Arts & Entertainment

The House That Myra Built

A rare look at the creativity Myra Janco Daniels brought to her Pelican Bay home—just before she started dismantling the collections for her move to Ave Maria

BY February 2, 2015


Myra Janco Daniels answers the door, smiling. It was early last fall, just after she announced she would leave Pelican Bay for a new home being built in Ave Maria. Packed full of precious mid-century furnishings and exquisite pieces of art, this creative space has been kept private for many years. Now she is ready to share.

Inside, on walls painted deep, vibrant colors, she positioned her collection of prized artwork—among them pieces by Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, Henry Moore, Helen Frankenthaler, Wolf Kahn and others. Her precious furnishings are from designers such as Bruno Paul and others and in varying styles. For the seven years that she’s called this place home, Daniels has expressed her personal creativity here.

She never uses interior designers, insinuating that would spoil her fun.

Instead, her house manager Ryan Warner, a designer himself, and she dicker and collaborate their way through her home design projects—five in the last 17 years, to be exact. At least one was in Chicago.

Call it creative tension, but 
the relationship between the two apparently works. “The most creative thing you can do is build your house, arrange your house,” she says.

Daniels, in her late 80s, is no stranger to creative tension. She was
a pioneer in advertising, starting her first company in Terre Haute, Indiana, and at age 38 breaking the glass ceiling to become executive vice president of 
a large firm in Chicago. She sold the company to a creative director named Draper Daniels, who created the Marlboro Man as one of his campaigns and is said to be the model for the Mad Men television show.

The two worked together and eventually married. The man whom she affectionately calls “Dan” passed away in 1983. Certainly, she says, the two of them “had that thing” that is shared by people who marry their creative match.

In Naples, Daniels is known
as the woman who founded the Philharmonic Center for the Arts.
 It’s time, she says today, that she move to Ave Maria—outside of Pelican Bay where, daily, the building that houses what is now known as Artis—Naples looms large. Despite an obvious disconnection from an enterprise that once filled her life, Daniels stays positive and focuses
on newer philanthropic projects, including a performing arts center and Mother Teresa Institute at Ave Maria University.

Inside her private Pelican Bay space, Daniels walks through her home, sharing the remarkable details of her collections. She points out several pieces: Frankenthaler art that hangs over the mantel, a Bruno Paul chest, a Josef Hoffman chair. “I think there’s art in furniture,” she says. Mid-century chandeliers dot the house. There’s
at least one antique Asian chest and another piece that came out of a “Japanese general’s home.”

She casually points out a 1930s impressionistic painting by William Starkweather, the first piece of art she bought as a working woman, she says.

Recently, Daniels has hosted numerous gatherings in this space, allowing donors and patrons of her special causes to enjoy the warm ambiance. One event turned into a sit-down dinner for 75, after starting out as a small dinner party for 20. She had planned to do the cooking, but when the crowd grew, she handed over the recipes to a group of volunteers and played host as guests were seated at tables arranged both indoors and out, around her swimming pool.

A renowned cook who has often entertained in her home, Daniels shares a story about her $5 million soup. After serving her homemade tomato bisque to two guests, years ago, she was given a $5 million check. At the time, she was soliciting funds to build the place she will always call “The Phil.”

Today, she shares decaf coffee and cake on a tray placed on her 1930s dining room table. She talks of visiting Rome last summer in a small group headed by Ave Maria President Jim Towey and accompanied by a handful of others.

This project and some others have brought new excitement to her life. “You have to know your mission,” she explains. (She’s talking about life, not just a single philanthropic project.) The Salvation Army’s Latchkey League is another of the primary beneficiaries of her fundraising talents. “My mission is to help kids,” she adds.

At Ave Maria, Daniels marvels at the vibrance of students as they welcome her on campus. She optimistically looks ahead to the completion of her new home there, the editing out of her art and furniture, and everything else involved in the big move.


Iconic Entertaining

When Daniels entertains, guests gather around the dining room’s 1930 gnarled walnut table. Above is a glass and silver chandelier, circa 1927, by Atelier Petiot. The sideboard was created in 1933 by a German furniture maker, and above hangs an impressive Art Deco piece, a rare French zodiac mirror. To the rear, the palm lamp is a 1960s piece by Mason Charles. Prints above the sliding door are by Mexican artist Guillermo Fituerua, whom Daniels calls “a dear friend.”



Furniture as Art

A 1930s Madagascar ebony desk in Cuban style is one of many precious pieces of furniture positioned in Myra Daniels’ Pelican Bay living room. It was created by Andre Savoy of France. Also in the room are a Marino floor lamp, circa 1932, and a black laquer art deco chair from Cuba, circa 1928. Stained glass is by Daum and over the seating area is artwork by Joan Miro entitled The Grand Coordinator. Hand-dipped Mexican tiles cover the home’s floors, providing the perfect backdrop for mainly Persian area rugs.



A Prized Soup

Always one to entertain at home, Daniels’ fully updated kitchen has been busy during the last year as she’s hosted myriad fundraisers that benefit her various philanthropic causes. She reports once receiving a check for $5 million when building “The Phil” as a couple sipped her homemade tomato bisque.



The Home Office

Pieces of Chihuly glass are displayed in the home’s two-tiered library and a piece by Alexander Calder hangs above. A 1920s library table has doubled as a dining table when the home overflows with dinner guests. The rug here is from Russia. “It has a full loft,” says Daniels, who uses the room as her main workspace. “And you can go up there and sleep on the couch or you can play bridge.”



A Small Gallery

Bruno Paul chairs are adorned in Larson fabrics in one of the home’s rear hallways, providing an easy resting space for enjoying the outdoors or works of art that hang nearby. “It’s a little private museum,” Daniels says of the gallery space.



Steeped in Character

Daniels’ private backyard swimming pool echoes the architectural design in the home’s rooftop. Most rooms in the home have lush views of the surrounding tropic gardens. The Pelican Bay house is being sold as Daniels moves to Ave Maria.



Want more? Here’s a video tour inside the home:

721 Teal Court MLS#214043772 NOCG from The Naples Studio-Drew Townsend on Vimeo.


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