Simplicity, comfort at home also can be elegant

By Christine Davis

7960370883?profile=original    No muss. No fuss. Unlike many interior decorators, Suzanne Rheinstein prefers to keep decor pretty, comfortable and simple.
    Sharing the development of her design style, she’ll be speaking at the Crest Theatre in Delray Beach on Feb. 15 on  “At Home: A Style for Today with Things from the Past,” sponsored by the Grass River Garden Club.
    Her book by the same name was published in November 2010, and is now in its fifth printing.
    Rheinstein’s personal journey started in New Orleans, where she was born. Her mother was an owner of an antiques store, so, she said, she’s always had an interest in architecture and its history.    But with a major in English literature, she started off in a different direction, working for CBS News in Washington, D.C.
    “Then I moved to Los Angeles, where I was a nonfiction television producer, making documentaries, industrial films, food shows and talk shows,” she explained.
    But then she married, and when her daughter was very little, she took a hiatus from that career, eventually changing direction completely. She opened Hollyhock in Los Angeles, selling antiques, her furniture designs, mirrors, card tables, night tables and “lots of interesting things,” she said.
    “I’ve always been interested in how people live. Through the years, as a member in my book club, I’d always pick up on the buildings and interiors in the books I read.”
    She does love antiques, she admits, but she doesn’t choose to live in a period room.
“I like beautiful old things used in a cleaner, more contemporary way.
    “It’s kind of relaxed living, but not at all sloppy.”
   7960370692?profile=original

Having fewer and better pieces of furniture offers an elegant, relaxed approach to decorating.  Photo by Pieter Estersohn

 To create a relaxed look, she suggests having fewer but better pieces of furniture and decorative items.
“Rather than buy 10 things, take that sum of money and buy one thing, and you won’t have so much clutter. There’s certain simplicity to that. I’ve gone into a client’s home and have just taken things away, and the room feels calmer and more welcoming.”
    That goes for her table, too.
    “When I have people over, I often serve Southern food, something simple and delicious rather than overly fancy — like shrimp with grits.
    “And don’t put too much on the plate, either,” she added. 
    She’ll cook with fresh vegetables from her garden, and she’ll use leaves and branches in bowls for decoration.
    “I grow citrus in pots, and in the winter, I cut the branches and put them in bowls,” she said.
    “And for a centerpiece, one time I took a collection of little vases that I had and I foraged in the gardens for herbs and forest-y kind of flowers,” she said.
    In her Hobe Sound client’s home, she painted the floors light colors, which is great for bare feet, she said. And although the living room is elegant with some antique pieces, there are comfortable upholstered sofas with ottomans that can be used to stack books (or to rest your feet).
    It’s all about “pretty” and “comfortable,” but don’t forget the drama.
For example, the antique console she used in her client’s foyer is very old and the paint is peeling, but that just adds to the appeal, and sitting atop it is an old clock, a stage prop, which is interesting, but not too serious.
    Gardens, of course, are of special interest, too. She’s traveled to many here and abroad and is on the board of the Garden Conservancy, which seeks to save America’s exceptional gardens and eventually open them to the public.
    Concerning gardens, she prefers something with a little architecture, she said. So, start with a plan. She’ll use clipped hedges, but she’ll combine them with vines for a looser look.  “I like contrast, she explained. On her Florida client’s outdoor table, she used a centerpiece of bromeliads, which she thinks are interesting. In front of the high hedge are potted brugmansias.
    Rheinstein’s book At Home: Style for Today with Things from the Past, is priced at $55.  To buy it from Hollyhock, go to www.suzannerheinstein.com/books/                                      

If you go
Suzanne Rheinstein’s talk, ‘At Home: A Style for Today with Things from the Past,’ is sponsored by The Grass River Garden Club, a member of the Garden Club of America.
When: 2 p.m. Feb. 15
Where: Crest Theatre at Old School Square, 51 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach.
Cost: $50, which includes refreshments after the event.
To make reservations or for information, call 276-0189.

The club also has a free Gardeners Fair that same day, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., in the Ocean Breeze Room at the Crest Theatre, featuring native plants, unique arts and crafts and tools related to gardening.

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