Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Step inside Sun Valley

New book by valley residents celebrates local homes

This "Territorial Homestead" in Sun Valley, built by owner and architect Austen T. Gray, is featured in Alan Edison's book "Sun Valley Architecture & Interiors." Gray's intent, the book relates, was to create a home reminiscent of an original Old West homestead. CREDIT: From Sun Valley Architecture and Interiors by Alan Edison and Jo Rabjohn, photos by Tim Brown. Text copyright 2006 by Alan Edison. Photos copyright 2006 by Tim Brown. Reprinted with permission of Gibbs Smith, publisher.

For the Express

Going in and out of homes for clients over the years, American West Gallery owner Alan Edison decided he'd like to put together a book of the rich diversity of domestic architecture and interior design he encountered.

"I found wonderful and unique homes, with personality," he said, explaining the germination of his idea for "Sun Valley Architecture and Interiors" ($50, hardcover, Gibbs Smith, 2006), which includes a history of the region, vintage photographs, paintings and posters. The book, which Edison produced with co-author Jo Rabjohn and photographer Tim Brown, has sold nearly 1,000 copies in its first month.

"I was lucky enough to have things fall into place," said Edison about the process of bringing his idea to coffee tables across America. But you get the idea that his luck is of the self-made sort.

"Three years ago, I was fortunate to meet a gentleman who became a client. I looked on his credit card and saw that his name was the same as a publisher of art books that I buy." Edison pitched his idea. "He loved it and asked for a proposal," recalled Edison, who instead, delivered a mock-up of what he had in mind. Gibbs-Smith delivered a contract.

Edison searched for a local photographer and found Tim Brown, a graduate of The Community School and Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, whose work has appeared in Sports Illustrated, The New York Times and Architectural Record. Then the two went house hunting.

"I had a list of homes I thought would represent the valley," said Edison. They weren't necessarily his style of house—Edison specializes in American folk art, vintage Sun Valley posters and Western antiques and collectibles. "But I also love contemporary homes and different styles." He and Brown were looking for more than houses: they were after homes—"homes that really reflect the personalities of the owner," Edison explained. "They had to reflect passions and interests, instead of the vision of architects or interior designers."

When they'd pared the list down to 18, Edison, who admits to being "a visually oriented fellow by nature," wrote the text. Then he tossed it in the garbage. He needed a professional writer. Not long before, he'd become acquainted with Newport Beach, Calif., native Jo Rabjohn. A freelance writer and illustrator, Rabjohn had written and illustrated children's books and taught at Parson's School of Design in New York. Just as important, she was unfamiliar with Sun Valley. Edison suspected her "new eyes" would bring a fresh perspective to the project. Rabjohn moved to Hailey and began writing.

Then, one day at Atkinsons', Edison ran into Mariel Hemingway. "She's a wonderful woman—I've known her for years," he said. When he asked the longtime Ketchum resident to write the book's forward, she immediately agreed. Michael Engl, son of famous Sun Valley Ski School Director Sigi Engl and another of Edison's longtime friends, offered his photo archives.

When pressed to name a personal favorite among the homes, Edison flips to the chapter titled "Artful Sanctuary."

"All the elements here are very rustic in a way. They have potato silos as guest quarters! Everywhere you look, there's something whimsical or wonderful. It's comfortable, with great furniture by Thomas Molesworth." Molesworth's cowboy style furniture from the '30s once graced the homes of the Rockefellers. But that's just part of its appeal, explained Edison. "It's a warm and wonderful place, infused with the spirit of the people who live there."

A book signing party, complete with Edison's signature margaritas, will take place at American West Gallery in Ketchum on Friday, July 7, during Gallery Walk. Chapter One Bookstore will host another book signing on Sunday, July 16, at 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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