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Color Me Happy!

by habituallychic

11 . 17 . 07
I hadn’t planned to profile the interiors of Tony Duquette but once I came across a New York Times article and then I started looking at old photosof his work that I really couldn’t resist. They are completely over the top and have an amazing attention to detail and what’s even more impressive is that so much of the opulence was created from found objects. Tony Duquette could see the possibilty and beauty in the mundane. According to Linda Fargo of Bergdorf Goodman, “Tony said he was about beauty not luxury. He was Rumpelstiltskin spinning gold from straw.” Hutton Wilkinson, his business partner said that “where some people saw a hubcap, Duquette saw a shining disc to set in the middle of an improvised sunburst.”

“In Duquette’s hands, the shiny plastic baskets in which hot dogs are served became a Coromandel screen in a Gucci advertisement. Branches were spray-painted and turned into coral. Coral was spray-painted, too. Skateboard decks were used as wainscoting in Duquette’s Beverly Hills house and, at his ranch in the Santa Monica Mountains, he upended rakes and turned them into totemic standards.”
The drawing room at “Dawnridge” circa 1980’s. Tony Duquette placed two 18th century Venetian dolphins from the collection of Misia Sert on each side of an 18th century Adam settee upholstered in apple green silk strie. I love the mix of all the different colors.

The balcony at “Dawnridge” above was decorated with an 18th century Venetian console table, a standing 18th century red lacquered Burmese Buddha and a turquoise painted rhino from an American 19th century carousel. Duquette has covered the “oculus” of the house with a sheet of glass which holds Chinese porcelains and bronze figures suspended above the entrance hall below. It’s this photo that reminds me of what Kelly Wearstler is doing today.
The Duquettes’ own bedroom above was decorated with antique Chinese embroideries overlaid with iridescent silk gauze. An antique Chinese graperoot table from the Hearst collection has been draped with an ocelot skin and the bed has been covered with a Chinese panel embroidered with gold thread.

Looking into the office from the garden at “Dawnridge”. This small pavilion was built by Tony Duquette around an existing fireplace which was all that remained after a fire in 1972 burned the original house which was on this site to the ground. He furnished this office with his Louis XV ormolu bureau plat and antique Chinese Chippendale chairs.

The lower terrace at “Dawnridge” looking across the swimming pool through the nacre-covered obelisks to Tony Duquette’s 28′ tall sculpture “The Phoenix Rising from Its Flames”.

The dining pavilion in the garden at “Dawnridge” circa 1980’s where Tony and Elizabeth Duquette frequently entertained. Hanging from the lattice ceiling is an original pagoda chandelier (this chandelier was moved by Duquette to his Malibu ranch and was later destroyed in the tragic green meadows fire which completely destroyed the Duquette ranch in Malibu below).

In the 1950’s Tony and Elizabeth Duquette purchased a 150 acre property high in the Malibu mountains above the Pacific Ocean. Over the next 30 years they spent each weekend at the property which they lovingly dubbed, “The Empire”. The property and its 21 structures tragically burnt to the ground in the Green Meadows Malibu fire in the 1990’s. Before it disappeared the Duquettes’ created an enclave of pagodas, pavilions, studios, and houses on which they lavished their many talents, collections, decorations, and magic.

Tony Duquette placed many pavilions throughout “The Empire”. This one created out of an existing skeletal metal pipe structure purchased at the nearby Port Hueneme Navy surplus sales and covered with antlers from the Hearst ranch (Tony and Elizabeth were guests of the Hearst family at San Simeon for the last weekend before they gave the castle to the state). The pavilion is topped with a cast resin onion dome which had been thrown out at the back lot of MGM.

The interior of “Hamster House” circa 1980’s (after the 1920’s mobile home had been pulled out). The secretary desk is 18th century Venetian and the architecturally painted furniture on the left was originally made for Tony Duquette’s dressing room at the old studio on Robertson Blvd.

“The Tea House” which Duquette decorated with an antique Chinese silk temple rug on the floor, Asian antiques and a pagoda chandelier of his own invention. The ceiling was upholstered between the red lacquer beams with quilted bedspread fabrics which Duquette felt resembled inlaid tiles.

The historic Tony Duquette Studio was located at 824 North Robertson Blvd. in West Hollywood. Originally the building was constructed as a movie studio for the silent film star Norma Talmadge. The Duquettes purchased the building in the early 1950’s as a ruin and remodeled and restored the structure as their residence and studio.

Featured in Duquette’s office above circa 1970 was this 18th century Louis XV desk surmounted by a red and gold lacquered shrine from Burma. The 18th century French windows were brought from Paris by Duquette in the 1940’s.

Part of the Duquettes’ collection of vermiel decorations including an 18th century salt cellar in the form of a galleon, insects, fruit and toads. Duquette used these decorations to set his party tables and constantly moved them around the house creating “tablescapes” which he called “Games of Chance.” Sound like anyone else we know?

Tony Duquette not only designed interiors for himself but for clients as well. One of my favorite projects was for Barretstown Castle in Ireland, which I am sad to say is now a children’s camp. According to the history of the castle, Elizabeth Arden acquired the property in 1962. “Over five years, Ms. Arden applied her famous talents for beauty and style to an extensive reconstruction, redecoration and refurnishing of the Castle. Her influence dominates the look of the house to this day. The door of Barretstown Castle is reputed to have been painted red after her famous brand of perfume ‘Red Door’, and remains so to this day.”

The interiors have a slightly 1960’s feel to them but at the same time, the seem completely timeless. The dark wall color and furnishings in the room above look similar to what David Hicks was doing around that same time. It’s also surprising given Duquette’s own homes that this one is actually restrained and dare I say simple? Of course, the pagodas are a giveaway that it is Duquette designed.

I love the bedroom’s matching wallpaper, draperies and bedspreads. The color green seems to run through out the home and you have to wonder if that was Duquette’s nod to the Irish countryside. Your eye is drawn from the green in the interiors to the green outside the window. One of my favorite rooms is the bathroom below. Except maybe for the green towels and what looks like green carpeting, it could be a modern bathroom.

Hope you enjoyed this little tour of just some of Tony Duquette’s interior design work. In addition to this profession, he was also a set designer, costume designer, artist and jewelry designer. His wife was also a very accomplished artist and they made a perfect pair. I am in awe of Tony Duquette, who had so much creative drive and inspiration that he felt inspired to work on designs in so many variations and with a sense of zeal that most of us could never understand. Hope he inspires you to step away from the computer and create something today!

Comments Closed

  1. Jude November 18, 2007 | 2:52 am

    Anoher amazing post!!!! I loved the reference to David Hicks, your right on the money!!!

  2. Dear Designer... November 19, 2007 | 2:32 am

    I love all of the emerald green in the photos- gorgeous!

  3. Habitually Chic November 19, 2007 | 3:05 am

    Hey June, I couldn’t resist. Lol. Thanks for the kind words. Glad you enjoyed it.

  4. Habitually Chic November 19, 2007 | 3:06 am

    Dear Designer, I Love the green too! I also can’t wait to actually read the book and find out more about the story behind his designs. The website has some freat photos but not too much history.

  5. Suzy November 19, 2007 | 5:20 am

    Thanks for the preview, can’t wait til my copy of the book arrives. He really was a unique and taltented individual. You are dead on with your references to Ms Wearstler, I can see it in a few of the rooms from her previous home.

  6. Rowena November 19, 2007 | 4:24 pm

    You’re so right, I see Wearstler too.

  7. Brilliant Asylum November 19, 2007 | 5:56 pm

    I am happy to learn so much about Duquette through your extensive post. I am definitely putting his book on my Christmas list now!

    I wish I could step away from the computer to create something Duquette-ish today, but I am chained to my desk until Thanksgiving. I will keep your words in mind for my first available free time.