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Sunnylands expands tours, adds bird-watching walks

December 31, 2012|By Scarlet Cheng
  • Leonore Annenberg decided to bring some of Philadelphia to Rancho Mirage, so she converted an indoor pool area into the Inwood Room, named after her estate in Pennsylvania. Her ornate 18th century gilt-frame mirrors, beautifully finished upholstery and antique wallpaper still grace the room.
Leonore Annenberg decided to bring some of Philadelphia to Rancho Mirage,… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)

The wealthy and well-connected lives of the late Walter and Leonore Annenberg have drawn capacity crowds to Sunnylands, their estate in Rancho Mirage. Since we covered Sunnylands' opening to the public in March, more tours have been added thanks to high demand: An estimated 50,000 have come to the visitor center so far.

Interest has been so strong for the guided tour through the vast, 1960s-Modern home designed by A. Quincy Jones and filled with custom furnishings by decorator William Haines, that the number of daily tours has been raised to 15 from 10.

"Haines was known for pairing chinoiserie and classical lines with a Modernist sensibility," said Anne Rowe, director of collections and exhibitions.  "When Patrick Dragonette [the Los Angeles decorator and furniture dealer] was visiting earlier this year, he said he thought this the largest concentration of William Haines in its original setting."

The 90-minute guided estate tour is $35. Hour-long guided bird-watching walks, added on select Fridays, are free. A 90-minute bird-watching shuttle tour, now offered Thursdays through May, is $25.

The estate has 200 acres and 11 lakes that attract cranes, egrets and vermilion flycatchers, among others. Since our original story published, a 9-acre garden by the Office of James Burnett won the American Society of Landscape Architects' Professional Award.

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