feel. Mataus (hooks) are made out of wood, with hemp and manila rope detail.”

Continue to page 4: Tikis

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