Thursday, November 17, 2016

Fall Book Recommendations, Part II

High on my list of book recommendations this fall is Sunnylands: America's Midcentury Masterpiece, written by Janice Lyle, Director of Sunnylands Center & Gardens.  Home to the late philanthropists Walter and Leonore Annenberg, Sunnylands the house is a mid-century, Palm Springs-version of a country pile, one that has played host to the likes of Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Princess Grace of Monaco, and even Queen Elizabeth.  Built in the early 1960s, Sunnylands was designed by noted American architect A. Quincy Jones and furbished by the equally prominent California decorator, William Haines.  While those two associations alone have earned Sunnylands a place in American cultural history, the estate has played an important role in American political history, too, having served as a meeting place for world leaders of both the recent past and the present, including President Barack Obama and Chinese president Xi Jinping.  Is it any wonder that Sunnylands now finds itself the subject of this compelling monograph?

Organized as a room-by-room tour, Sunnylands is notable for its large, full page-sized photographs, which go a long way to giving the reader a striking impression of the house's interiors.  Supplementing the lavish room shots are (large) detail images that provide the reader with an intimate look at the home's furnishings.  Equally as interesting is the book's text, which is concise and, at the same time, highly engaging.  Readers and photo-gawkers alike will find this book has much to offer.

One final note: the book's hardboard covers are genius.  Meant to simulate the quilted, sunflower-strewn fabric seen in the third photo above, the textured covers, coupled with the book's numerous photos of Haines's hallmark trapunto quilting, will, I predict, get people interested in quilted fabrics once again.

Bunny Williams' latest tome, A House by the Sea, just might be the next best thing to a Caribbean vacation.  An in-depth look at La Colina, the Dominican Republic retreat that the designer shares with husband John Rosselli, A House by the Sea is a paean to island living, with its intoxicating mix of swaying palm trees, tropical breezes, and inviting blue waters.  While the book's interior and exterior photos provide the reader with plenty of design inspiration, it is Williams' practical notes on how to furnish an island home that make this book a primer on ocean-front decorating, too.  Although I have no plans to buy a coastal home anytime soon, if I ever do, I know which book to consult before embarking on a decorating scheme.

Joining Williams in this literary excursion are a myriad of guests who have darkened the door of La Colina, including architect Gil Schafer, antiques dealer Angus Wilkie, and landscape architect Page Dickey, all of whom provided lively essays on Williams' idyllic retreat.  And I can't write a review of this book without mentioning the coterie of dogs that call La Colina home. Cleo, Marco, Blanco, and Bob appear throughout the book, and well they should, too.  A house just isn't a home without our four-legged friends joining us.


© Marianne Haas

© François Halard

© François Halard

Also earning a place on my bookshelves is François Catroux by David Netto.  A longtime fan of Catroux, I had been anxiously awaiting this monograph of the man who many consider to be the premier decorator in the world.  Although I was disappointed that some of my favorite Catroux projects were not included in this book, François Catroux is still very worthy of being required reading for anyone interested in the greats of twentieth and twenty-first century interior design.  The sheer range of the designer's work- starting with an ultra-contemporary look in the early Seventies, then shifting to a sumptuous version of traditionalism in the Eighties, and now situated somewhere in-between- is impressive and will likely give readers much food for thought.

© François Catroux by David Netto, Rizzoli New York, 2016

If you're looking for a guidebook for your next trip to Paris or seeking a gift for a Francophile friend, may I suggest Paris by Laduree?  With text by Serge Gleizes and sumptuous photography by Pierre-Olivier Signe, this stocking-stuffer-sized book is filled with sophisticated suggestions on the best- and most classic- restaurants, food emporiums, retail shops, and museums that the City of Light has to offer.  Included in this guide are Le Grand Véfour, Azzedine Alaïa, Dior Joaillerie, Hôtel Drouot, and Musée Jacquemart-André.  This book is a real charmer.

Contessa Brandolini D'Adda: At the Brandolinis’ Left Bank apartment, which surrounded a courtyard, a Venetian exuberance was contained within a traditional 17th-century French building. In her bedroom, the contessa (dressed by Cardin) rested her hand on the head of a 17th-century cutout of a Dutch boy. Behind her, a sepia wash drawing by Victor Hugo. © Condé Nast

Nancy Lancaster: From the 18th-century portrait above the drawing-room fireplace, the pet dog of the Roxburghe children (in van Dyck suits) gazes down on Mrs. Lancaster’s scarlet-collared whippets. The walls, covered in aquamarine silk, were decorated with Chippendale appliqués. The carpet, Aubusson. © Condé Nast

Kenneth Jay Lane: Another view of the hall. Hanging against a mirrored wall: a pair of antlers engraved in the 16th century with a landscape. Below the antlers, a 17th-century Italian chest of ebony inlaid with ivory figures, placed on a polished-chrome stand. To the left, a 19th-century American horn chair. © Condé Nast

Having owned the book Horst Interiors for years, I was unsure if I needed to add Around that Time: Horst at Home in Vogue, written by Hamish Bowles, to my library.  I assumed that this new book contained much of the same imagery that appeared in the previous Horst book.  How wrong I was.  Yes, you will likely be familiar with a number of the Horst photos and subjects in Bowles' book, but it also features so much that is new to me.  Homes of Bill Blass, Kenneth Jay Lane, and Nancy Lancaster appear alongside those of Oscar and Françoise de la Renta, Karl Lagerfeld, and Horst himself.  Does it get any better than that? 

Around that Time is a book you will want to purchase for your library, and it's one that will not accumulate dust.  Already, I have perused it multiple times, and my enthusiasm for it shows no signs of waning.


  1. Hello Jennifer, The modern interiors here look so comfortable and livable. The Horst designs are more outré, but have lots of flair. The Bunny Williams house is outstanding--without too much density, everywhere there is something interesting to look at or pick up.

    1. Jim, so many good books have been published recently that it's practically an embarrassment of riches. Not that I'm complaining!