by Posted On

As I recall;  this was a great question.  However;   it had too many components for me.  Bottom line was (just for me)  “Did your life turn out the way you would have liked it to?”

My answer is a resounding YES!!!  EVEN BETTER!!!  I had a mother who led the way!  (she was 40 when I was born..unheard of in 1947)!

I am a very “lucky duck”!   I loved certain things when I was a little girl.  Animals (especially dogs);  colors, furniture, tables, lamps,  ash trays, boxes, flowers, vases,  dishes, fireplaces ,andirons; dressers, pictures, windows, bathtubs.  Sinks, rugs, wallpaper, curtains…..chairs,….sofas (I knew somehow never to call them “couches”); colors, windows, doors……more than that but that is enough!

Can you imagine the nightmare from hell having me as a child born in 1947  (there was a war before me;  but I never paid any attention to it…except I adored and continue to adore the idea of the “Victory Gardens”!!!

I was rearranging the furniture at my own house and everyone else’s I visited.  ( Fortunately I had a lovely and charming mother,…and her friends actually liked what I did!!)  (they were outside)  I got lots of compliments!  They didn’t move stuff back.

There wasn’t a job I had ever heard of called a “decorator”;  until I was 13  (now I was rearranging EVERYONE’S FURNITURE)!!

My mother gave me a copy of “A House in Good Taste” by Elsie de Wolfe.  My mother said……”This is what you want to spend your  life doing!!”  I read that book.  It stuck in my head.  (this is a job??)  It really wasn’t.  (maybe a few;  very few). Elsie de Wolfe was the very first “decorator” in the United States.  There were very few when I was in high school.  Fewer on the West  Coast.  (The best, my mother thought was Frances Elkins.)

I was “not asked back” to 5 schools in Pasadena;  sent to boarding school in Massachusetts….. (“not asked back” there either)!  I blessedly landed amongst some nuns!  Holy Child Nuns at Mayfield School.  They directed my energy and saved my live!  They also encouraged my visual gifts and arrangement of furniture!!!!  How lucky can anyone be????

Holy Child Nuns in Pasadena whose small school was in the most beautiful house ever.  (It had been a house of cousins by marriage!)

I got into USC “on probation” because of my “godfather”;  anyway, I got straight A’s in liberal arts as an English Major.

That is my idea of studying “decorating”!!!

Never thinking it was a real job (which it wasn’t, really) I decorated my first little cottage in Pasadena….. then with the constant encouragement of my mother;  She helped me get my “resale number” to buy wholesale; and I “did” her house……then her friends hired me….my friends hired me…. my business went up in  a way I could never have imagined!!


Then the most important thing happened!!  I was all “right brain” and loving it!

But; My mother died….and I was divorced…..and I had to get serious about finances……(that left brain doesn’t work very well!)

I fell in love with my husband Adam; and married him and he agreed to be “in charge”!!!

Adam  is the left brain genius!!  He took over and made my business a “real business” and I could take  jobs I could never have done before he was at the “HELM”!!!

My favorite thing is to create environments for children to grow up in;  families to nurture in and make happy and lovely memories in!

Comfortable and welcoming and happy environments!  My dream was to create these places for families to grow up!  See and learn about beauty!

My dream also  was to be “published” in a magazine!  YIKES!  House Beautiful, Traditional Home;  (twice), and many others!

From the time I was 5 years old…….I have lived my “dream”!  With the help of many others!!!

My first bookkeeper…my cousin Paulette…to all my divine assistants…….(many of whom are “superstars”)!!!; and my husband Adam who sold his large company  (over a  thousand employees…….(it wasn’t IBM)  and took over running my business as a real “business”!!!

I was able to take on jobs like (Charlie Munger at Sea Meadow)  and many other enormous commissions!

Dreams do come true!

I also hoped for seven children!!!  I had one; daughter;  inherited two lovely step-daughters!!)  And managed my career the whole time!  I had one child…… with the help of the two stepdaughters……I now have seven grandchildren!!!!!

There is a wonderful painting I saw at around 24; in my friend Jean Fox Fowler’s studio of a girl in a hat with a few geese around her.  I saw it and I said………”OMIGOD….I HAVE TO HAVE THAT!!”

He said….”Oh good!  That is a painting of YOU!!!”   I cried.  It was exactly the dream I had for myself !   Now I am walking around with my straw hat on;  the ducks do follow me……I have on a long white skirt.  It is calling in its prophesy!!!  I never put that together until now!

I am going to add it to this blogpost!

IMG_8446 (1)




Now I have ducks (wild) chickens, grandchildren, birds and  wildlife….everywhere around. me. And I am still creating houses for families…….

It is quite astonishing…..all my dreams have come true. Even more!  We just hatched the second set of ducklings (wild mallards i our pond)  this year!!!   (and I see 8 eggs in another nest box!)  Two has broken a record for 17 years…….3 sets of baby mallards?  YIKES!!


We have chickens…..hatch chicks…….live in a wildlife haven.  Even after we built our house…….who bought the  house next door on two sides??  Oprah!  How good does it get! She is the most magnificent……(I don’t need to tell you!!)

Keep you posted!



  1. debra @ 5th and state

    i really liked you before i knew your story, now i am in love and utterly amazed! wonderful to see someone with a passion & a talent whom believes in themselves and goes for it. you have crafted a beautiful life for yourself penelope and for so many others.
    i want to know more!

  2. Penelope Bianchi

    Thank you so much Debra! Read my old posts! There are some doozies!!!! my favorite it “mu mommies wedding..” discovered by my favoirite!

  3. Penelope Bianchi

    What a lovely compliment…….and I thank you so much!!!


    Love the painting of you and the geese………….YOU know I too had geese and a duck named DONALD!The animals and the furniture and the garden…………keep us busy!
    I had an older MOTHER TOO!!!!ARE you keeping track!!!!

    1. Penelope Bianchi

      Of course I am! Do you think I don’t know a soulmate when I meet one?? “Kindred Souls”!!!! That is what my superstar friend Bob Schulenberg says about you, also!!! (He’s on New York Social Diary”)!!!

      1. Penelope Bianchi

        Can you believe that painting was painted in 1972???? And look at what I wear every day! It is kind of spooky!! Don’t you think? I didn’t dress like then!!! Amazing!!!!

  5. Rié|Portobello Design Blog

    Penelope this is charming! The only thing missing was a cup of tea by your pond! Thank you for sharing! xx Rié

  6. Wendy Allen

    Penny, what a wonderful story! How blessed to have found an environment that nurtured your talents! You and Adam make a great team. Thanks for sharing!!!

  7. Taylor Greenwalt

    I loved reading about your life…do you remember when I came up and visited you? My parents health was starting to deteriorate and I had shared with you a little about them…my dad passed away last July and my mom passed away the end of March…my mom was also encouraging of my art…she let my brother and I paint murals on our walls and decorate our rooms. We were both very blessed to have mothers that encouraged out creative talents.

    1. penelopebi@me.com

      I will never forget your visit! Never! And I will never forget your blog post about your visit which I posted as well! I must repost! (I keep getting lots of requests for reposts from new subscribers!!) You told me about your parents the day you visited. I am so sorry for your losses. I think it is a gift to them that they were fairly close together in “going up”; (I learned that expression in New Orleans….and I treasure it!)
      We were indeed so very lucky to have mothers who encouraged our talents……the older I get the more I realize we are rare indeed! My new beautiful and talented associate thinks we should start giving “speaking engagements” (She and I) to young people to encourage them to “follow their passion!”

      Adorable….and a great idea! We just have a lot of projects right now….but she has a great idea there@ Do you think?????

  8. Karena

    Penny you are truly an inspiration to all who desire to make their dreams come true, to live a passionate and fulfilled life. Thank you so much for sharing your story!

    The Arts by Karena
    Coco Chanel: Three Weeks

  9. penelopebi@me.com

    From: Poppy

    Message Body:
    Hi Penelope!

    an email post from Poppy in Crete!!!:

    I wanted to leave a comment on your post, ‘Did My Life Turn Out the Way I Thought’, but couldn’t log in. In any event, here it is:

    What an intriguing post, Penelope! I loved reading about your journey to becoming a decorator. What an interesting life you’ve led so far! Your mother sounds like a sweetheart, and way ahead of her time. Thanks for sharing!

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