Step through the filigreed entry gates, and you've clearly entered another world. High in the Santa Monica Mountains, a driveway descends amid jungly cacti, pink mink and pincushion protea, and fanciful pagodas fashioned from steel drums, cable spools, and vintage power-line insulators. Then, near the path's end, another feat of salvage comes into view: a glassy house crowned by the wings of a Boeing 747.
Amid rugged mountain peaks with distant ocean views, the 55-acre site was once part of “Sortilegium,” or “The Empire,” the 21-building weekend retreat of Elizabeth (“Beegle”) and Tony Duquette, legendary designer of Hollywood sets, costumes, jewelry, and flamboyantly eclectic interiors. A wizard of inventive repurposing, Tony created opulent chandeliers from plastic juice glasses and, on this rustic Malibu terrain, pavilions from stage sets, a junked trailer, and other “found objects”—everything but a 747. In the 1990s, wildfire ravaged the compound, destroying the buildings. Later, the Duquettes died.