Internationally celebrated designer Suzanne Rheinstein learned about beautiful design early during her upbringing in New Orleans.
“I loved Jackson Square and the building in the French Quarter where I was reared,” she told Interior Design magazine.
She also cited “the shotgun cottages in New Orleans” — along with the Parthenon — as structures that have endured as inspirational resources.
Longue Vue House and Gardens brings Rheinstein home this week, welcoming her back to town with two events: a reception tomorrow night, followed by a lunch and presentation Thursday.
The events celebrate the publication of the designer’s second and newest book, “Rooms for Living: A Style for Today with Things from the Past.” Published in October 2015 by Rizzoli, the 240-page book features narrative by the designer, illustrated by dozens of color photos by Pieter Estersohn.
A one-time television producer, Rheinstein has parlayed her design savvy into Hollyhock, a popular home furnishings shop in Los Angeles, and into a line of fabric and rugs for Lee Jofa.
When she opened Hollyhock 25 years ago, Rheinstein said she did it to “sell all the things she loved for the home but couldn’t easily find in Los Angeles.” The list includes antiques, vintage and new items, anything from a pair of 1950s-era Regency-style “spoon back” chairs to an early 19th century Neoclassical arm chair to a new (Rheinstein-designed) acrylic console in a “Chinoise” style.
For the fabric line, Rheinstein borrowed ideas from the antique textiles in her personal collection to design fabrics in solids, prints and stripes, rendered in silk, linen, mohair and cotton. In her latest venture, the line of rugs, she adapted traditional Eastern and ethnic designs and produced them in muted palettes by using vegetable dyes.
In “Rooms for Living,” Rheinstein organizes chapters based on the use or function of rooms in a house or apartment: entrance halls, living rooms, dining rooms, powder rooms and bedrooms.
Each chapter is introduced by a short narrative that expresses Rheinstein’s design philosophy.
Regarding the entranceway, Rheinstein says it “should be a welcoming and thoughtfully arranged space that beckons visitors through and invites them to stay.” (A place for keys and dog leashes is also a desirable feature, she says.) Living rooms are “a mixture of very comfortable upholstery and carefully curated furniture … This mix of furniture is one of the things that gives these rooms their individuality.” Rheinstein believes that bedrooms should be places “to relax and to sleep” and notes that only one bedroom in the book has a television: “And that one has a discreet sitting area for watching.” In powder rooms, she advises that “an imaginative wall treatment will bring all the elements of the room together.”
Rheinstein also writes chapters on retreats (a library, perhaps) and outdoor rooms. “Not everyone is passionate about working in a garden, but most cannot resist the lure of living in a garden,” she notes. Rheinstein admits she would likely be a gardener were she not a designer.
Anyone who wonders about this worldly designer’s affection for her hometown need only consider this passage from the introduction to the book: “When I was growing up, I loved looking out of the windows of the car as we passed the many kinds of buildings in New Orleans. There were — and still are — pastel-colored shotgun cottages, nineteenth-century white confections on St. Charles Avenue, the more classically designed buildings in the French Quarter, and marvelous old buildings in the Warehouse District that I still associate with the indelible scent of roasting coffee.”