For every thankful Sunnylands visitor who’s ever wanted to take a bit of the cherished landmark home, there is now “Sunnylands: American’s Midcentury Masterpiece,” a weighty, lushly illustrated book penned by Janice Lyle, Ph.D., who has served as the director of Sunnylands Center & Gardens since 2008.
Sunnylands is, of course, many things. It is the former winter estate of media mogul and U.S. Ambassador Walter Annenberg and his beloved wife, Leonore, with its gargantuan private home now open for reasonably priced public tours worth every penny. It is a Center & Gardens open to all people free of charge. And it is a retreat devoted to international diplomacy, one some people have termed Obama’s “Western White House” due to his multiple visits during his presidency.
All of Sunnylands’ many faces are represented between the quilted covers of this Stephen Drucker Book very recently published by The Vendome Press. Its more than 250 pages are bursting not only with generous text written by Ms. Lyle (plus a foreword by Rancho Mirage designer Michael S. Smith, who created the interiors of Sunnylands Center & Gardens and of the Obama White House) but by vivid vintage interior and exterior photographs reproduced alongside brilliant original contemporary images shot by renowned Palm Springs architectural and interior photographer Mark Davidson. All of them pay homage to the structure, furniture, artwork, and other accouterments of this Midcentury Modern gem.
The tome comes replete with the original drawings of architect Quincy A. Jones, and with sketches by William Haines—a silent movie star turned interior designer and decorator—and his partner, Ted Graber. (It must be noted that the current interior of Sunnylands is the only preserved public showcase of any private interior by Haines, who designed for the likes of best friend Joan Crawford, Carole Lombard, Gloria Swanson, George Cukor, Betsy Bloomingdale, and Ron and Nancy Reagan during their California governorship years.) Two personal letters from Haines to Annenberg are themselves worth the purchase price of $60.
But there’s so much more to this time capsule of an album: photos of Walter and Leonore with their famous guests (seven former presidents, Frank and Barbara Sinatra, Her Serene Highness the Princess Grace of Monaco, and Barbara Walters but to name a few). On page 194 and 195 you’ll see reproductions of guest registers boasting the autographs of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Dolores Hope, among that of many others. Turn to pages 218 and 219 to see not only the February 27, 1983 guest list of a luncheon honoring Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II during her visit with Prince Phillip but the seating chart and the menu!
“A comprehensive book on Sunnylands’ remarkable history had not been published since 2010, two years before the estate was opened to the public and converted into a venue for high-level retreats and international diplomacy,” says Ms. Lyle. “[This] was an opportunity to share the architecture, interior design, art, and glamour of the estate’s past and to highlight its current mission to facilitate international agreement.”
The author will sign copies of the book—available for a reduced holiday rate—at Sunnylands’ Gift Shop from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. on December 1. To discover all that Sunnylands Center & Gardens offers—from house tours and temporary exhibits to birding walks, Friday yoga on the great lawn, and family Sundays—please visit www.sunnylands.org. And tell them Diana sent you!