Jade green Chinese breezeway tiles were a very desirable decorative feature in commercial tiki bars in the 1950s and 1960s — but those green ceramic tiles, which are no longer made new, can be very difficult to come by. So what a delight to spot this large stash of salvaged vintage tiles — I heard there were 3,000 at one point(!) — recently. They are from a tear-down house in China, the seller said. This supply is located near Tampa, Florida, and I think that, with all such rarities, it would be best, if you are in the market, to get ’em while you can >>> Vintage Chinese breeze tile classically used in tiki bars <<<(affiliate link).
This ebay seller is calling these “Breezeway Tiles”, which leads me to assume a they have a kinship with the term “Breeze Block” — another Retro Renovation favorite material. In online searching, I also see them commonly refer to at Chinese Jade Tile, Chinese Decorative Tile, and in a pinch, Chinese tiki tile. Back in the day, there were numerous designs, and even other colors, and even some made out of resin. I already have a more comprehensive followup story in the works.
Meanwhile, please no complaints about the price: At $40 apiece, they beat other reproduction options I see or have seen available. Yes: $40 per tile beats other prices by a notable chunk. And trusting that these are real deal vintage — and with bulk available, so you can get the number you need to get your job done — I think these look to be a wonderful find indeed. Perhaps the only other way to get a better price: Pounce on your own salvage stash (local tiki bar, with original decor, being demolished?), if you can find it. But good luck with that — in the few tear downs I’ve seen in my area, most were stripped of their treasures decades ago, after tiki fell out of favor.
Above: An example of how the exact same tile design for sale now was used to create a screen at the famous Mai Kai in Fort Lauderdale. More photos of that famous tiki temple in the story of my visit in 2014.
Above: A slightly different design used to create screens in a different way.
Note for viewing photos on this website: On a laptop or desktop, once the page is fully loaded, click on any photo, and it should double in size on screen. Back button or ESC gets you back to the story.
More info from seller Carole on why we see these tiles in tiki bars:
Hi Pam,I thought you might appreciate a little back story on how these Chinese Breezeway “Tiki” Tiles made the “jump” from Qing Dynasty Chinese residences, to Chinese American Restaurants, to Tiki Bars.We can all give thanks to Trader Vic’s Bars! Back in the 40’s, Trader Vic’s came into existence in 1940, invented the signature drink the Mai Tai, and used many restaurant properties- previously run as Chinese Restaurants, which by the way -already had Chinese Breezeway tile in their decor. Trader Vic’s – in order to save time and money — transformed these old Chinese restaurants into Polynesian style ambiance for a South Pacific feel. Hence the tiki tile fit right in, and forever stayed in the Trader Vic’s theme!You might want to watch the vintage Movie The Apartment starring Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon , and Fred MacMurray. My Husband and I consider the Apartment, the quintessential Christmas movie!… YEAH,..We’re pretty warped! – John & Carole
The seller of these tiles — who gave me permission to feature her photos — also can restore the edges of the tiles if that’s required for the idea you have in mind.
The restored tiles are in a separate listing: Vintage Chinese tile classically used in tiki bars — edges restored (affiliate link)
As much as I love these, I am resisting — because I already have multiple unfinished projects within my Mahalo Lounge project. Will I finish the everlasting gobstopper project this year? Well, it’s (again) on my resolution list. Wish me luck.