TONY DUQUETTE'S SORTILEGIUM

 

 

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.   Each structure had a name which corresponded with its decorative theme therefore "Ireland" was composed of 19th century shop fronts purchased in Dublin.  "Bullocks Wilshire" was decorated with authentic Art Deco furnishings.  "Horn Toad" was decorated with Victorian ginger bread and Americana.  "China" was a riot of red lacquer and gold leaf dragons, sedan chairs and Chinese embroideries.  "Goom" was named after a town in India.  "Portugal" was a large barn filled with 18th century carvings.  "Bosphorus" was a domed and minerated structure which held garden implements, and "The Tea House" was an enchanting pavilion completely decorated, in which a cup of tea had never been served.  "The Star Barn", full of old props from MGM and "The Ball Room" made of 18th century French windows from Paris with their original hardware "just like jewelry", parquet de Versailles floors, carved 18th century wooden fireplaces and original Tony Duquette chandeliers.  "Hamster House" was originally a 1920's wooden mobile home which Tony expanded and added to and which ended up as a really rather grand house which was featured in all of the glossy shelter magazines.  There was also the "Rose Parade" which was a long narrow structure filled with plants and Victoriana,  the roof of which Tony used for parties and exercise under embroidered Indian parasols.  Last but not least (and there are still two houses we can't remember the names of) was Duquette own house "Frogmore" which originated as a 20' x 20' metal building which was being thrown out on Santa Monica Blvd. in Los Angeles which the owners paid Tony to take away.  He turned that discarded 20' x 20' building into a compound which included a 2 story studio, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom wings, and an entire covered terrace as well as a huge cantilevered deck where he could entertain 150 people for lunch. 

The entrance to "Frogmore" was reached via a long walk made from the paving stones taken from a Chinese temple which Tony transported from the old Warner Brothers Ranch in the San Fernando Valley.  Guests would proceed up this walk past the artist studio on the left under the Chinese pagoda which Tony had created originally for Mr. & Mrs. Robert Gross (Mr. Gross founded Lockheed Aircraft) for their home in Bel Air.  Palmer Gross Ducommun, Tony's great client gave the pagoda back to him to use at his ranch when she was dismantling her parents house.

 

 

Tony Duquette decorated the covered porch at "Frogmore" using antique willow chairs upholstered in his own tiger printed corduroy and antique painted Austrian peasant furniture which he purchased in Salzburg in the 1950's when he was designing "Yederman" for the first post-war production of the Salzburg Festival.  Note Duquette's cast resin lighted "Ghost Snail" sculpture and the carved Indian horses to which Duquette added the carved wings on their heads.

 

 

"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.

 

 

A view of "The Empire" from the road showing the pavilion Duquette built out of old satellite dishes which he placed on top of his water tower.  Boney Mountain which is a sacred mountain to the Chumash Indians forms the dramatic background for "The Empire".

 

 

This is corner of the kitchen at "Frogmore".  Tony Duquette covered the walls with wood from an old fence he found in an alley in West Hollywood.  The painted Austrian peasant furniture is 18th century.  The painting of the Madonna is Spanish colonial and the wall panels are the backs of Sicilian donkey carts.  The shelf around the ceiling holds part of Duquettes' collection of folk art.  The iron, antler, and plaster tasseled chandelier is a Duquette original.

 

 

A maze of balustraded walkways created by Tony Duquette connected different levels and paths throughout the property.

 

 

The covered porch at "Horntoad" was made by Tony Duquette out of old Victorian architectural fragments.

 

The kitchen at "Horntoad" was built by Tony Duquette around an antique English Regency sideboard which he turned into a sink.

 

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 backlot of MGM.

 

One of the 28' tall metal sculpted "Angels" similar to those created by Tony Duquette to celebrate the bicentennial of the city of Los Angeles.  This angel stood guard at "The Empire" atop a garden structure made from metal platforms purchased at the Port Hueneme Navy surplus sales.

 

 

The original water tower circa 1970's located near "Horntoad" house with the upper gate house on the right.  The upper gate house originated as the back of a moving van to which Tony added a columned portico and pagoda roofed structure (the pagoda roof was actually the stove hood vent from the kitchen at the historic Tony Duquette Studios on Robertson Blvd.)  The grill work panels in the pavilion on top of the water tower (to the left) were used in the MGM film Kismet for which Tony Duquette designed all the costumes and some of the props.

 

 

The bedroom at "Horntoad" circa 1950's.  Tony Duquette draped the bed in blue denim and 18th century tapestry and perched a stuffed owl at its crown.  He used a woven rug from Mexico for the bedspread and lined the side curtains in leopard skin.  The painted metal chandelier is Sicilian and the armoire is 18th century Austrian.

 

 

The view of Boney Mountain from the road with the "Boathouse" on the right with its authentic 19th century Venetian 30' long gondola parked on the roof.  Tony always said when he died he wanted to be cremated in the gondola to send his spirit on its journey.  Unfortunately the green meadows Malibu fire in the 1990's burned the boat and the entire ranch several years before Tony's own passing.

 

 

The entrance to "Frogmore", Tony and Elizabeth Duquette's Malibu residence.  Guests would walk past a guard of carved Rajput soldiers to reach the front door.

 

 

Another view of the entrance to "Frogmore", Tony and Elizabeth Duquette's Malibu residence.  Guests walked past a guard of carved Rajput soldiers and under Duquette's latticed Chinese pagoda above and the art studio on the left to reach the front door.

 

 

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.

 

 

"Hamster House" circa 1950's.  The original wooden 1920's mobile home can be clearly seen on the left.  Tony Duquette added a large room (shown on the right) and a covered porch topped with 19th century metal urns.

 

 

Another view of "Hamster House" circa 1950's.  The original wooden 1920's mobile home can be clearly seen on the left.  Tony Duquette added a large room (shown on the right) and a covered porch topped with 19th century metal finials and a spire from a Victorian turret.

 

 

A pagoda created by Tony Duquette circa 1950's for "The Empire" made from an old iron elevator cage from the historic Hollywood Hotel with Victorian metal decorations added.  The Duquettes always flew their "Double Gemini" flags whenever they were in residence.  The ranch had dozens of similar flag poles throughout the property which all flew the same flags when the Duquettes were in residence. 

 

 

The roof of "The Rose Parade" which Tony Duquette used for entertaining and for exercise.  Boney Mountain and the Serrano Valley are in the background.

 

 

The 18th century Spanish wrought iron gates which formed the upper entrance to "The Empire".

 

 

Another view of the kitchen at "Frogmore" house where Tony Duquette covered the ceiling with rag rugs from Greece.

 

 

This is part of the Duquettes' collection of folk art which formed a frieze on a shelf around the ceiling of the kitchen at "Frogmore House"

 

Click here to see the Wing house

(the wing house is  a new house being built on this property)

 

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