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Patrick Dragonette
© Dan Arnold

Inside Patrick Dragonette’s surprise move to Palm Desert

Visiting Dragonette always felt like entering someone’s groovy home rather than a showroom. It was one of my first stops whenever I landed in Los Angeles, whether I was there for design work or not. Patrick Dragonette wasn’t just its proprietor: he was its host. He’d give you a bear hug as soon as you entered and offered you a drink – cappuccino or champagne depending on the time of day – and allow you to peruse his finds as you deliciously rambled through the La Cienega space, oohing along with him over a Billy Haines chair, a leather-wrapped Haines cocktail table, or a Chanel chain cuff. You always sensed that while Patrick loved all of his pieces with a personal fervour, he was equally excited to help them find real homes.

Dragonette quickly became the cornerstone for designers, editors and design enthusiasts to gather and celebrate his unerring eye, not to mention his storefront windows which he crafted on a regular basis, including a “Birds” inspired window with black crows flying around with Dorothy Thorpe glassware and Sterling flatware in their claws. Patrick was also known for hosting old Hollywood-style parties – Patrick often turned the driveway into a magical garden to make room for even more fun.

He had grown into that space from scratch – after moving from Ohio to New York City and onto the West Coast in 1991. What started as a little showcase in an antique mall touting finds such as American Art Pottery, became a 900-foot showroom on La Cienega in 1997. From here, it blossomed, eventually occupying 3,000 square feet of space nearby on the same boulevard.

For many in Los Angeles, Patrick’s decision to move Dragonette to Palm Desert (where he now resides full time) felt shocking and horribly final, like a cherished friend leaving the neighbourhood. “The decision to move was not based on business, in fact, it was really a quality of life decision,” explains Patrick. “We purchased our home at Marrakesh Country Club five years earlier and used it every weekend. One Sunday, after brunch in the glorious weather, it was 2 o’clock in the afternoon and time to return to LA and I just thought: why are we not living here full-time?”

Not being ready to retire, he and his partner Charles decided they could move the business. “The transition was remarkably easy,” says Patrick. They found a 5,000 square foot space on El Paseo and a launch party for 400 people soon followed. “Most of the folks here are not designers but rather people enjoying their vacations, so sales were really quite good,” he says.

When I reopened on El Paseo, I allowed myself to discover merchandise from new inspirations, like Mojave-inspired porcelain from the Haas brothers and orb lamps from Titia Estes – Patrick Dragonette

The larger location encouraged him to expand his eye: “I think one of the great things that happened when I reopened on El Paseo was that I allowed myself to discover merchandise from new inspirations, like Mojave-inspired porcelain from the Haas brothers, orb lamps from Titia Estes and my own private label furniture collection. I felt like on La Cienega, I was known as the vintage guy. It’s been exciting to curate new material.” However, he continues to boast more William Haines furniture and lighting than “pretty much anywhere else in the world.”

Visit Dragonette to discover standout items such as these Casa Encantada chairs dating back to 1939

Currently, other exciting inventory includes a Dubé Fontana Arte Cocktail Table from the estate of Ira Gershwin (sold with a photo of the table in situ) and a set of six armchairs designed for the Casa Encatada in Bel Air, a T H Robsjohn Gibbings commission from 1939. “People are here to pamper themselves and making their homes more gracious and beautiful,” says Patrick.

After having to completely shut his newly opened doors last February for five months due to Covid-19 restrictions, the showroom is back open and thankfully thriving. “After not being open at all, I wasn’t sure what to expect,” says Patrick. “It does seem like the pandemic has helped the business and I think if you were to ask anybody in this business they would probably have the same answer. When you consider all the people who normally would spend a lot of money on dinners and vacations, they’re now are at home with expendable income and putting money into improvements.”

But how is he able to navigate the hunt in such shaky times of travel? “The way of buying things now has changed quite a bit since the pandemic,” says Patrick. “You have to really depend on online sales, auctions, estate sales and luckily individuals who have thankfully worked with us for over 24 years now. I would say that it has been interesting that we excel in selling art especially in this new location.” Along the way, a handle of enviable locally based interior design projects have come his way as well. “It’s a gentler way of life here that I am loving,” admits Patrick, “but I am busier than ever.”

Regardless of location, season, or situation, one thing that stands constant in Dragonette’s future is the owner’s passion for discovery. “I will continue to do what I’ve always done and my criteria has always been: if I don’t sell it can I live with it?” says Patrick with his characteristic boyish grin.

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