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Suzanne Rheinstein’s Amazing Montecito Makeover

by habituallychic

04 . 25 . 21

I loved seeing Suzanne Rheinstein‘s Montecito house in Architectural Digest but I didn’t realize what a major renovation she undertook until I saw the old real estate listing photos and before photos. The architecture firm, Bories and Shearron, who worked on the house with Suzanne posted some of the before photos of the house built in 1971, as did interior designer Courtnay Daniels. She posted a photo on Instagram of her architect husband Gil Schafer in the very dated kitchen and how Suzanne has bought the house sight unseen. Suzanne asked the two of them if they would check it out while they were in Santa Barbara and she was unable to travel. I think they thought she was a bit crazy as it looked like a major project but it’s a testament to Suzanne Rheinstein‘s experience and taste that it now looks like a house that is perfect for a Nancy Meyer’s movie.

Suzanne Rheinstein is my style idol. I will definitely be copying her chic look one day.

This is a rendering from Boires and Shearron. “From the outside, the house had a kind of 1970s Fire Island aesthetic,” says James Shearron. “It was totally of its moment, but it also had a kind of abstract, sculptural quality.” Adds Richard Bories, “The more we looked at it, the more we realized that it related to the early Montecito Spanish vernacular. There was real form underneath all that fashion of its moment. Now the house looks and feels shockingly different, even though we kept the building envelope.”

I couldn’t find a flooplan of the house but I did find an old aerial photo that gives you an idea of the old property layout with the large round swimming pool. It’s also strange that the driveway to the garage side of the house is cut off from the other parking area. Perhaps it was used as a service entrance for the former owner’s staff.

In the new aerial photo, you can see the footprint of the house remained the same but the outside became better integrated to the overall layout.

The big mound of mulch is not very aesthetically pleasing entrance to the former incarnation.

The new exterior is even more amazing when you realize that the only area added was a walled courtyard leading to the front door and the footprint of the house is exactly the same. The new planting and connected driveway is such a better use of the space.

Maybe it’s better that Suzanne didn’t see this house in person before she made an offer. She might have run away if she saw this dating and unwelcoming entry.

Here’s a closer look at the door leading to the new entry courtyard. It adds a bit more privacy from the road too.

There is no color used on the walls so I love that Suzanne chose a beautiful blue front door as a focal point.

The inside of the door is just as beautiful as the outside. From what I can make out from the house, you enter into a large entry area. The house has a little bit of a zigzag footprint and to the left are at least one guest room and the master bedroom suite. To the right, are the living room, dining room, and kitchen with other rooms sitting behind them and to the right.

From the entry, double doors lead to an enfilade the length of house. Off to the right are the living room, dining room, and kitchen with doors leading to the backyard from every room.

I thought this was a bedroom at first but then I realized that the tree is the one in the front of the house so it’s actually the living room. It’s a bit dated to say the least.

This photo from Bories and Shearron taken during the renovation give you closer look at that same corner. The small window sits on the other side of the entry walkway so the new design adds a bit of privacy as guests arrive.

I love how Suzanne placed this Gerald Bland table in the living room. It could be used as a game table, a place to write a note, or a place to eat a cozy meal on a cold night.

This photo from Bories and Shearron shows how much detail there is in the seemingly minimalist living room. The room runs from the front of the house all the way to the back.

Via Architectural Digest, “In the living room of Suzanne Rheinstein’s Montecito home, a bespoke cocktail table lacquered in Farrow & Ball’s Mouse’s Back stands in front of a custom sofa upholstered with Victoria Hagan linen. The 18th-century French chaise longue is covered in a Claremont fabric with Samuel & Sons trim, and the slipper chairs wear a fabric by Carolina Irving Textiles. At rear, custom wall light by Studio Giancarlo Valle.”

This is the real estate listing photo for the other side of the living room. I wonder if Suzanne kept a wet bar in the corner.

This is a before photo of the dining room. It’s half the length of the living room and there is another room that sits behind it and is accessed from the living room. Suzanne mentions a den in Architectural Digest so I suspect that might be the room. Of the den, she admits, “It’s the first time in my life I have hung a TV above the fireplace. But it’s the place I spend time alone in the winter.”

What had been the dining room became a reading room. “One thing I knew for sure about this house was that I wasn’t about to be giving any formal dinners,” said Rheinstein.  The oversized lounge chair wears a fabric from Rheinstein’s collection with Lee Jofa. Custom bookcases inspired by those of Hubert de Givenchy. On wall, plates from Robert Kime; vintage Rattan Chairs from William Laman.

The old kitchen was very dated and blocked the view of the mountains with a section that jutted out into the room and separated it from a breakfast nook.

This photo from Bories and Shearron shows how they changed the layout and opened up the room from front to back. It’s also possible that they removed a pantry and moved the kitchen back farther.

“In the kitchen, a 1960s restaurant light fixture hangs over a table from MARCH and chairs from William Laman. Island of basalt stone; Waterworks sink fittings.”

Traditional kitchen cabinets were replaced by a wall of storage.

I dream of custom kitchen storage like this shown in a photo by Bories and Shearron.

In this photo by Courtnay Daniels, we see Gil Schafer looking over plans in the dated kitchen that juts out into the room and blocks the view outside.

The seating area in the kitchen has a view of the Santa Ynez mountains. Montecito is honestly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever visited and I can’t wait to go back.

Montecito has the great weather of California but parts of it also reminds you of Provence and Tuscany.

The Rattan chairs by Palecek surround an 18th-century French iron table in the garden. 

A photo of Suzanne from her Instagram account shows her outside the door to either the kitchen or the flower arranging room on the right side of the house.

Another photos from Suzanne’s Instagram shows more of the natural beauty of Montecito.

My dream is a house with a flowering arranging room. Suzanne’s is outfitted with a granite sink and zinc countertop. It opens off the garden and I am guessing that it sits behind the kitchen and there might be a door that connects it to the kitchen and/or the back part of the house that sits closest to the road.

Suzanne said that the main bedroom and the guest room switched roles which now allows her to lie in bed and see the mountains. I suspect this room sits to the left of the entry and the French doors lead to the outside of on the left side of the house. You can see a room that has doors on that side in the rendering.

“In the guest room, antique Italian side cabinets flank a custom bed upholstered in a Rosa Bernal fabric. Bedding by Julia B. and Deborah Sharpe linens; Room & Board throw.”

I thought this was a before photo of the master bedroom but from what Suzanne has said, it was previously the guest room that became her bedroom. It also looks like a cabana or changing room for the pool was located outside the room.

There is more privacy in bedroom now that the pool has moved farther over in the yard.

“In the primary bedroom, a custom iron bed frame is dressed with fabrics by Rose Tarlow and Claremont. Bedding by Julia B. Linens; throw by 
Jenni Kayne; Louis XVI settee in a Hazelton House print.”

A view of the seating area in the bedroom from Suzanne’s Instagram account.

The old bathroom is very dated but on the plus side, it did have a lot of storage.

Suzanne’s bathroom now opens to a walled garden on the left side of the house.

“A freestanding Laufen tub forms a striking contrast with antiques in the bath. Custom-plated Waterworks tub filler.

The photo of the side of the house and pool from Bories and Shearron looks like it could have been taken in 1971.

In this photo taken during the renovation by Bories and Shearron, you can see that moving the pool allowed for an outdoor fireplace.

Via Architectural Digest, “Rheinstein is a passionate gardener, and as a board member of the Garden Conservancy she has toured many of the world’s most famous gardens. For her, the outside was as crucial and considered as the inside. She sought the advice of her friend the garden designer Nancy Goslee Power, and looked to two favorite landscape designers, Piet Oudolf and Álvaro de la Rosa, for inspiration.”

The honeysuckle-covered pergola connects indoors to outside and allows for places to sit in the shade.

“Rattan pieces found on Chairish and Etsy sit under the pergola. Cushions of Nomi and Pindler fabrics. RH cocktail Tables.”

The old round pool took up the entire area behind the house.

The new pool and landscape design by Nancy Goslee Power & Assoc. complements the Santa Ynez mountains instead of obscuring them.

“Lounge chairs from Anthropologie, painted in Farrow & Ball’s Indian Yellow with cushions of a Nomi fabric, line up alongside the custom-colored pool. Landscape design by Nancy Goslee Power & Assoc.

Another view of the swimming pool.

The garden area behind the pool.

Suzanne called this the lavender walk on her Instagram and it leads to the area behind her bedroom.

Suzanne said “she finds herself spending more time at the house than she expected, sometimes staying for two weeks at a time.” It’s easy to see why. Now, all I want to know is if she hangs out with Oprah.

Photos by Laura Rosen for Architectural Digest, Bories and Shearron, @suzannerheinstein, @boriesandshearron, and @courtnay_daniels.