Cristal's Blog


June 11, 2023

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It's always a great loss when the design industry experiences the passing of an influential figure who made significant contributions to the field. These individuals leave behind a lasting legacy, inspiring and shaping the work of future designers. Suzanne Rheinstein, known for her impeccable taste, timeless style, and ability to create elegant and livable spaces, has undoubtedly made a profound impact on the industry. As an acclaimed interior designer, passionate gardener, and accomplished philanthropist, Rheinstein left an indelible mark on the design world, including right here in Montecito.

Headshot of Suzanne Rheinstein, seated in a garden wearing a gingham top.
Image by Drew Blackwell

Visionary Talent, Creative Force, and Respected Figure

In the world of interior design, Suzanne Rheinstein is a name synonymous with timeless elegance and refined taste. During a career spanning several decades, Rheinstein inspired the design industry through her exceptional talent and distinctive style. Throughout her illustrious career, the AD100 designer lent her creative touch to numerous properties.

Beyond her contributions to the design world, Rheinstein was known for her gardening passion, with an ability to create stunning outdoor spaces that harmonize with the natural surroundings. Her love for gardening extended to her own home in Montecito, where she cultivated a breathtaking garden oasis.

Rheinstein's philanthropic endeavors were also noteworthy. Her commitment to giving back to the community and supporting charitable causes showcased her generosity and dedication to making a positive impact. Whether through her involvement in philanthropic organizations or her support for various initiatives, Rheinstein demonstrated her belief in the power of design to uplift and transform lives.

Early Life and Education

Born with an innate sense of style, Rheinstein grew up surrounded by art and design, spending her formative years in New Orleans. That rich cultural backdrop influenced her interest in beautiful interiors and timeless aesthetics. She went on to study art history and design, honing her skills and nurturing her passion.

A bathroom with a free standing soaking tub in front of a multi-pane wall-size with lush vegetation and an armoire in the background.

Design Philosophy

Rheinstein's design philosophy centered on the creation of harmonious and livable interiors that stand the test of time. She drew inspiration from classic design principles, infusing them with a modern sensibility to create elegant and comfortable spaces. She believed that every design should reflect the personality and lifestyle of its inhabitants, resulting in spaces that exude warmth and character.

New York City Residences

Rheinstein worked on various residential projects in New York City, including several luxurious apartments and townhouses. Her designs embody a refined elegance that complements the city's cosmopolitan vibe while infusing each space with a sense of comfort and tranquility.

Designer living room with an off-white chaise lounge and matching furniture, a beamed ceiling and sunlight streaming in though floor to ceiling windows
Photo by Pieter Estersohn

Historic Homes

Rheinstein's expertise in historical design styles made her a sought-after designer for historic homes. She skillfully preserved the architectural integrity of these properties while introducing modern amenities and custom designs that enhance their functionality. From stately mansions to charming cottages, Rheinstein demonstrated her ability to honor the past while creating livable spaces for the present.

Country Estates

Rheinstein's portfolio also includes several country estates, where she masterfully combined elegance and comfort in her sophisticated interior designs. Often boasting expansive gardens, sprawling grounds, and picturesque landscapes, Rheinstein's designs for country estates embraced the beauty of nature, bringing the outdoors in through large windows and inviting outdoor living spaces.

Boutique Hotels and Resorts

Beyond residential projects, Rheinstein made her mark in the hospitality industry. She was involved in designing boutique hotels and luxury resorts, where she managed to strike a balance between opulence and intimacy. Her careful attention to detail and focus on providing guests with a sense of tranquility and indulgence was second to none.

A serene backyard with a lap pool and 4 chaise lounges, surrounded by lush landscaping, and with moutains in the background
Photo by Pieter Estersohn

Coastal Retreats

Known for capturing the essence of coastal living, Rheinstein worked on various beachside retreats and vacation homes, including some right here in Montecito. Her work radiates a relaxed atmosphere, whether overlooking the ocean or nestled in a serene seaside setting. With a deft touch, Rheinstein incorporated natural textures, soft color palettes, and elements inspired by coastal surroundings, creating spaces that evoke a sense of calm and tranquility.

Backyard of Suzanne Rheinstein's Montecito home with a lap pool, 4 lounge chairs and the home in the background, its floor-to-ceiling windows illuminated from within

Montecito Home

In 2019, Rheinstein was diagnosed with cancer—yet in her final years, she executed one of her most notable projects: her own home in Montecito. Epitomizing her impeccable taste and talent for blending traditional and contemporary elements seamlessly, her Montecito home embraces the natural beauty of the surroundings featuring carefully curated antiques, and sumptuous textiles.

One of the defining features of Rheinstein's Montecito home is its enchanting garden. Inspired by the region's natural beauty, she created a verdant retreat that seamlessly integrates with the indoor spaces. Lush greenery, fragrant blooms, and serene water features make it an idyllic outdoor haven, where residents and guests can relax and rejuvenate in harmony with nature.

Influence on Montecito

Rheinstein's influence extends beyond the confines of her home. Through her design studio, she worked with numerous clients in Montecito, helping them transform their houses into elegant, livable spaces that capture the essence of the coastal town. Her meticulous attention to detail, knowledge of historical design styles, and ability to create cohesive spaces earned her a devoted following in Montecito and beyond.

Front covert of a book by designer Suzanne Rheinstein, with a photo of a elegantly furnished green sitting room

Legacy and Recognition

Rheinstein's contributions to the world of design have not gone unnoticed. Her work has been featured in prominent design publications, and she received accolades and awards over the years for her exceptional talent. Beyond her design practice, she also authored books that offer insight into her design philosophy and showcase her stunning projects, like her latest pictured above.

This visionary’s journey from her early days in New Orleans to her picturesque Montecito home is a testament to her unwavering dedication creating timeless interiors. Her ability to infuse spaces with a sense of elegance, comfort, and harmony made her one of the most respected designers of her generation.

By bringing her unique style to Montecito, Rheinstein made her mark on the town's design landscape and enhanced the beauty of our coastal paradise. While Rheinstein's passing is a loss to the industry, it is heartening to know that she was able to leave behind a final project that encapsulates her creativity and passion. Her home in Montecito, which I am honored to represent for sale, will continue to inspire and serve as a testament to her exceptional design vision for years to come.

Let’s all take a moment to reflect on our neighbor, Suzanne Rheinstein’s contribution to the little slice of heaven known as Montecito. If you're interested in moving in or around the luxury coastal enclave, check out my portfolio of fine homes in the area, which includes Rheinstein’s Montecito home, then give me a call at (805) 886-9378 or email me at Cristal @

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“It was an emotional experience selling our mother’s home in Montecito that we all loved so much but Cristal made the process easier on our whole family by guiding us through the transaction every step of the way. She knows the market so well and everything she recommended was on point including the asking price, painting, and staging the home, which looked beautiful and helped the buyer envision her new home. We sold it the first day it hit the market with an offer above asking! Cristal did an incredible job communicating with us and the buyer to ensure that the transaction would run smoothly. We highly recommend using Cristal, she was a pleasure to work with! ”

- J & A

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- M.F.

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- P.B.

“We have used Cristal now several times and cannot express how grateful we are for her expertise, dedication, and unwavering support throughout the entire home-buying process. Cristal is knowledgeable, patient and attentive. Her attention to detail is remarkable, and she consistently went above and beyond to provide us with all the information and resources we needed to make informed decisions. Cristal is a skillful negotiator and advocate. She can navigate complex negotiations with professionalism and grace and felt like a true partner to us in the home-buying process. Cristal has a genuine passion for real estate and a deep commitment to her clients' satisfaction. I cannot speak highly enough of Cristal and her exceptional service. She is a true expert in her field and her dedication to excellence, combined with unwavering support is the reason we choose to work with her for all our real estate buying needs.”

- T.C.

“Cristal is a top-notch realtor who sold my home before it ever went on the market. I had two competing offers that enabled me to get top dollar for my home. Not only is Cristal superb but her team is extraordinary. I cannot say enough about Cristal and her team. They are simply phenomenal, the consummate professionals, who took care of every possible detail, making the sale and transition period, smooth from our end. They are also lovely, caring people, who knew all the right professionals, to get the job done. Thank you, everyone!”

- D.R.

“I could list lots of cool adjectives to describe Cristal. All good by the way. But, that is not why I or anyone should hire Cristal. My reason for hiring her, which proved to be correct, is very simple. She got the job done. And, she does it time and time again and with zero issues. And, that is why she is one of the top agents in the country. End of subject. ”

- M.A.

“Working with Cristal was a complete pleasure. Cristal was extremely patient with us as we evaluated nearly 2 dozen homes over a span of 2 years. Her knowledge of the market is unmatched. Cristal provided us with exceptional counsel as we evaluated opportunities and negotiated pricing. The closing process was handled thoroughly and efficiently. We could not be happier with our purchase and even more happy to now call Cristal our friend.”

- D.K.

“Cristal Clarke has conducted numerous real estate transactions for me beginning 13 years ago with the purchase of a Lemon Ranch. She has handled both large and small purchases and sales with equal dedication. As a negotiator, you can’t find anyone better. Her transactions are always conducted in the most appropriate and professional manner. Cristal has considerable knowledge of the Santa Barbara market.”

- S.N. Decker Ph.D.

“Living in Europe, we were to say the least, unaccustomed to the nuances of Real Estate acquisition in California and Cristal steered us through the process with absolute professionalism and personal attention to detail at every turn. Her in-depth knowledge of the market place combined with enthusiasm and drive was the only reason we secured the property of our dreams and will be forever grateful. If you are looking for personal discrete and private representation of the highest quality we suggest you look no further than Cristal Clarke.”

- Johan and Paula van den Berg

“Cristal is very straightforward, cheerful, helpful, professional and trustworthy….we felt very lucky to work with her.”

- John and Lacey Williams

“After considering our many choices, we are grateful it was Cristal Clarke of Sotheby’s International who represented the sale of our Montecito cottage. We are familiar with Cristal’s reputation of hard work and dedication to clients, but it was her attention to detail that made our experience so positive. She offered suggestions for staging the property, worked in harmony with potential buyers and was even able to secure back up offers. The sale of our cottage was completed much sooner than we expected, due in great part to Cristal’s professional skills and support. We highly recommend Cristal as a first choice for anyone needing representation with real estate.”

- Michael & Nancy Lee

“Our experience in working with Cristal Clarke resulted in the successful and discrete acquisition of a property which was not yet on the open market. Her knowledge of the Montecito/Santa Barbara area and vast expertise blended with her passion for real estate and architecture, provided us with the very highest level of professionalism and personalized services. Cristal exhibited a rare combination of excellent communications, attention to detail, creativity and patience.”

- Richard and Catherine Frinier

“Cristal really breaks the mold. She knows every nook and cranny of this real estate market, understands value, and follows up on everything, all the time. She was incredibly patient with our two year quest to find the perfect house. Every house hunting trip from across the country was well planned, and our time was never wasted. On top of her professionalism and expertise, she is delightful to spend time with. We are thrilled with the home we purchased, and grateful to Cristal for so wisely advising us through this process, right through to the close and beyond.”

- Laurie Siegel

“We met Cristal first in the course of renting a winter home (for three years), then buying a house using her as our agent. She was amazingly good at listening to our wants and showing us homes that fit our needs. Her mastery of the paperwork was perfect. Most importantly, there was never a situation where we doubted her straightforwardness or integrity. If we do another real estate transaction in Montecito (which I doubt, we’re happy with what we purchased), without question we’d use Cristal again.”

- Ken Saffir

“Susan and I just want to thank you for your efforts in the sale of our home. You are really quite amazing. Your competence, persistence, optimism and humor made the entire process effortless. Every problem that arose, you somehow fixed; any obstacle, you overcame. We have bought and sold many homes. It has never been such a painless and enjoyable process!”

- Michael & Susan Marquart

“A little something about “our” realtor, Cristal Clarke. My wife and I came to Santa Barbara about fifteen years ago looking for a seasonal home from which to enjoy the weather and amenities of the central coast. Being in the real estate business myself I was familiar with agents and brokers so entered the market with open eyes. We “flipped” a few houses in the early years, dealing with various agents and finally ended up in Montecito. That’s when good fortune put us together with Cristal. To say we were impressed is to put it mildly. Cristal really knows the market. She is familiar with the area, its history and trends. When we have questions about a particular property she either has the answers immediately or gets back to us by phone or email. There is no waiting or wondering with Cristal. She is an agent who is “on top of it.” Her recommendations as to price points, contractors, inspectors and title agents have proven to be exceptional, showing great insight and the highest professional standards. We consider ourselves exceedingly fortunate to say that Cristal Clarke is our realtor and would recommend her services to any serious buyer or seller.”

- Rob & Judi Kelch