Shangri-La Breakwater and surfShangri-La, what does it mean to you? In 1935, Doris Duke (22) with her husband James Cameron spent their honeymoon in Egypt, India, Indonesia and China. The Taj Mahal made a huge impression on Doris Duke. Her husband wrote friends that Duke had “fallen in love with the Taj Mahal…”. The last stop on their honeymoon was Hawaii, where Duke also fell in love with the islands and decided to build a house on Oahu in the shadow of Diamond Head.

Shangri-La ChestDoris Duke, as the only child of millionaire entrepreneur James Buchanan Duke, was exposed to the arts of many cultures but it was Persian and Islamic work that touched her most. She began to collect and commission work on her honeymoon.

Shangri-La upper hallwayExtending their Hawaiian stay to four months, they purchased a tract of land in Ka’alawai on which to build a Near Eastern house. It was Duke’s most private home. She lived in it part of each year until her death in 1993, when it became the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. The photograph shows the stairway leading down to the main courtyard from the entrance foyer which is lined with exquisite Spanish glass.

 Shangri-La Interior Courtyard
 Shangri-La  Courtyard GalleryThe stairs lead to an intimate garden centered on a sparkling fountain.  The surrounding covered galleries lead to gardens and the rooms of Shangri-La. In contrast to the stark unornamented façade of white stucco, in interior walls are lined with ceramic tiles and objects collected from Central and South Asia, North Africa and the Near and Middle East.

Living Room at Shangri-LaMany of the significant pieces in Duke’s collection were displayed in the living room. The pierced screen window overlooking the garden opens for inside/outside living – the glass drops down into the floor and the pierced screens fold back.

Mihrab tilesOver 7’ high, this exquisite lustrous tiled mihrab, c. 1265, from Iran is the treasure of the room. A mirhab is a recess or niche in a wall that indicates the direction of Mecca.

Conversation CornerA more intimate conversation area with the mihrab on the right and left, an arch decorated with beautiful tiles.

 Baccarat ChandelierThis huge Baccarat chandelier hangs in the dining room. Before Duke died, there was a more eclectic mix in the house. Now as is consistent with a study center, the house is more exclusively focused on the Arts of the Islamic World.

Shangri-La Bedroom Courtyard Garden Bedroom courtyard walls bedroom courtyardIsn’t this a nice way to walk to bed? Down this covered gallery, past the lush gardens with its gently falling waterfall, is the bedroom, and visible at the end of the enfilade, is the Mughal Garden.

Shangri-La and breakwaterShangri-La from the pools to the playhouseAs judges for the Garden Club of Honolulu flower show, we were privileged to have cocktails and dinner in this magical setting. The house was open to us to walk around and enjoy. There was music on the lawns, friends to see and a scrumptious buffet supper.

Shangri-La the Playhouse and pool with Diamond HeadWith the sun setting beyond Diamond Head as we ate dessert, we too had fallen in love with Shangri-La.  Mahalo, GCH!!!!


About Susan

Susan Detjens is a former landscape painter, she lectures, demonstrates and runs workshops on floral design for museums, horticultural organizations and garden clubs across the US.
This entry was posted in Art and Flowers, flower show, Garden Club of America, Shangri-La and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Shangri-La

  1. Alexandra says:

    Incredible! How amazing and lucky for you to wander as you wished! Beautiful

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