HOME Home & Decor — 28 February 2015
A Q&A with the Bonnet House’s Dianna Silvagni

For this special Home issue, we sat down with the Vice Chair of the Board of the Bonnet House

By Elyse Ranart 

City & Shore: When did you become involved with the Bonnet House?

D.S.: When we moved to Fort Lauderdale in 1998, our condo overlooked the property. We have a spectacular view. I thought it was some kind of park. I told my husband that I needed to find out more about it because I wanted to make sure whatever it was would stay there. I met someone in my building that was on the board and she asked me to join a committee. I have been actively involved with Bonnet House ever since.

C&S: What are the most interesting things the property has been used for?

D.S.: One that really sticks in my mind was the time we had two male lions on the property for an Italian cookie commercial. The company that made the horse for the play War Horse made a giraffe head that bobbed in and out of a tree house window that was constructed especially for the commercial. Part of the commercial was the lions on the trail that runs around the slough. It turned out the lion part of the shoot was the same day that we had 200 school children for tours. It was quite the scheduling feat with our education director and volunteers to accomplish it all. Another memorable event is when the Amazing Race finished at Bonnet House. It was one of the few times we closed the property for the day and we all had to sign an agreement that we wouldn’t discuss it ahead of time. It was very exciting to have all the participants there with the film crew and watch as the winners came running onto the property. There are so many highlights but those two definitely stand out.

C&S: How is the Bonnet House different from other house museums?

D.S.: The Bartletts [the property, originally acquired in 1895 by Hugh Taylor Birch, was given to his daughter, Helen, and son-in-law, Frederic Clay Bartlett, as a wedding gift in 1919] were artists and Bonnet House is a reflection of their eclectic tastes and artistic talents. Most people think of estates more like castles that are cold and unattainable, but Bonnet House, because it is so personal and inviting, becomes ‘a place they could live.’

C&S: What is your favorite place on the property?

D.S. The entire property is beautiful, but my favorite spot is the veranda overlooking the water. You can sit there and pretend it is yours!

Bonnet House Museum & Gardens, 900 N. Birch Road, Fort Lauderdale, 954-563-5393.

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