I never had the opportunity to meet her in person, unfortunately.  Rather, she once was a guest on our precursor to today’s podcasts – The Skirted Roundtable (listen here.)  She was a gracious guest, her words flowed easily as she recounted her early days in television and how she tiptoed backwards into interior design by decorating her friends’ houses.  She was a literature major in college, but first learned about art and design from her mother and grandmother, growing up in the Garden District of New Orleans where her mother had a small shop.   She would follow in her mother’s footsteps with her own, though not so small decorative shop, Hollyhock.

The Designer Extraordinaire?

Suzanne Rheinstein 

Here, a photo of Baby Suzanne and her parents.


  Mr. & Mrs. Frederic Rheinstein 

Suzanne married a colleague from her TV documentary days, Fred Rheinstein.  She told us on The Skirted Roundtable that her husband was disappointed when she gave up her media work – he had planned that they would toil into the sunset, together.  Instead, motherhood to her little girl, Kate, took precedence. When her daughter turned eight, she opened Hollyhock which became a major destination for designers from here and there.  Her own interior decorating business was never on a grand scale like some other big name designers.  She preferred to keep it a bit smaller, working on fewer jobs at a time with a manageable sized staff.  This allowed her the ability to fill her client’s homes with curated pieces – one of a kind gorgeous antiques, unique pieces like a pair of gilt mirrors, or a rare antique chair, or a unique crystal chandeliers.  Her eye for placing these rare, beautiful antiques and art works placed her in the upper echelon of interior designers of our time.

  She had that natural eye for interiors and antiques that can not be taught.  It is a born ability.  And she had a love of symmetry which proved invaluable when placing antiques on table tops or hanging plates and art on walls.

Rheinstein especially loved to visit house museums in towns she vacationed in, and her favorite was Villa del Balbianello on Lake Como.


Villa del Balbianello on Lake Como  


An early version of Rheinstein’s LA house with her English styled armchairs.

Along with designing houses, Rheinstein designed furniture, her arm chair with large bulbous arms was based on traditional English designs, as were other chairs she sold at Hollyhock.


Suzanne’s iconic racetrack coffee table.

    Her racetrack ottoman was also much admired – but it was its perfect proportions and craftsmanship which made it one of her most coveted custom creations.  The racetrack ottoman was born from an antique, a Napoleon III windowseat, which Suzanne had bought for the opening of Hollyhock.  The original was immediately sold, and she realized she would have to recreate the  ottoman herself – which she did, over the years, for scores of clients and customers.

The ottoman came upholstered with trim or slipcovered with ruffles.  Some were tufted, most not.



Then, there was Rheinstein’s  line of fabrics at Lee Jofa which was indistinguishable from their English counterparts.  She wanted her printed fabrics to look old and faded, not bright and shiny new. 


Daughter Kate Rheinstein Brodsky used her mother’s floral linen in a guest room.

Lee Jofa’s floral by Suzanne Rheinstein were designed to look like the back side of brighter chintzes.  A design trick of Rheinstein’s was to often use that back side of linen fabrics to create the illusion of aged, faded linens found in upper class mansions.

In this beautiful garden room, a Lee Jofa floral was used on an antique frame sofa. Notice the Hollyhock ottoman with rosette trim, Bob Christian mural, and @vladimir.kanevsky porcelain flowers.  Rheinstein continually used Christian and Kanevsky on her projects.


I first learned about Suzanne from two sources, but which came first, I don’t remember.  One was a project that was published in a décor magazine.  It was an apartment she had decorated in Los Angeles for a young couple which I became obsessed with.  Her English styled armchairs featured prominently in that story and I wanted a pair so badly.


The LA apartment was an early project that cemented my admiration for Suzanne.  Her arm chairs were an inspiration and her use of shades and curtains became another.  I also loved the ying and yang – good furniture and fabrics mixed with cheaper items like seagrass matting or fabric curtains mixed with matchstick blinds.

The second project that captured my imagination came when a client of mine produced a photo of the Rheinstein project known as The Virginian Horse Farm –  which the client asked me to help her achieve the same look. 

Suzanne Rheinstein’s friendship with the couple from Virginia proved to be fortuitous.  She worked on their horse farm and it was published in several national magazines.  This project put Rheinstein in the spotlight which lasted throughout her career along with their dear friendship. The horse farm was updated and republished a few times, along with a second vacation home they owned, and more.

And so, I learned practical design rules and ideas from Suzanne by studying her published projects from books and magazine and also how to handle decorating and redecorating a house through the ages via the Virginian horse farm.


            Practical Design Rules and Ideas I learned from different Published Projects of Suzanne’s:    


1.  When young and starting out:  Buy one good antique each year and in five years you will have five good pieces – one for each major room in your house.

This is bible to me and so important.  A good antique in each important room is something to build your design around, from house to house.


2.  Match elegant silk or linen curtains with lowly shades bought on the cheap.  Use a ruffled trim on leading edge.  Line curtains with checked fabrics, otherwise the lining looks like underwear from the 1940s!!



3.  Use details like microwelts on upholstery.  Suzanne used microwelts on the slipped chairs which elevate the craftsmanship of the slips.  Tiny details customize a room.

4.  Always think of the frame of an upholstered piece and what it adds to the design. 

That’s a wonderful thought – the outline of furniture.   Furniture looks best with a graphic outline.  Here, two antique chair frames lend a curving line to a room filled with straight edges.

5.  For sofas, use 80% down, 20% feathers on the cushions.  For decorative pillows, use 100% down.


6.  Have fewer but better things.

I’m still learning this lesson!

7.  Use linen or cotton floral fabrics on the wrong side. If they are too bright or strong, turn them over for a softer, subtler look.  OR, just choose a fabric that has a soft, muted look. 

This bedroom is so gorgeous, so soothing, so cozy and inviting – all due to the fabric.  



8.  When decorating, think about the negative spaces.  

9.  Design around a few pieces of fabulous furniture.

11.  Use small antique tables, everywhere.

 12.  Think of foliage in vases instead of just flowers.  The arrangement will last longer.

Note – this is another gorgeous room using just a few fine curated pieces, such as the settee, the nightstands, and the round window emphasized by the custom headboard.

13.  Salvage handpainted wallpaper and use as framed pieces.  Suzanne’s own wallpaper fragments came from her husband’s parents, whose wallpaper was divided amongst the children.

14.  Mixing high and low together.  In her Montecito home, Suzanne used the lowly seagrass rug and white linen slips mixed with high end antique furniture.


15.  Use mostly antique accessories, such as mirrors and sconces – giving the eye a beautiful landing pad.

The Virginian Horse Farm and What I learned about updating a house using the same pieces in different ways. Here is that fabulous house and how Suzanne decorated it:



The farmhouse was originally set on 350 acres and the house was built in 1914 in a grove of white oaks.  Today, the estate is some 30 acres filled with garden rooms the owner designed that are reminiscent of an English country landscape. The Blue Ridge Mountains are the backdrop to the estate.   In the 1930s an Englishman owner covered the white clapboard house with red brick, to evoke Monticello. 


This commission was probably the most important one she ever did.  It introduced Suzanne Rheinstein’s name to the world.



BEFORE:   At first, Suzanne used a yellow striped wallpaper, green runner, and floral curtains in the entry.   The view into the hall shows yellow walls and a room with red walls.


AFTER:   Later, the rug on the stairs was removed, the walls were repapered in a yellow pattern and a tufted sofa replaced the skirted table.  In the back hall, a mural was added, which leads off to the dining room.  The study is no longer red walled, but yellow.

And here, new plain curtains replace the chintz ones.  Also shown is the new furniture in the room – the antique console, the mirror, but the most exceptional piece is the five legged French chair! 


Suzanne commented on all the changes in the farmhouse:  much of the upholstered furniture were classic designs she had made in her workrooms in Los Angeles.  When their antique and art collections grew,  they were moved from room to room.   Some of the upholstered furniture went to their children during the redecorations, but nothing was thrown out. 

LESSON:  In other words – buy right the first time, and you will always be able to use your furniture again and again, and then pass it all down through the generations.


AFTER:  The family room off the foyer was originally painted red, but later it became a French yellow.  The iconic racetrack ottoman was moved from the sunroom/living room.  It’s original green velvet and fringe trim was changed in favor of a ruffled linen fabric hem.  The rug is a lowly coir, updated with a painted pattern, making it appear a fine rug.  The large chinoiserie hall clock is a stunner, as is the tufted chair. 

LESSON:  Mix high with low, as in the coir rug with handpainted design. This keeps décor from being too precious.


And in the room next to the sitting room is the office, in pure English country house style.  Eventually, another outbuilding was erected which became the office for the estate.


The outdoor porch was glassed in with the original brick floors remaining.  This became the main living room surrounded by French doors on all three sides. 

I think this room remains a masterpiece from Suzanne.  It was completed probably at least 30 years ago and was later updated a few times, but this version is just perfection.  As usual, there is the typically English apple matting rug mixed with fine French and Italian antiques and upholstery covered in chintz.  Especially attractive were the charming accent pieces – the painted screen and hat box made into a side table.

LESSONS:  Add a piece of sculpture or garden item in a dress room for texture.  Mix in a painted piece or two – including some painted furniture mixed in with the brown.



In this photo, the furniture was mixed up a bit – the hat box lands under the console.


The other side of the room repeated the chintz on the sofa.  Suzanne added what would become her trademark – detail such as the ribbon trims on the sofa and chairs.  The racetrack ottoman was covered in velvet with fringe – this was the ottoman that was later moved to the front sitting room and recovered in linen ruffles.  The horse motif painting was repeated throughout the house.

Through the doors was the dining room.

After:  The living room got a large overhaul.  It was less an English Country House and it became more of a chic French salon.  The biggest changes were the crystal chandelier and the center skirted table. Originally there was not glass on the skirt, but later she added one.   More sophisticated chintz was changed out for the previous one.  The larger upholstered chairs were changed out for a sleeker shape.


LESSON:   Suzanne kept the curtains,  they worked with the new décor and rather than change them just to make extra commission – they were cleaned and rehung.

After:  Bad photo.  Here you can see a more sophisticated ottoman was chosen, tufted. The sofa was changed out for a French settee.  Above the fireplace is the portrait that was on the opposite side of the room.

After:  Later a glass top was added – one thing I might have ever disagreed with Rheinstein on!!  LOL  I don’t care for glass on skirted tables.  It’s personal. 

But notice on the left, the chintz is much less bright or English, more French. 


After:  Before in this corner, there was an oil portrait and the bust.  These were removed for this candle stand and a beautiful antique stone medallion.  There is a newly placed chair with the French styled chintz.  Also notice the beautiful pleated trim on the curtains.

LESSON:   You don’t have to stop using chintz when you go for a more contemporary or less English Country House décor.  Just choose a chintz with less color, less pattern – more sophistication.   Seeing this room designed in two completely different ways – you can see how important the chintz is and how important that fabric is to the room – even if just a pillow or two.

Against the wall are the same pair of Italian style consoles.   Where as before was the painted French screen and instead is what appears a mirror, or a modern piece of art?   And in this photograph is the first glimpse of the original brick floors!!


TODAY:  This surprise photo was found on Instagram.  It’s amazing how much still remains from the original design and how much has changed.  First, the apple matting rug remains from the first décor job Rheinstein did in this living room, the former sun porch.  The Italian console, one of two, also remains.  But the contempory art work is gone, replaced by the painting that was hanging on another wall.  The French chic chintz remains on the chair, but a new brown and white check is now there, as is a wood table, probably taking the place of the skirted table.  In the corner, the round intaglio is now gone, replaced with paintings.  There is a rather manly type chair in the room, and finishing out are a few heavy antique French baskets.  Such a change!!!  I don’t think Suzanne was behind the changes – rather the owner’s daughter, perhaps?  I must say I just love the room, and judging its versions, I like this, and the first – the skirted table version might be third even though I adore all the versions of this delightful room. 

You can glimpse into the front hall and see the yellow wallpaper that Rheinstein installed over 20 years ago still remains as does the console, lamps and mirrors. 



BEFORE:   The dining room has also seen changes through the years.  Here is the earliest version with the pink tablecloth and French settee, English console and crystal chandelier.

Notice the set of paintings – these were later moved to a bedroom upstairs.

    AFTER:  Rheinstein had the walls leading from the foyer to the hall ending at the dining room painted in a mural.  She also had the floors painted.  A beautiful dining room table was added along with a large English cabinet.

Lesson:  Again, when remodeling try to keep useful items – like the curtains – instead of changing things just to elevate the bill.   Don’t shy away from changing out antiques.  Here the mirror and prints were exchanged for more sophisticates pieces like the mirror and sconces.


BEFORE:  The kitchen and breakfast area.  Oriental styled chairs surround a large English table.

AFTER:  New chairs were exchanged for the original ones – these English chairs look so fresh in a blue and white stripe.


Another view shows the new portrait over the fireplace and the striped curtains.



The island is another antique that holds an ironstone collection.

LESSON:   Suzanne Rheinstein had a particular gift in finding interesting antique pieces.  I’m not sure where she found all her antiques.  Traveling to antique shows in Europe or did she have a picker?   What she did have was an uncanny eye at finding and placing from the largest to the smallest antique.


The library.  I believe this room had two chaises on each side of the fireplace – but this is the only view of the room we had.   The portrait above the mantel came from the kitchen.   The furniture is a mix of different styles.

LESSON:  For interest, be free to mix antiques.  Here in one room Rheinstein used English antiques, French and Swedish – years before Swedish became trendy. 



The master bedroom ran the width of the house – ending with round porthole windows.  This couple were known for sleeping single in double beds.  So, how to make two large beds look normal in a master room?  Rheinstein became known for showing two double beds in bedrooms – obviously an idea gotten from the Virginian Farmhouse.

Originally, a very French styled bed was placed – not seen was the other one.  I especially loved the way she treated the bedskirt – like a pelmet from a curtain.  Just beautiful!!

Note:  The photo of this bedroom was reversed in several magazine.  I corrected it for this story.

Another reversed photo.  Here it shows the beauty of the room with the sitting area in front of the fireplace.

Notice there are crystal chandeliers over each bed.

But later, the owners wanted a change which Rheinstein provided. 



Very needed closets were added and painted by Bob Christian, along with the walls.  New ruffled curtains drape the beds. 

Later, the master was completely changed.  Fiber rugs replaced the wool rug.  A big change was the addition of much needed closets – which were added on each side of the window.   Specialty painted Bob Christian was brought in to hide the closets and paint the walls and ceiling.  Rheinstein had Christian paint the walls and ceilings too.  But the biggest change was the bedding.  The canopy now has a ruffled edge which is ultra feminine. 

A new opening was made between the two beds.


The new bedroom design shows the fireplace and how now only one chandelier is used.  Notice the settee – with the scalloped trim in the front – a similar sofa was once shown in a Houston house in Veranda. 


This settee has the same scalloped from – in a story on Cote de Texas.  Love this antique!


The master bathroom was completed renovated.   Utterly gorgeous.

Lesson:  Use antiques where least expected – in bathrooms, master or powder.

Behind this curved wall, opposite the vanity is the bath. 

Lesson:  You can never have too many gilt or chinoiserie mirrors.  Never!

The opposite side of the bathroom.  Majestic!

An opposite the bath is the chaise longue. 

Suzanne Rheinstein claimed she was inspired by Frederic Mechiche for his bathroom above.   

Lesson:  Also be open about your inspiration. 

A bedroom shows the French settee with a simple check.  Notice the paintings – these came from the before dining room.

A later guest room – again, a muted chintz on a French antique.  The tapestry sets the décor. 

A new outbuilding was added, an entertaining space, library and an office space, dressed up as only Suzanne can do.

A view from the library, et al.

LESSON:  Use urns or vases where you can.  Faux or real antique – whatever you can afford.  They add such a wonderful outline to a room, mantel, console, table, et al.

Another angle. 

Lesson:  leather seats are a good alternative to slipcovers in rooms with high traffic.

The potting shed.


There were her three books, the last one published just a few days before Suzanne passed.

   Rheinstein’s last book, showcasing her newest projects.  A beauty from page to page. 

Click on book to order. 

Still available.

Click on book to order.

No longer available.

Her apartment in NYC stars in this book along with Bob Christian’s murals. 

If enough people place orders on Amazon, maybe they will reprint this gorgeous book.


Thank you, Mrs. Rheinstein, for all the years of pleasure you have given us.  God speed.