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Publication Date: 2013-02-20

Behind the Design

The Collector's Collector: Patrick Dragonette

Patrick Dragonette originally dreamed of being a singer but, luckily for the design world, traded in Broadway for La Cienega to open his eponymous design gallery. Hear about Patrick's journey from the stage to the showroom.

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Photogtapher: Eric Nelder

Patrick Dragonette fell into the world of design through the world of collecting. And you can feel it. His store feels like a collection of what he would want in his own house if he owned a 10,000 square foot house and could stuff it with all things beautiful. Patrick caught the collecting bug at home in rural Ohio. Once he tells you his background you understand: There’s a lot of Midwestern in him. The world of rarified design tends to be stuffy and closed. Patrick is neither of those. He’s an open book who leans in when he talks. He’s enthusiastic and warm. Within an hour of meeting him he’d probably tell you a deep dark secret if he had one.

The world of collecting came early to Patrick. His parents opened a store of Victorian furniture and his father was an avid collector. (According to Patrick, at one time his father owned over 200 clocks.) His mother was the one with the enthusiasm for decorating. Furniture—and most likely clocks—were always being rearranged.

Patrick left the Midwest when he was 18, hanging his star on Manhattan. He attended the Academy of Dramatic Arts and was laser-focused on a singing career. Yet in his father’s footsteps, collecting remained an important hobby. Patrick spent hours at a junk antique store. He collected and collected and finally moved into a high-rise, his “dream,” at Riverbank West.

“Everyone wanted to live like Tom Wolfe,” Patrick says, smiling at the thought of that era in New York. “We fell right into it.” Aptly, Patrick and his long-time partner, Charles, stuffed their chic apartment with columns, faux-marble, a baby grand, the works. They had elaborate barbecues on their balcony where celebrity neighbors were apt to stop by.

“It was bliss,” Patrick says, reflecting on those early years in New York.

The bliss continued for 13 years until Patrick and Charles both found themselves unemployed at the same time. A friend was living in the chic Bel Air area of Los Angeles, and she offered advice that would prove life changing.

“If you’re going to be unemployed, you should do it in LA,” she said. And so they packed up everything but the baby grand and moved west.

Sometimes life deals a series of circumstances that lead you to something else, something better than before.

Such was the case with Patrick and Charles. Soon after they moved to Los Angeles, their friends in Bel Air packed up and left town. They didn’t want to leave the house empty, so they asked Patrick and Charles to house sit.

According to Patrick, that fateful moment changed everything. The rent-free situation was ideal. “That gave me the ability to build my business. I’m forever grateful."

Patrick started small, opening tiny rented spaces in local antique marts. He would go to flea markets on weekends, casting his discerning eye on beautiful objects that he could resell for profit. The talent to cherry-pick the special from the ordinary is what makes designers and dealers great. As it would turn out, Patrick had that uncanny ability.

Patrick’s little corner in the antique market would consistently sell out. And so he accrued more space. And then more. Small spaces in antique malls turned into bigger spaces. It was the beginning of Patrick Dragonette, the tastemaker.

A friend of mine from New York—one of the chicest guys I know—insists upon going to Dragonette on his way to his hotel from the airport after he lands in Los Angeles. We joke that Dragonette is the first stop for the design-lover the way In-And-Out is for the burger-lover.

It’s not a surprise. Now, years after corners-of-antique-bazaar beginnings, Dragonette is a museum of what is good in design. The store’s mini-vignettes feature pieces by designers like William Haines, Samuel Marx, Tommi Parziner, Karl Springer, Grosfeld House, Maison Jansen, and Paul Frankl. And then there are the stunning “no-name” pieces that Patrick just fell in love with and are equally as special. The store is an icon of design in Los Angeles and a must-visit for pretty much every designer on a project of note. Stop by some of the most beautiful real estate in Los Angeles—from the Bird Streets to Malibu and back again—and it’s almost guaranteed there will be a piece or two (or 10) from Dragonette in them.

As for Patrick, he takes an occasional design job or two now, and he’s as passionate about those projects as he is his store. But he still spends most of his time combing the earth for beautiful things.

At the end of our meeting, a celebrity client with his celebrity designer popped into Dragonette for an impromptu look at candlesticks. Commotion ensued. I looked to Patrick, expecting him to promptly dismiss our meeting. But this was Patrick after all. He looked at me to make sure I had no more questions. In fact, I did.

And the singing career?” I asked, bringing things full circle. “Any regrets?” Patrick thought about it for less than second, and then he smiled that warm Ohio smile. “I still get excited every day. I love owning a shop and being a dealer and designer. I live for Monday rather than Saturday.” He paused, and smiled even more grandly. “I wake up every day and don’t know what I’m going to find.”

Beats Broadway every time.

We asked Patrick to comb through Bungalux and pick a few of his favorite properties. Here’s what he selected:

1. Huguette Clark’s Fifth Avenue Apartments: “I would take any or all of the units. What an opportunity to get my hands on a virtually untouched space. I’m sure the bones are good and nothing need be said about the views. This may be a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I would love to seize the chance.”

2. Contemporary Dream in the Hollywood Hills: “If I were to go contemporary, this property has it all. First and foremost, the views are amazing. Great high ceilings, large rooms, big WOW factor. This one is the whole package, also has the perfect location in town.”

3. A. Quincy Jones’ Bel Air Landmark: “This is the kind of mid century architecture that I adore—flat roof lines, high ceilings, fantastic lot, and a vineyard to boot. And the approach is awesome.”

4. Chelsea Penthouse: "This is an entertainers dream! Love most everything about it, I could do this one “move in ready."

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