The pinnacle of midcentury style, an English country estate reimagined for the American desert, there is no other house like Sunnylands. A stately home, designed by A. Quincy Jones, one of California’s most signifi cant architects, it contains the only completely preserved interior by Hollywood’s legendary decorator-to-the-stars, William Haines, that is open to the public. A new book, Sunnylands: America’s Midcentury Masterpiece (The Vendome Press, October), offers an intimate tour of this legendary property. It was the early 1960s when Walter and Leonore Annenberg visited the Palm Springs area, bought hundreds of acres of desert, and created a modernist dream house at the center of their own golf course. Like the landed British aristocracy—Walter Annenberg had been the Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s in London—the couple built a retreat, where politicians, movie stars, and corporate leaders could meet, relax, and refl ect in comfort and privacy. For four decades, an invitation to New Year’s Eve at Sunnylands was the ultimate social prize. Their good friends, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, would land Marine One on the greens. Frank Sinatra was married there. Richard Nixon’s golf clubs still sit in the men’s locker room. It was a vortex of plaid pants, sherbet pastel hats, de la Renta gowns, and socio-economic power. In hundreds of photographs and architectural drawings, Sunnylands captures the careful restoration of the estate’s historic rooms, examining the drawers and the closets, the trapunto quilting and embroidery on Haines’s iconic furniture, the dinner seating charts, and the photo albums depicting a vanished Slim Aarons world of famous faces as they are not usually seen: relaxed and unguarded. Illustrated with some seventy-five period photographs, personal snapshots, letters, and other ephemera, with a foreword by reknown designer Michael S. Smith, Sunnylands will satisfy the curiosity of every midcentury design admirer, all those drawn to the fashions of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, and all who are nostalgic for a golden era in politics.
With its celadon interior, its dazzling collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, and long, low sofas that look like vintage Cadillac convertibles, Sunnylands today is passport to eras gone by. In Palm Springs, the mecca of midcentury modern architecture, this extraordinary survivor—maintained as fresh as the day it was built—is the undisputed masterpiece.
Janice Lyle, Director of Sunnylands Center & Gardens, has been at the estate since 2008, when Leonore Annenberg was still alive. Her knowledge of the house and access to Annenberg family archives is unparalleled. Former Executive Director of the Palm Springs Art Museum, Lyle has lectured extensively on modern architecture and lived in one of Palm Springs’ most famous midcentury houses, Frey II.
Interior designer Michael S. Smith, who was responsible for the 2010 makeover of the Oval Office, designed the interiors of the Sunnylands Visitors Center, emulating the aesthetic of the historic house. He lives in Santa Monica and Rancho Mirage.
Interiors photographer Mark Davidson has shot assignments for Smithsonian, the Getty Museum, and The Hammer Museum. He lives in Palm Springs.
Imagine what treasures await in this history of [Walter Annenberg’s] fabled midcentury modern house in Rancho Mirage, California, which is now restored and open to the public. Completed in 1966 by the architect A. Quincy Jones, with rare preserved interiors by William Haines, the 32,000-square-foot Sunnylands attracted presidents, royalty and Hollywood moguls to its glassy rooms with pale clusters of low furniture.
Sunnylands: America’s Midcentury Masterpiece brings back to cocktail-fueled life the pink-roofed winter estate of Walter and Lee Annenberg. . . . At this Palm Springs oasis, U.S. presidents and the queen of England lounged on buttercream sofas and admired Impressionist paintings on walls the color of after dinner mints.
Janice Lyle’s new book looks at the history, architecture and over-the-top interiors of Sunnylands, the dazzling desert residence of philanthropists Walter and Leonor Annenberg designed by architect A. Quincy Jones and interior designer William Haines.
As election mania sweeps into full swing, Sunnylands pays tribute to a not-so-little western White House (make that “Pink House”) that for fifty years has made Palm Springs the unofficial western capital of the United States. . . a rare glimpse of that rare intersection of money, power, and exquisite taste.
The book’s pages include original plans for the home, snapshots of its midcentury furnishings and impressive art collection, and scrapbook-like photos of well-known faces kicking back and having fun. . . . An ode to many things, every page of this book will draw a wistful smile.