Shangri La Di Dah
But global chic wasn’t always so in vogue. It’s refreshing to see a return to interesting — even decorative — objects after suffering through the ironic minimalism of the cash rich 90’s and early, uh, aughts? 00’s? What do you call this decade? At any rate, it’s funny how poverty inspires one to hoard stuff. Your grandma wasn’t collecting all those foiled gum wrappers for nothing, you know. During the great depression, Doris Duke, the richest girl in the world, began hoarding objects (and houses) with a vengeance. And there was nary a gum wrapper among them.
The only child of a tobacco heiress, Duke inherited $100 million dollars when her father died (of lung cancer, perhaps?) when she was only 12. That’s over a billion clams in today’s currency, which she promptly put to good use by suing her mother and taking over her father’s estates. I like this girl already. After marrying in the early 1930’s, she honeymooned around the world and was inspired by Islamic art and architecture, which led to her construction of the Shangri La estate in Honolulu, now a public museum.
If you were a good little schoolgirl or boy, you read your Lost Horizon and know that Shangri La is a hidden paradise. Located on 5 acres in the posh Black Point neighborhood, Duke’s version fronts the ocean and has insane views of Diamond Head Crater. Hideous, I tell you. But even more impressive than the outside is the inside, which is literally stuffed to the gills with a treasure trove of Islamic artifacts and decor.
(Sorry for the rather wee images — the estate doesn’t allow you to take pictures inside, and the ones they provide online are mega TINY.) Hopefully you can see that every square inch of this place is decorated with murals, artwork, sculptures, and amazing textiles.
Are those pouffles centered around a hookah? Doris Duke wouldn’t be above taking a toke with the local boyz, for sure. In an age of limited roles for women, she used her money to do things us contemporary ladies take for granted, like become the first female surfing champion.
That would be her with handsome local boy and Olympic medalist cum surfing tutor extraordinaire, Duke Kahanamoku.
Meow! Supposedly then married D. Duke and unmarried playboy Duke K. (there’s a joke in there somewhere) were getting it on, and he may have even fathered her child, Arden, who died after a premature childbirth.
If only these pillows could talk…
At least the walls talk, telling tales of Moroccan design and history. Addtionally, the home holds collections of Turkish and Spanish ceramics and Iranian tiles.
As soon as I can figure out how to either A) paint ceramic tiles or B) hire the neighborhood kids at slave rates to paint my ceramic tiles, I plan to coat the exterior of my home in a fabulous mosaic extravaganza. It will probably look like my cat threw up on the walls, but what the hell.
While I’m at it, I may as well add a pergola to shelter my hookahfied evenings from prying eyes.
Or maybe I should erect a tent fit for a desert king, complete with amazing textiles that screen my floor to ceiling windows from ocean views? I may need to figure out how to fit an ocean into my backyard first. Trivial.
For a lady born with a silver spoon, Doris Duke did ok. In current times, us plebes may have the overwhelming desire to douse the rich in haterade, but she managed to live an interesting life and leave a lasting impact on society. Besides surfing, cleaning her own homes, serving overseas in WWII, and founding several charitable organizations, Duke left several properties like Shangri La open to the public.
Plus the lady knew a think or two about how to fix up and look sharp.