Tony Duquette was not someone who could be pigeonholed. A true renaissance man of the art world, he was revered for myriad endeavors including set decoration, interior design, costume design (for which he won a Tony) and jewelry creation. Subscribing to a philosophy of “more is more,” Tony, who passed away in 1999 at the age of 85, infused all of his works with a unique fantastical vibrancy that remains unparalleled today. As such, his longtime Malibu ranch also defies definition. Nestled on a 39.4-acre lot in a secluded area of the Santa Monica Mountains, the property is a dazzling amalgamation of varying styles including Georgian, Moroccan, chinoiserie and bohemian.
Tony and his wife, Elizabeth, initially purchased the ranch, which they dubbed “Sortilegium” (Latin for “Land of the Enchantment”), in 1955. Utilized as a weekend home, Duquette, a skilled re-purposer, outfitted both the interior and exterior of the then 175-acre site with various artifacts he collected from the movie sets he worked on and along his many world travels.
As described by the Los Angeles Times, “There were 16th-Century Spanish gates out front, illuminated by street lights from Copenhagen, and stone lions from a downtown Los Angeles bank. An elevator cab from the Hollywood Hotel sat amid a tangle of exotic plants. Flags from Bali flew atop tall poles, and a boathouse – one of several pavilions on the property – was topped with a Venetian gondola.”
But in 1993 tragedy struck in the way of the Green Meadow fire, which tore through the eccentric wonderland, virtually decimating it. It was an especially heartbreaking turn of events for Duquette being that he had lost the vast majority of his belongings just five years prior in a San Francisco blaze. As was the case with that inferno, though, the ever-resilient Tony rebuilt – this time on the lot next door.