(Editors note: This is the first in an occassional series highlighting "man caves" and unique spaces at Petaluma residences.)
Don Ho and Magnum P.I. would probably both feel at home lounging on the colorful lanai that is Alan Medina's personal version of a "man cave." Then again, as you look around, you might catch yourself humming the lyrics to "Happy Talk" from the movie "South Pacific, or reminiscing about the days of the "China Clipper" luxury aircraft. The thread that runs through the d?or is a loosely woven one that encompasses the South Pacific, Asia, Hawaii—and maybe some California surfin' as well.
"Nothing in here reminds you of the daily world," says Alan Medina with a happy sigh. "You can kind of get lost in the music and the relaxing atmosphere." Medina and his wife Helen enjoy their Shangri-La right in Petaluma in the comfortable suburbs of Cherry Valley. The Medinas are a hard-working couple that has owned Parsons Hardware in Sonoma for 24 years and raised two children in Petaluma. So when there's a chance for some time to retreat and rejuvenate, tranquility is the goal.
"It all started when I put up a plastic corrugated windbreak around the open lanai at the side of the pool and an overhang for shade," recalls Medina. As their children grew older, the lanai area became a quiet getaway. An affable, gregarious person by nature, Medina was happy to share his blossoming tropical oasis with friends and neighbors. This led to the installation of a rattan bar and a handmade, custom cooler and various technical innovations. Eventually, a green screen was installed on three sides, with bamboo bottom walls all around, creating an aura of the beach.
Medina's father was a chief engineer on commercial vessels that plied the Pacific shipping lanes after the war. Able to bring back sizeable pieces, he amassed a collection of authentic rattan furniture, some of which inhabits the lanai. "When we built the new items, we matched the design of the vintage furnishings, which took real artisanship," he says.
Soon people began gifting him with memorabilia, from Matson Line menus to collectible items like retro model planes, unusual clocks, and cigarette lighters — a favorite of Medina's — disguised as planes, bullets, and one that Medina purchased himself, a replica of famous, or infamous, '50s "fan" dancer, Sally Rand, made by Dunhill.
"Friends come here, and each time they say they see something that they hadn't noticed before," said Medina, who is looking for ways to expand display space for all the tchotchkes, now on shelves, walls and even the ceiling.
The Medinas use their little slice of paradise year-round. Medina has devised some tent door flaps that seal the room and skylights. "We love it during the winter when the rain is pounding on the roof and it's warm and cozy in here," said Helen Medina.
But no tropical paradise would be complete without a cool libation to really put you in the mood to appreciate all this, and Medina has the quintessential drink all ready: a Mai Tai, using the recipe from the original Trader Vic's. "It's so popular, I make it up ahead of time," he explains.
Carried away by the soothing refrains of "Some Enchanted Evening," there's no resisting a chance to sink back into the rattan couch or chair and let your eyes slowly play over the myriad treasures that occupy each niche in the room. "Another Mai Tai?" comes the question, which in the island spirit, you graciously accept.