Dragonette Limited owner Patrick Dragonette reflects on the experiences that shaped his decadent design sense.
Story by Amelia Rodriguez
“I’m a storyteller,” declares designer and business owner Patrick Dragonette, who moved his namesake furniture showroom to El Paseo in 2019 after more than two decades on Los Angeles’ La Cienega Boulevard. “I love sharing information about objects and furniture and designers.”
The narrative on the showroom floor at Dragonette Limited is one of a life well-lived. Vibrant and comfortable, the shop’s objects meld a certain baroque decadence with a metallic art deco sleekness — while nodding to the best of every era in between.
Dragonette Limited’s lush aesthetic remains consistent across its lovingly curated new and vintage offerings from makers such as William “Billy” Haynes and the Haas Brothers. It finds its most concentrated form in the showroom’s private label, a collection of furniture, lamps, and objets d’art from the mind of Patrick Dragonette himself.
Dragonette owes his singular eye to details of his own story, from a childhood in a small town “with a log cabin in the center,” he recalls, to college days spent feasting with his eyes in New York City’s museums, department stores, and jewelry shops. “Those experiences have made my showroom what it is,” he enthuses.
What was your earliest exposure to the world of design?
I grew up with a father who was a collector and dealer. We had an auction house at one point in my childhood; my parents owned an antique store at one point in my childhood. I collected from a very young age. I think the first thing I collected was art nouveau when nobody wanted it; and then nobody wanted art deco, and I started collecting art deco.
I had a mother who was one of those moms who would rearrange all the furniture — my father would come home and go to sit down, and the sofa wasn’t where it used to be. I think I got a lot of my innate sense of style from my mother. My mother would say she just loved pretty things. She wanted things to be beautiful, and there’s a part of me that feels the same way. I think [my] showroom’s a real extension of that.
When I moved to New York, all of a sudden, I could walk to a museum. There was the Museum of the City of New York, and they had the Alfred Neustadt collection of Tiffany lamps. And I remember just being blown away by the work of Tiffany.
You often say, “Dragonette Limited is me, and I am Dragonette Limited.” How does that philosophy manifest itself in your work?
I’ve always been a big fan of exploration and exposing myself to new things — new ideas, new foods, new drinks, new everything. [It’s like] opening yourself up to a color you thought you hated, and then all of a sudden you see it with new eyes.
Our early design projects tended to be very typically L.A.: neutral beiges and creams, maybe the most color was a little pale, whispery blue. And I’m more than happy to work that way, but I’ve discovered that what I really love is saturation of color.
My gift is that I can see a room done, I know what it’s going to look like. The first time I did a house for clients, I had to put [the furniture] together piecemeal. And the day they were moving everything in, I remember I stepped out onto the big balcony, and I just started crying because it actually worked. It looked just like it looked in my head. That’s when I realized, “Well gosh, I can do [this].”
How do you curate and select the pieces for sale at Dragonette Limited?
I’ve always said that there’s nothing in that store that I wouldn’t take home and live with. That’s kind of been my barometer for what I’ve purchased for the last 30 years. I have only bought things that I loved and thought, “If I couldn’t sell this, would I want to bring it home?” When the answer’s yes, I know I should buy it; and when the answer is no, I don’t buy it. And when I vacillate, it’s usually a mistake. I buy something, and it’s out of boredom.
What do you love most about your job?
I love the permission to be creative. The showroom on El Paseo, it’s a laboratory to some extent. I mean, right now the windows are orange, which takes some courage.