The Susanne Rheinstein’s Montecito Retreat, influenced heavily by the 1940’s architectural style, is considered the ‘most exciting’ house built in California up until now. Although the ambience the building emits remains somewhat nostalgic, the retreat is a lost art style and thus is quite impossible to recreate in these present times.
Rheinstein’s inspiration stemmed from her desire to find a place to call home in the area, however this search further intensified after she sustained shattering injuries to her foot and elbow back in 2015. Being immobilised for months, Rheinstein discovered a house that intrigued her with its photographs and floorplan, setting a bid upon the house on without hesitation once it hit the market. Before the grand transformation, she described the house as one ‘in pretty horrible shape’, conveying that the design or condition from 1971 of the home was not what caught her attention. In fact, it was the stunning Santa Ynez mountain views that were unforgettable to her.
She turned to renown architects, Richard Bories and James Shearron to render her assistance in bringing life back into the antique home. The two had previously worked together alongside Rheinstein’s daughter, Kate, embedding admiration in Susanne. Bories and Shearron retained the floorplan of the to-be dream home and significantly remodelled its footprint and style into one inspired by the 1970s Fire Island aesthetic, which was deemed more important.
Conventional home design elements were omitted, with Rheinstein ensuring her preferences and needs were fulfilled. As a result, there is no existent dining room, ‘One thing I knew for sure about this house is that I wouldn’t be giving any formal dinners,’ Rheinstein laughed, instead however, she included an extensive flower arrangement room off the garden. Changing the guest room for her own, meant she was able to indulge in the astounding mountain view while resting on her bed. Additionally, taking family in consideration, all kitchen chairs have wheels, allowing her granddaughters to scoot around on them. Meanwhile, the living room incorporates an authentic mix of eras and origins. This includes accentuated Portuguese style in her furniture, accompanied by vintage Italian mirrors, African spears and various antique Etruscan furniture and dining accessories. Rheinstein’s Montecito retreat also possesses valuable Lucia Fontana’s and Pablo Picasso’s works. Other cultural pieces include Japanese brush pots, and architectural fragments from India.
The former dining room became a reading room with a raised mattress Rheinstein loves to lounge with her granddaughters and share the love of reading on. Indifferent to her other many projects, the outside is held to as much importance as that of interior design. Every single room had an opening to the outside world. To soften the great exposure of sunlight, a pergola decorated by a screen of bamboo is utilised as a cover, also shielding the outdoor fireplace and custom banquette that Rheinstein spends many of her evenings around.
‘It is a very personal work by a master who had nothing to prove, no one to please but herself, and only the joy of her creativity to express,’ William Morris said.