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In Conversation with Suzanne Rheinstein

Suzanne Rheinstein

Masterful designer Suzanne Rheinstein creates traditional, but not stuffy or ostentatious spaces that feel comfortable yet luxurious. A Southern Belle after my own heart, Suzanne’s motto “Every day is all there is”, encapsulates the philosophy behind my mother’s way of life and the way I was raised back home in Mexico – stressing the importance of enjoying the beautiful things in life daily, not just for special occasions (such as ‘the good china’ or having fresh flowers at home).

Her designs have been published in all of the top design publications (including Architectural Digest, Elle Décor and House Beautiful), as well as her own book – ‘At Home’ which was released in late 2010. In addition to the success she has had with her interior design, Suzanne also has a very successful line of fabrics with Lee Jofa. A stunning collection inspired by antiquities which includes needlework, prints, linens, flocked patterns, textural solids, elegant silks and (my favourite) plush mohairs.  Lee Jofa is also planning a carpet line with Rheinstein which will be released later this year.

I am so thrilled to have this interview with Suzanne and cannot wait to hear what she has to say about design today. Please read on to get in on the conversation…

Interiors by Suzanne Rheinstein

Iván Meade – What was your first experience with design?

Suzanne Rheinstein –I grew up in New Orleans, and I absorbed a love of architecture from living there. I was always very aware of my surroundings.  And I grew up during a time when the mothers were very interested in their gardens and houses…my mother certainly was and my next door neighbor was Gerrie Bremmermann, a doyenne of decorating in New Orleans.

Interiors by Suzanne Rheinstein

Iván Meade – What is your process to find that unexpected elegance in your designs?  Each of your rooms always have a moment that is unexpected and beautifully thought-out. Does the piece inspire you to create a room around it, or do you create the room and find the perfect piece to fit into it?

Suzanne Rheinstein – My decorating is object driven…I do love it when clients have, or I find for them, one of a kind things for a room…I do create rooms with a certain calm as my clients tend to have very busy and somewhat hectic lives.  An elegant and calm room is quite nice to come home to, whether it is rustic or more city.

Interiors by Suzanne Rheinstein

Iván Meade – It is more than evident that you have a long relationship and love for beautiful antiques; or in other words, you are very selective in what goes into your designs, what makes a piece important enough to be used in your projects?

Suzanne Rheinstein  – I don’t go for importance as in provenance or grandeur, but in a certain shape and patina or well worn paint or something that is a bit magical about it…and I do like pieces that show the hand of the maker

Interiors by Suzanne Rheinstein

Iván Meade – Hollyhock has become the place to go for quality handmade pieces for many designers.  How did your love affair with quality antique pieces begin?

Suzanne Rheinstein  – I was exposed to them because they were in so many houses and then my interest took off.  My favorite period is the late 18th century and the beginning of the 19th…in several countries…Louis XVI and Directoire style in France and the slightly wonky way the Italians interpreted that, Gustavian in Sweden and Regency in England….I love painted finishes espcecillay but I think they need to be mixed with woods too, unless you were doing a period room, which I don’t do.

Interiors by Suzanne Rheinstein

Iván Meade – We love the elegance and the comfortable sophistication of your fabric line by Lee Jofa – What is the inspiration behind it?

Suzanne Rheinstein –I was thrilled to be asked to do collections for Lee Jofa and I thought of fabrics I wished we had in the  library at my studio…one of the designs I wanted to do was a floral that my most sophisticated clients would like …I wanted to do a floral that looked like the wrong side of  one of the Lee Jofa hand blocked linens…I love to use the wrong side of them…and I did that with Garden Roses…it is soft and beautiful and it is only about 1/3 the cost of the hand blocked ones.

Rugs and Fabrics by Suzanne Rheinstein

Iván Meade – What is the most practical thing that you own and what is the most rare?

Suzanne Rheinstein – The most practical thing is the Hollyhock racetrack ottoman, which is slip covered in a check in our library and covered with books and many times, feet!  The original was a Napoleon III window seat that I bought at auction…the man who ran Rose Cummings was in town when I opened and he bought it but not before I copied it…I have been making it since 1988.

Interiors by Suzanne Rheinstein

Iván Meade – What is your favourite element in nature and why?

Suzanne Rheinstein – That’s not easy, but I would  have to say foliage…our garden is mostly shapes in every shade of green and gray, with plants that just happen to bloom, flowers aren’t the point, shape and shadows are. But when the roses are blooming, as they are now (May), they are other worldly, rambling up all of the walls – and over the roof of the Back House…Reve d’Or, Mme. Alfred Carriere, Blanc Double de Coubert, Jeanne d’Arc (insane! Reaching up to the roof of our two story house) and Sally Holmes, a strumpet who runs wild.  Then when this blooming madness is over the garden is all about green and gray and shapes again.

Interiors by Suzanne Rheinstein

Iván Meade – Your book “At Home” is a great lesson in how to live with handmade pieces and how to recognize quality while maintaining an elegant simplicity – What motivated you to write this book?

Suzanne Rheinstein – I wanted to show how  these families live with beautiful pieces as well as comfortable upholstery  with children and dogs and having friends over and bringing leaves and flowers inside and really living in their houses…how having fewer things but better things is a good way to go, and how to decorate so that it evolves with your family.  I am happy to say that the book is in its fifth printing and people I meet tell me that they really read it!

Iván Meade – What is next for Suzanne Rheinstein?

Suzanne Rheinstein – I have a  rug collection coming out in the fall at Lee Jofa…it will be stocked…and I am excited about it!

Interiors by Suzanne Rheinstein

Iván Meade – Lastly, you have already created a stunning body of work with many mediums and styles, what would you like your legacy to be?

Suzanne Rheinstein -Happy and inspiring memories for the people who lived in the spaces I created…and the same for the people who have discovered  my work in books and periodicals.

I invite you to visit the stunning body of work of Suzanne Rheinstein’s website: