We've known Pete & Katie for many years from our days in the Chicago music business, but it wasn't until we saw an article about their Uptown condo in the Chicago Reader that we knew the extent of the magical Tiki filled universe in which they dwell. Pete & Katie left Chicago for quieter times in Cudahy, a suburb of Milwaukee, WI. and in their mid-century modern home steps away the shores of Lake Michigan, they've been able to fulfill their architectural and design dreams. Pete Klockau and Katie Monachos Spill The Beans about their creative process, Tiki passions, monsters, adorably cute dog and, of course, love for coffee. There might be a coffee cocktail recipe or two in there for you to wow your friends with!
Hi guys! Thank you so much for Spillin' The Beans. Why don’t we start with you telling me about what you do and where you live?
We live in a little mid-century modern atomic split-level on the shores of Lake Michigan just south of Milwaukee in scenic Cudahy, WI, home to the Patrick Cudahy Bacon
packing plant, the Porkie's Pork Rinds
company, and about a thousand dive bars. Katie is an architect with the firm Rinka Chung Architecture
located in downtown Milwaukee, and I am a bartender at Foundation Tiki Bar
. I also draw and write stuff.
So, you guys have an incredibly curated home, filled with a vast amount of cool collectables. Tell me all about it!
Pete: Thanks! We do like to buy crap…. I have collected old monster movie memorabilia most of my life, so there’s a whole room of that (we call it the “mid century monster room…”) We have old toys, books, records, lots of Tiki mugs, carvings, oceanic art, old barware, taxidermy, sideshow stuff… a whole hodge podge of weird old stuff. We try to limit ourselves to certain things, but sometimes when you’re at a flea market or an antique store you see just the right weird, old thing and the price is right and…well..you can’t just leave it there. I have been a lifelong collector/accumulator… In the opening theme song for “The Addams Family” they say “Their house is a museum, when people come to see ‘em” and I’ve always seen that as a personal goal to strive for. I was fortunate enough to meet Katie, who also enjoys weird old things, and together we built up our entire Tiki collection together. Katie especially likes Mid Century design and furniture, and was the one who really took the reins on finding some amazing pieces. I’d always had cool stuff and crappy furniture… Katie was able to get the cool stuff off of plastic shelves from Sears and onto a beautiful rosewood credenza, for example. We like finding stuff… unfortunately we’re about out of space, but the beauty of buying cool, old things is that there is always a market for them when you decide you want to rotate a piece out and get something else.
Patrick, an 8.5' Orator's stool from Papua New Guinea (Wilma for scale.)
There’s also an impressive collection of monsters and toys. Pete, is this your doing?
Pete: It is, how did you guess? Ha… yeah. I like old toys a lot. I have also always loved monsters… It was always kind of a running joke in our house as kids that the first movie my older brother saw in theaters was The Empire Strikes Back, and he cried when Luke got his hand cut off (SPOILER ALERT!) The first movie I saw in theaters was Return of the Jedi, and I cried when the Rancor Monster died. I was always rooting for the monster. Katie is not so into monsters, and would probably not be terribly upset if I reduced our amount of Frankensteins by, say, 35%. But she appreciates the aesthetic and knows I have a silly, childish attachment to them, so we keep ‘em around.
Halloween has always been my favorite season. I think I realized around the time I was 6 or 7 that if you wanted a Frankenstein or a Dracula to chase around your GI Joes, you could buy Halloween decorations in October, but it was a short window for shopping. I bought my first "collectible" I kept in the box when I was 10 or so... it was one of those 18” tall “Motion-Ette” figures (with the light-up red eyes, moving arms and that annoying blip-y high pitched “Halloween” sound effect) of the wolf man and just kept adding stuff from there. As far as the toys, I’ve just always loved toys… the history of them, the old design art on the packaging from the 60’s, especially… My parents never forced me to get rid of all my toys and “grow up,” so… I guess I still haven’t.
Pete, you do a bit of illustration and design work as well, which seems largely inspired by what you’ve surrounded yourself with. What is some of your work that you are the most proud of?
Pete: I’d like to think I’m most proud of the stuff I haven’t had a chance to do yet… how’s that for a cop out? I guess any time someone actually wants me to do something for them and goes out of their way to find me, I’m always shocked and humbled because… there are literally thousands of better and more competent artists in the world. Really, anytime anyone gives me actual, tangible currency in exchange for drawing something, I feel that way.
Tiki inspired artwork by Pete Klockau
I’ve done some album artwork in the past for Charlie Parr, a Bloodshot Records Christmas album
last year… 7” art for William Elliott Whitmore, The Black Swans and Ed Askew. Those were all really cool projects. I made a lot of stuff for Chef Shangri La
, a classic Tiki bar/Chinese place in the West Chicago burbs. I’ve designed a whole bunch of t-shirts, had some stuff in magazines, did a TON of stuff for Bloodshot
over the years (my employer for a decade…) Now that I am working at night and have my days free with little or nothing to do, I’m really hoping to finally get that part of my life more fully into gear and work on some stuff I’ve had on the back burner for 10 years or more. Who wants mummies and wolf men and Tikis drawn on stuff? Anybody?
Katie: Pete has always been chock full of ideas, and it's fun to see how he has executed projects over the years, using various mediums and formats. Although he begins each project with a fresh approach, his defined style is apparent in all of his work.
Katie, you’re an architect. How do you incorporate your design skills into your home environment?
Katie: I like to think that our space is 50/50 Pete and myself - it's better than what either of us would have done on our own. Although we both have strong opinions, we seem to focus on different aspect of design. Pete will make major decisions about where art should go. My input is typically responding to visual balance, alignment of art to existing architectural features, and color adjacency. One thing I try to ensure is that although we have a TON of stuff, it doesn't feel cluttered.
Within the first year, our house underwent some pretty substantial renovations, including a whole kitchen remodel, the addition of hardwood floors throughout, and the rejuvenation of the existing atomic pink/green bathroom. We stripped away any horrendous modifications done in the late 60's / early 70's and feel we brought it back to it's original 50's glory! I made sure to over think every architectural decision, to ensure we have no regrets! One thing we learned from blogs like Retro Renovation - once it's gone, it's gone, so think twice before you remove / replace anything original.
Tell me about Wilma!
Wilma the dog is hilarious. Pete and I spend a good amount of our free time laughing at her goofy antics. She's full of character, but is super easy-going and agreeable - perfect for our household. As Pete likes to say, "she's half Boston Terrier, half black dog that jumped over the fence." We like the mystery of her genes, but love her terrier personality!
Wilma, with bow tie.
Alright guys, what’s in your basement?
Furnace, laundry room, some old boxes of crap that didn’t fit in anywhere else… Oh, and The Black Lagoon Room
! Our home Tiki bar!
descending into the Black Lagoon Room
It’s absolutely mind blowing. How long did it take you to conceptualize and put this together?
Pete: Thanks! We’ve been collecting Tiki stuff pretty much since we started dating 13 years ago. Our condo in Chicago was kind of the first jumping off point, planning for a “some day” house with a “some day” basement bar. We also have talked almost all that time about opening a proper, public bar… so of course, that gave us an excuse to accumulate more Tiki stuff that wouldn’t fit in our house.
The Black Lagoon Room is 13 years of eBay, flea markets, antique malls, thrift stores, an occasional estate sale. When we first walked through this house and saw there was one perfectly Northern Midwestern finished portion with 12”x12” 50’s floor tile and knotty pine everything, we knew we could do a lot with it. So we did!
The Black Lagoon Room
Shockingly, we already had a whole lot of the stuff in there when we moved in… the Papua New Guinea masks, Maori war clubs, Fijian paddles, shell lamps, the tikis, the puffer fish… even the bar itself, somehow fit in our Uptown condo in Chicago at some point in its history. We bought some of the furniture, the bar back, the BIG 6’ Tikis that flank the main wall of shelving after the move, but a lot of it we've had a long time.
Tha Black Lagoon Room, photos by Julie Abnet
Sadly, with all the other work we needed to do on the house, ALL of the stuff we had was in storage for the first year+ we lived here. But as soon as we could get going on it… we bought all the bamboo and matting from friends (who also have/had awesome Tiki bars in their house) figured out what to do with it, and so it went for a few months. It was a true labor of love… trying to create a fully “immersive” environment… in a room with super low ceiling height and weird lighting.
I had a ton of ideas, and really wanted to do something loosely based around my home boy, Creature from the Black Lagoon… With her experience (and having a lot more patience for actual, real planning) Katie really reined all that stuff in and made the space work so well. We were both on ladders with paint and saws and stapling burlap to the walls.
Pete & Katie in The Black Lagoon Room
There’s still lots to do down there, but we use it all the time. It’s so much fun.
Ok, it’s time to talk about coffee. Do you guys like that stuff?
Pete: We do!
What brew method do you use at home?
Pete: We have a conical burr grinder and a plain ol’ drip pot. I drink several cups every day, but sadly have never taken the time to learn anything more complicated than the ol’ “set it and forget it.”
Any favorite drinks you may get at a café?
Pete: I am a fan of darker, bolder roasts… I typically will get whatever the darkest roast is available, add a splash of cream and we’re good to go. On that front, I do like a good Americano as well. I love cappuccino, but I never think to order it, for whatever reason. Coffee’s a weird thing… I think for most people you kinda start doing it one way, and that’s it. It’s hard to change those habits. I am certainly open to learning more and getting out of my rut.
Katie: I, too, tend to go with a darker roast or Americano. I am generally intimidated by choices at coffee shops, but would love to learn more, and break out of my comfort zone.
You are both very knowledgeable about classic cocktail recipes. What are some favorites of yours?
Pete: Obviously, we are fans of Tiki drinks… The tried and true classics of that genre are favorites; Any time we visit a new Tiki bar, it's habit to judge their drinks on the Mai Tai and the Zombie. They’re both incredibly dynamic cocktails when made properly, and if you can't get those right, I am sad for your Tiki bar. When we have folks over to The Black Lagoon Room, we usually expand that a bit… Shark's Tooth (Aged Jamaican rum, pineapple, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, lime, sugar), the Suffering Bastard (Gin, brandy, lime, bitters, sugar, ginger beer)... the Dark & Stormy is a pretty uncomplicated but tasty drink… The Jet Pilot, too, is a longtime favorite in the Tiki realm… it’s like a mini zombie… Three rums (one being a massively delicious overproof Demerara rum), lime, grapefruit, bitters, Pernod, cinnamon syrup… It’s so delightful!
There’s also something wonderful about a perfectly crafted Daiquiri with a nice rum, preferably a slightly smoky one with some age on it (personally.) It’s like the Old Fashioned or a martini… only three ingredients, super simple, super delicious, and super easy to screw up
We love rum, we love gin… But… we are primarily bourbon drinkers at home. And, honestly, I usually just drink it neat or with a single cube… nothin’ fancy, but nothin’ wrong with that. I’m pretty damn lazy at my core, so I’m not always terribly exciting when I’m making stuff for myself.
What are your thoughts on coffee being utilized in cocktails?
Pete: I think it’s a match made in heaven! I’ve made coffee liqueur at home… it’s tough (and a lot of trial and error) to get the balance right, and coffee is such a strong taste on its own, it takes some finesse to not have it totally overpower a cocktail, but when done correctly… hot damn!
One of our absolute favorite Tiki cocktails is made at the incredible Mai Kai in Fort Lauderdale. It’s called the Black Magic. It comes in a giant brandy snifter…. you get layers of rum and fruit and spice and then… bam. Just the perfect amount of coffee lingering in there to give you a nice little surprise finish. It (and its more subdued coffee-brandy-snifter companion The Mutiny) is kind of the perfect tiki/coffee hybrid.
Hey, whaddya know?! Pete & Katie created a couple of cocktail recipes utilizing our Midnight Sun cold brew coffee! Behold the "Twist of Cane" & the "Glenn or Glenda?" (there seems to be a theme here).
The "Twist of Cane"
(This is a lil' riff on a Rum Manhattan, incorporating cold brew and some other fun stuff...)
-1oz Lemonhart 80 Proof Demerara Rum
-1 1/2 oz Plantation 5 Year Rum
-1/2 oz Cynar amaro
-1/2 oz Punt E Mes Vermouth
-1/4 oz Cinnamon Syrup
-3/4 oz Glassworks Cold Brew
-Heavy Dash Angostura Bitters
-Light Dash Angostura Orange Bitters (float)
The "Glenn or Glenda?"
(This one has more "traditional" Tiki drink elements with the addition of lime, sugar, coconut, and curacao.)
-2 oz Coruba Dark Jamaican Rum
-1 oz Punt E Mes Vermouth
-1 oz Coconut Syrup (I use a 1:1 ratio of 1/2 cup each simple syrup and coconut milk + 10-15 drops of rose water)
-1/2 oz Pierre Ferrand Dry Curacao
-1/2 oz Cinnamon Syrup
-3/4 oz Glassworks Cold Brew
-1/2 oz Fresh Lime Juice
The Glenn or Glenda? (left) and The Twist of Cane (right) courtesy of The Black Lagoon Room.
Check out The Black Lagoon Room on Etsy.