Even though Frank Dukes already owns three other multimillion-dollar homes in Los Feliz, his real estate story continues with a fourth area purchase. And this chapter marks the veteran hitmaker’s biggest buy yet, with the 38-year-old shelling out $6.5 million for one of the largest properties on Eastside Los Angeles. Spanning over 2.6 acres, the so-called Van Pelt Estate is tucked into the Franklin Hills section of town, near the border between Los Feliz and Silver Lake.
While he’s not a household name in the vein of top music stars like Post Malone, Camila Cabello or The Weeknd, Dukes has co-written and produced some of those artists’ biggest career hits, including “Better Now” and “Circles” for Malone, “Havana” and “Never Be the Same” for Cabello, and The Weeknd’s “Call Out My Name.” The Canada native also has lucrative credits on Kanye West’s “Real Friends,” the Jonas Brothers’ “Sucker,” and singles from Rihanna, Cardi B and Drake, among myriad other superstars.
Over the years between 1932 and 1950, Dukes’ new Los Feliz acquisition was designed and built by choir director-turned-real estate developer John Van Pelt, a maverick who’s been described as a Renaissance man of the era. Situated high above the road, the compound consists of five separate structures, all of them linked by elaborate pathways and all built in a signature Storybook architectural style paired with nautical elements. Each of the residences also has its own nautical-themed name — the main house is “Whimsy Hall,” an office building is “Sea Rover Cottage,” the gardener’s residence is “Windjammer Cottage,” a guesthouse is “Sea Horse Cottage,” and another building goes by “Star Sailer Manor.”
Altogether, the various cottages and huts on the property total about 6,500 square feet of living space, with eight bedrooms and eight bathrooms, per the listing. The property is defined by its lush grounds, a verdant escape from the L.A. bustle in the middle of the city. There are endless walkways hewn from a variety of materials, planters, trees, sitting areas and grotto-like outdoor fireplaces, plus a large pool and tennis court area. The entire estate’s whimsical style gives it a decidedly eccentric, almost dreamlike vibe.
Even the interiors are not spared from the fanciful design of the exteriors. Throughout all the buildings, there are open-frame ceilings with aged trusses and joists, Medieval wooden doors, hidden rooms and stained wood shiplap throughout. At least one of the residences is filled with amber-colored stained glass, while another is painted throughout with Egyptian mythological figures and symbols.
The extravagant property stayed in the Van Pelt family hands until the mid-1970s, when it was sold to a low-profile man named Daniel Hornbeck, who’s been described as “reclusive” in Los Angeles Planning Commission records. Hornbeck lived on the property for 45 years until his recent death, and the house was subsequently listed for sale at $12 million. The asking price was later shaved nearly in half, and eventually Hornbeck’s heirs accepted Dukes’ offer.
Over the years, the guest cottages have been rented out to a variety of creative types. Past residents reportedly include Chloe Sevigny, “Gilligan’s Island” actor Bob Denver and “Harold and Maude” comedian Bud Cort.
In addition to his idiosyncratic new estate, Dukes also owns a 1920s Mediterranean-style villa, a 1950s midcentury ranch-style home and a 1920s Spanish Revival house, all of them located in Los Feliz. He also had a fifth Los Feliz property — another Spanish-style bungalow — that was sold off this May, per records, for $2.9 million.