Inside the Rarefied Heads of Jim Dahlgren and Allan Duck

Brooke Hortenstine. Artwork by Rob Wilson Illustration for
October 29, 2012

They had me at “coat of arms.” Walking through the showroom halls of Dahlgren Duck & Associates, owners Jim Dahlgren and Allan Duck pepper their sentences with bespoke, Sheik and my favorite aforementioned three. The duo fly relatively under the radar despite their over-the-top field of expertise: outfitting the Gulfstreams and Oceancos for extremely private and particular clientele such as the King of Saudi Arabia and Oprah Winfrey. Dahlgren Duck can produce almost anything dreamt up for transportation, restaurant, club or hotel — be it custom-sized aircraft bedding, a roll of monogrammed MYDraps or the occasional $5,000 fork.

Custom knows no bounds. What are some of your luxe designs?

Custom crystal (height, diameter, capacity and weight appropriate for aircraft cup holders); titanium flatware for aircraft; customized umbrellas with exotic skin-wrapped handles and sterling-silver collars.

Those who’ve received Dahlgren Duck invoices.

Paul Allen, The Sultan of Brunei, Warren Buffet, Arnold Palmer, President of Mexico, Enya, Sergio Garcia, President of the Ivory Coast, Harrison Ford, Royal Family of Abu Dhabi, Steve Wynn, Ed McMahon and Donald Trump.

Memorable invention.

A crystal flute with a sterling-silver base, fitted with interior lighting to illuminate the champagne bubbles.

Requests that have made you wince.

AD: About the only requests that make us wince are those with unreasonable delivery expectations.

Most elaborate order.

Integrated dinner services and interior amenities for a wishing-to-remain-anonymous head of state’s Boeing 747-400. The VIP sections required custom molds for each china pattern, all with hand-painted finishes, and custom-shaped sterling-silver flatware with gold embellishments, set with semiprecious stones. The custom-molded Baccarat crystal carried the Royal emblem and had grooves to fit into sterling-silver bases also inset with semiprecious stones. Embroidered table linens were produced in pure linen flax; throw blankets were designed of woven cashmere in custom colors, with the reverse side in custom-colored silk.

Your stranded-on-a-desert-island desire from your showroom.

AD: I’m classifying our incredible sleep experience package as one item: 100 percent Egyptian combed
Mako cotton satin-finish bed linens by Rivolta Carmignani of Italy, Ogallala down pillows and
mattress enhancer, and Vi-Spring bed. 

JD: Jura espresso machine with a box of Illy coffee.

Fantasy client.

JD: Frank Lloyd Wright said, “The accessories become the living design and art of a home or environment.” He designed custom flatware, hardware, dinnerware, etc., and he would have been great to work with. I had a chance to work with Faye Jones, a pupil of Wright’s, and it was a magical time.

Bespoke Boeing — items fabricated specifically for aircrafts.

• A food and tea service trolley available in various precious-metal finishes as well as ebony with shagreen touches, Santos Rosewood with shagreen or a rich cream-colored leather trimmed with black anodized aluminum. Front and rear face plates lend themselves to the addition of a royal crest, coat of arms, monogram or logo.

• A coffee mug in microwaveable gold or platinum. Developed 25 years ago, it is the first to have a raised handle and is the appropriate diameter to fit an aircraft cup holder.

If Dahlgren Duck had a theme song, it would be: 

JD: “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang.

AD: “Take it to the Limit” by The Eagles.

Number of pieces in the most commodious dinnerware service.


Dahlgren Duck has outfitted.

Any Rosewood Hotel and Resort; The Setai Fifth Avenue in New York; The Mark Hotel in New York,
The Jefferson Hotel in Washington, D.C.; Brook Hollow Golf Club in Dallas; The Eldorado Country Club in Palm Springs; and Falling Rock at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Farmington, Pennsylvania.

Best client brainstorming.

JD: One client was looking for cutting-edge design and never-before-produced dinner services. I suggested we try and secure some moon rocks from NASA — we could cut and polish them, and then inset into a set of flatware. To think we could offer (at the time) the richest man on earth something no one else had was priceless. NASA would not release the moon rocks, as they remain a rare and protected commodity, so it is still out there to be achieved!

You’re given $10,000 with the condition that it must be spent at a casino. What game do you play?

AD: I am not a casino gambler, deferring to my father’s advice that, “If you have money to gamble (at a casino) then you don’t need to … and if you don’t have money to gamble, you can’t afford to!” However, as per your question and its stipulation, I guess I would play Baccarat.

JD: One roll of the dice for double or nothing — I don’t want to waste time gambling on things out of my control.

By land, air or sea ... your favored way to travel?
JD: Private yacht over private plane because the enjoyment with family and friends is much more lingering!

Three “d” words that make you happy. 

AD: Desire, dedication, delivery (on time)!

JD: Daring, darling, diligent.


AD: To support the shrinking number of true artisans in the world who make our one-of-a-kind magic possible.