Tory visited Shangri La, Doris Duke’s iconic Honolulu home, and fell in love. We talked to Carol Khewhok, the estate’s Program Manager, about the woman who built it and her inspiration.
Something people don’t know about Doris Duke?
Doris Duke was indeed a very savvy, intelligent and adventurous woman. She was athletic and an excellent surfer and swimmer. What many people don’t know is that she was ahead of her time in many respects. When she put together her will in the 1960s she specified that her trust be used to support her favorite causes, such as research on the environment and climate change, initiatives to prevent child abuse, support for healthcare initiatives in Africa as well as the performing arts and Islamic arts and cultures. These areas are so important in today’s world, but how many Americans were thinking about these issues back then?
What are the most important design aspects of Shangri La?
Shangri La is a unique property in many aspects. The architecture and interior spaces combine aesthetics of traditional Islamic art and architecture with a Pacific outdoor lifestyle. The house contains an eclectic mixture of Islamic art, including objects of great value such as the Damascene interiors and commissions for the house — the handmade Moroccan ceilings, for instance. The house also contains pieces of lesser value that Duke bought because she liked them. When one walks through the house one of the most striking aspects is the mix of indoor and outdoor spaces and the views through doorways. Duke loved Islamic tiles and amassed one of the largest private collections in the U.S. These tiles are embedded in walls and provide a unique decorative feature. The house is put together in such a way as to combine art from various regions and cultures of the Islamic world but always as a reflection of Duke’s aesthetic vision.