America’s Midcentury Masterpiece

By Janice Lyle

Foreword by Michael S. Smith

Photography by Mark Davidson

256 pages

10 x 12 in. , portrait

More than 200 color illustrations

Hardcover with jacket

ISBN 978-0-86565-331-3

US $60 / CAN $75 / GBP £35

PUBLISHED: Oct, 2016


"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."
The New York Times

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Sunnylands was the Versailles of the Space Age.  The pinnacle of midcentury style, there is no other house like it anywhere: a stately home with a giddy pink roof designed by A. Quincy Jones, one of California’s most important architects; and the only completely preserved interior by California’s great decorator‑to‑the‑stars, William Haines.

Walter Annenberg built his fortune on the racing form and TV Guide; his wife, Leonore, was raised by Columbia Pictures chief Harry Cohn, her uncle. In the early 1960s, they flew their Learjet to Palm Springs, bought two hundred acres of desert in nearby Rancho Mirage, and created their modernist dream house at the center of their own eighteen‑hole golf course. But like the dukes and marquesses of England—Walter Annenberg had learned well as American ambassador there—the couple were really building a seat of power, where politicians, movie stars, and corporate leaders could meet, relax, reflect, make deals, and run the world—all with nobody watching. For four decades an invitation to New Year’s at Sunnylands was the ultimate social prize. Their best friends, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, would land Air Force 2 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, bushy sideburns, Scaasis, and unimaginable power.

With its pastel green and yellow interior, its dazzling collection of Impressionist paintings, and long, low sofas that look like vintage Cadillac convertibles, Sunnylands today is a passport to the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s, kept as fresh as the day it was built. In Palm Springs, the mecca of midcentury modern architecture, this extraordinary survivor is considered the undisputed masterpiece. Getting a ticket to visit does not come easily: every newly announced tour sells out within hours—at $40 per ticket.

With this book you will be able to examine the drawers and the closets, the Flower Power wallpapers, the intricate quilting and embroidery on Haines’s candy‑colored furniture, the dinner‑party 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 forty contemporary photographs, personal snapshots, letters, and other ephemera, and with a foreword by Architectural Digest contributor Michael Smith, Sunnylands will be on the coffee table of every fan of midcentury design, and everybody who loves the fashions of the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.

"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."
Elle Decor

"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."
Los Angeles Times

"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."
LA Confidential

"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."
Houston Chronicle

Janice Lyle, the Director of Sunnylands Center & Gardens, has been at the estate since 2008, when Leonore Annenberg was still alive. She has deeper knowledge of the house and its contents, and more access to the Annenbergs regarding Sunnylands, than any other nonfamily member. Lyle has lectured extensively on modern architecture and lived in one of Palm Springs’ most famous midcentury houses, Frey House II. Her connections and contacts in the Palm Springs region are extensive: She was the Executive Director of the Palm Springs Art Museum for thirteen years, as well as the president of the California Association of Museums, and has served on many nonprofit boards, including United Way of the Desert.

Michael S. Smith is an American interior designer based in Santa Monica. He is responsible for the 2010 makeover of the Oval Office and furnished the private living quarters for President and Mrs. Obama. Michael Smith designed the interiors of the Sunnylands Visitors Center, emulating the aesthetic of the historic house, and the concepts of its original designers, William Hayes and Ted Graber. Michael Smith is a frequent visitor to the Palm Springs area, where he maintains a historic house in Rancho Mirage.

Interiors photographer Mark Davidson is a Southern Californian native who is based in Palm Springs. He has shot assignments for Smithsonian, the Getty Museum, and The Hammer Museum.

Julius Schulman (1910–2009) was an American architectural and interior photographer best known for his documentation of California midcentury architecture and design.  He photographed Sunnylands over nearly fifty years, and this volume includes outtakes and photographic rarities, including a suite of works created at Sunnylands in the late 1990s.