The House That Tiki Built

Photo by James BunoanTustin: Four-bedroom, three-bath house in the Lemon Heights area

Occupants: Josh Agle, Glendele Way-Agle, Zoey Agle, Zach Agle and Baxter the dog

Paid: $735,000 in 2002

Seeing as how Shag the Artist is stylisticallystuck in 1963 or so, it's a genuine shock when you learn he actually lives in a condominium built sometime around 1985.

No, actually, he doesn't.

Shag the man and artist—Josh Agle—and his young family have exactly the swinging baby-proofed bachelor pad you'd expect them to have, comfortably ensconced in the hidden, hilly, Lemon Heights section of Tustin.

I turned up there the other day, expecting to be wowed by that whole mid-century-modern thing—and I was; Shag and his missus have bagged themselves a largely intact 1960s modern gem.

It's a split-level, natch, and because they have kiddies—the littlest, Zach is one and a half—everything dangerous is baby-gated and carpeted within an inch of its life. Except the rat terrier, Baxter, who barks frantically at the ceiling if you ask him, "Where's God?" Ten inna morning anda dog ain't right.

He does, however, help lend the place the sense of mystery, danger and exotica you'd find in a Shag painting. It has fewer Shriners, monkeys and dames with long cigarette holders—but that's okay. Monkeys and Shriners bite. And this is a home for grown-ups, albeit grown-ups with kids and a huge sense of fun.

There's lots and lots of flagstone here; the living room's centered on a massive stone fireplace, flanked by quietly awesome '50s blond wood and tweedy couch and chairs. In opposite corners, a biomorphic chair that looks like a giant green amoeba faces off with four primary-colored stools with flowy organic bases.

A glass wall on the end of the living room (I knew there had to be a glass wall in here somewhere) looks out on a pool that's ringed with this killer yellow '50s fiberglass pool furniture. I wanted it, but it wouldn't fit in my car. And I didn't feel right stealing it. If I did, I feared maybe the tikis would come to life and, you know, kill me.

This is the house, literally, that tiki built. Agle stopped using the tiki thing as his dominant subject matter years ago, but the Enchanted Tiki Room vibe still informs his work, and his tiki-glass collection takes up all of an overhead cabinet that separates the living room from the dining room. Their strange little faces peered at me like a silent zoo.

Then he invited me into his office—and of course I accepted. It turned out to be Frank Sinatra's office, or at least what I think Frank woulda had. The Agles are lucky; despite its flat-stucco exterior, their house has a pitched roof that's much better than a flat roof at shedding rain. And the pointy roof gives Agle's office a bitchen A-frame interior that he had a painter redo in Sinatra's favorite color, orange. His giant tiki collection glared at me from one corner, but otherwise it was all friendly-like.

The good fight, Agle told me, had been fought and won. His house, he said, had had a succession of owners, but fortunately, none were able to renovate the house beyond its entryway. They'd added lots of oak down there—door frames, lame wainscoting in the guest bathroom (and a sink with gold faucets—yum!)—but that was about it. The massive flagstone interior wall that greeted me once I slipped inside the orange doors was intact, watched over by a giant tiki Agle had added.

The whole house reminded me of Plymouth's 1957 ad slogan: "Suddenly, it's 1960." It didn't make me want to drive a Plymouth, but I did want to move in.

 
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