After her recent passing, Mark D. Sikes remembers the interior designer who inspired him and so many others
As told to KELSEY McKINNON
Photography by PIETER ESTERSOHN
Suzanne in the garden. PHOTO: Drew Blackwell.
I admired Suzanne Rheinstein’s work long before I even became a decorator. I collected magazines in which her projects were featured and found myself going back to pictures of her elegant rooms time after time. When I moved to Los Angeles in 2009, my partner and I, along with our dog, Lily, made a ritual of visiting Hollyhock, Suzanne’s beloved shop on La Cienega Boulevard, almost every Saturday. She always had the best of everything—tabletops, linens, art, and the most amazing chairs. But it wasn’t until I asked if I could interview her for my blog (and she graciously suggested we meet for lunch at the Sunset Tower Hotel) that our friendship really began.
When I decided to give decorating a go, she was the most supportive ally, encouraging me every step along the way and generously sharing her most trusted vendors. One year, she asked me to design Hollyhock’s display window for Legends of LCDQ design festival, which meant the world to me because it was still very early in my career. We occasionally appeared on design panels together, and when I was putting together my first book she invited me to her apartment in New York and went through each page with me, offering praise and support. After the release, I did a little book tour with one of Suzanne’s best friends, the legendary designer Bunny Williams, and Suzanne threw a party to celebrate my book.
“Suzanne loved green, the color of spring. It was the defining color of her career”
Mark D. sikes
The entry and façade of Suzanne Rheinstein’s retreat in Montecito.
Suzanne was famous for hosting elegant parties at her home in Hancock Park and inviting all the well-known architects, editors, and designers. For dinner, she loved to put out a buffet and serve decadent things like million-dollar bacon and cheese puffs (she was born and raised in New Orleans, after all). There were always magnificent fresh floral arrangements and beautiful napkins, and people mingled throughout the house and gardens. It felt very easy, very California. I remember conversations with her in the living room where she would excitedly tell me about the different organizations she was involved with (like The Garden Conservancy and the Los Angeles Conservancy) and the various gardens she had visited all over the world. I was so enamored by her knowledge of architecture, design, and gardening—and her passion for learning.
The last time I saw Suzanne was just a few months ago at San Vicente Bungalows. She had a scarf around her head and a big smile, and, as usual, wore a beautiful coat with a brooch. She was enjoying life as much as she could. She died on the first day of spring, the same week her book was released. The timing of it all was deeply symbolic. The cover of Suzanne Rheinstein: A Welcoming Elegance, which features an extraordinary green lacquered library in Northern California, is one of the most magnificent I’ve ever seen. Everyone knows Suzanne loved green, the color of spring. It was the defining color of Hollyhock and the defining color of her career.
“I was so enamored by her knowledge of design”
Mark D. sikes
LEFT: The built-in banquette is an ideal spot for gazing at the Santa Ynez mountains. RIGHT: A roof of bamboo and honeysuckle shade the pergola, which has vintage rattan chairs.
The projects in the book, including her own beloved getaway in Montecito (pictured on these pages), are a reminder of her brilliant ability to balance high and low, new and old. She was a master of muted palettes and textures. Suzanne was known for all these little signatures, like the slipcovered furnishings in her Hancock Park home that had different wardrobes for the winter and summer months. There’s also her three-eighths pinch-pleated curtains with a five-eighths trim going down the leading edge. I always thought that look was so beautiful, and I continue it with Valley Drapery, a treasured resource Suzanne originally shared with me.
Her daughter, Kate Rheinstein Brodsky, continues her legacy with her own design shop, KRB NYC, in New York. I will always cherish the pieces in my own home that are from Kate’s shop and Hollyhock. I will miss Suzanne’s beautiful Christmas cards with her beloved granddaughters. I will miss so many things about Suzanne. Her style and talent were truly extraordinary, but those lucky enough to have known her recognize that her greatest gift was the genuine kindness that flowed from her heart. In the end, she made the world a more beautiful place—not just in the exquisite spaces she created, but in the countless lives she touched.
The reading room looks onto the garden and pool.
The flower-arranging room includes custom oak cabinetry, a granite sink, and a zinc countertop.
NATASHA LYONNE wears SAINT LAURENT BY ANTHONY VACCARELLO coat and dress and CARTIER rings.
Feature image: The living room walls are hung with a group of pochoirs from Picasso’s Antipolis series.
This story originally appeared in the Summer 2023 issue of C Magazine.
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