Renée's Magic!!

by Posted On

“Renee’s Magic” has been a difficult post!  It is so unusual, and so hard to show in pictures.  But here I go!!!

You remember from my post on her garden ;   there is a fabulous trumpet vine that goes all the way around both buildings  (that were formerly stables)

Stepping into the front door (the open one in the picture above),   I thought I was going to faint!!

The  “trunk ” of the hundred year old trumpet vine was inside! coming out of the floor and going out  the ceiling!

Renee had told me that she bought the gates, the stone pillars and wall; and the paneling in France.  She said, “I left the chateau there, but I brought  part of it home!

Just inside the front door is the “trunk” of the trumpet vine!!!  and a glimpse of the room beyond ! The antique shutters frame the doorway into the next room;

 but first, the rest of the “front room”

Turning to the right at the front door… the fireplace and the two windows you can see on the front of the house…..

and other windows to the left of the fireplace that look out to the ocean view over the rose gardens! That is where her dining table is set; and you can see where she keeps her china!

Then look straight ahead and there is the kitchen !  The kitchen is a step down, and the green marble-topped piece of furniture forms one side.  One side is a blackboard refrigerator; and you can see the stove with the hood above it.
The “entrance ” to the kitchen is to the left;  and the three sides form the kitchen!

Now stepping through the shutters

T his is the “boiserie” antique paneling from the chateau!

This is to your right stepping into the room.  Note the fragment of a seventeenth century tapestry hanging from the piano!

This is a door to a “teeny powder room


This is the teeny powder room!


Renee said that she thought there was enough paneling “to do the whole room;  but she had to fill in with these bookcases!

Everything you see means something.  The little dog on the shelf belonged to her beloved Grandmother who “left it” to her; knowing how much Renee loved it!

This is a corner near a door into the next room!

The same corner next to the french doors

  A lovely painting unframed on an easel.

This shows  the “fill in” bookcases.  They seem like they were always part of the paneling!

The wine is beautifully stored here.

This is impossible to explain!

Now we step into the next room through the door.

 Mostly bookcases;  it is kind of a combination dressing room and bath.


This lovely curtain in the corner.

   There is a bath with a shower;  the shutters above hide the “WC”

A beautiful carved valence on top of the bookcase;  and shutters on the skylight.

The closet doors.

The inside of the plaster shower!

the pebble floor.

Another  closet!

Out you go to the “bedroom building”!

Around the corner

the doors to the bedroom!

Here is the adorable Renee;  behind her her husband’s office nook with the view through the arch in the hedge!

the bed

And the enormous dog on the bed is “Bittersweet” 

This corner  has some hooks!

This is a little refrigerator and sink in the corner.

I hope I have successfully “captured” a bit of the magic of Renee!

One of the miracles here is that these old stables and this vine have somehow survived hidden and unmolested in one of the most beautiful

areas of all of Montecito!  When she got there; she said there were not many plants;  “mostly weeds”!

A reader of my blog from the South;  recognized “Renee’s style”!   How fabulous !!!  Brenda Kincade sent me copies of two articles about Renee’s two gardens in New Orleans!  She had saved them in her notebook for years!!!

In a magazine called “Garden Shed”   Spring  2002 one garden;   and Summber 2004!

I am going to try to scan them and post them.  The very same magical feeling!

One starts “A little French inspiration elevates garden decorating from a functional pursuit to awe-inspiring handiwork in two New Orleans gardens!”

one written by Kathleen Pyle and photographed by Pete Krumhardt and he did the photography of both!

Bravo Renee!

 Two of my treasures in life.

– Renee

27 thoughts on “Renée's Magic!!

  1. Pamela

    Like Sleeping Beauty’s enchanted castle!

    1. penelopebi

      Exactly! I am so happy you could see that! I was just hopelessly trying to capture with a camera…….!

      It reminded me of a song……in the “Sound of Music”! “How do you capture a moonbeam in your hand?>”

      That is what it felt like….honestly “capturing a moonbeam” with my camera.

      thank you so much for telling me……Tears came to my eyes when I read this response. Thank you.

  2. Sandra Jonas

    Penelope you find the best!! It is such a joy to find you in my inbox!
    I can’t wait for the rest of Renee’s story.

  3. Kathy Avakian

    Great pictures Penny! The age and maturity of that gorgeous trunk, wow! I love the way she brings the outside in, very natural and creative!

  4. Victoria Athens

    She surely has an artist’s eye and an artist’s imagination. Truly magical…I look forward to seeing the New Orleans gardens.

  5. Heather

    So incredibly lovely. I would be happy to share space with Bittersweet! 😉

    Penelope, now I am not in your design world but Reneé’s house makes me dream in the same way that the work of Madeleine Castaing has–is that close or am I off my rocker?

    It seems so rare these days when we see such exceptional homes, personal real homes. Thank you for sharing this!

    1. penelopebi

      You are not one bit off your rocker!! It totally reminds me of Madeline Castaing! I was lucky enough to meet her in Paris in her shop!
      My friend Emily Evans Erdman has written a beautiful book about her! You hit the nail on the head!


    One of those houses which are both beautiful and beautifully lived in, where design decisions are both aesthetic and practical and each enhances the other. One of those rare houses which look effortless and evolved rather than contrived and sudden. For some odd reason I love the telly in the bathroom – it makes it so obviously a room to be lived in and not just looked at. Pretty funky place, it seems, this Montecito.

    1. penelopebi

      It actually isn’t funky except for little pockets like this! (there is only one place like this!)

  7. Heather in Arles

    Oh hooray! I actually came back to look at all of the photos AGAIN (there is so much to take in) and so am happy to read your response! I believe I need to break down and buy that book finally.

    I love the mix of atmospheres–the colonial feel in the bedroom couldn’t be more different than the salon du chateau and yet it works so seamlessly…amazing!

    Have a wonderful week!

  8. Marsha @ Splenderosa

    I am now on your email list and look forward to reading each & every post and seeing more of your world. Have a wonderful week, Penelope…

  9. Lynn @thevintagenest

    Such a delight to find in my Monday morning emails! Thank you for sharing. 🙂

  10. Sandra Jonas

    So well said, Pimpmybricks! I couldn’t put my finger on it, but you did; “Effortless and evolved” Really lived in… Not contrived.
    I keep coming back to this post….
    Again Penny, thanks for sharing this .. you are inspirational!!

  11. mary vaughan

    Great pictures, Penny. I wonder if this is the Renee that Carrie worked for one summer. Was she in the film business?
    You are doing such a great job with your postings

  12. home before dark

    Glad to see there is another MC detective on the loose. Loved the tour. In these days of the pale and wan rooms, homes like this that are chockfull of person-ality vs same oh, same oh, is a breath of fresh air. You can see the artist eye every where and that loveliest of gifts: the power to see.

    1. penelopebi

      Oh, home before dark; I am so glad you saw this and I did hope you would love it! Thank you!!

  13. velvet and linen

    Renee is a kindred spirit!
    She has a plaster shower!
    I want a tree growing in the middle of my house. How cool is that?

    Renee has created something magical.

    When can we visit?

    xo xo


    1. penelopebi

      I did KNOW that you would die!!! I gave Renee a copy of your and Steve’s book!! You are invited!!!
      I practically had a “conniption” (my Granny used that word a lot!! Must be in my DNA!!!)
      You will adore her!

      Another “news bulletin” about this is that our valued and treasured painter “Rick” grew up with his family in the (former inn) that was right next to these “carriage houses” ; that were for the horses and carriages of the people staying at the Inn. When Rick was growing up; it was no longer an “inn” but they rented rooms; and his family lived there! He remembers the “hippies” that lived in these places; and even one guy who would wait for the “trumpet flowers to open”! He probably tended the vine for years!

  14. Tara Dillard

    Not contrived. Not derivative. Even Annie Leibovitz is too much of both.

    Not here.

    And how you knew to shoot it unstyled.

    There lies the perfection for living.

    There is a great quote from Under The Tuscan Sun something about her sister asking, ‘what was her house like?’ meaning what is SHE like.

    In a world of pottery barn, crate barrel most don’t know that question drops them from the map of old souls & kindred spirits. They can’t find their own narrative because they’ve given it away to market forces.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

    1. penelopebi

      I was lucky I could operate my camera I was in such a swivet!!!’
      Wow! It reminded me of you, too!

      Those french doors in the garden she brought back from the flea market in France; and the gardener threw away at least one pair! Sheesh!!

      Lots of people wouldn’t get those. This woman is darling; her husband is darling, and adores her! Such a special place. She was in “Garden Shed” magazine twice. I am trying to scan them; am I allowed to do that? It is gone, that magazine!

      I wrote him and said she was gaining a “fan club”!
      He wrote me back: “Starting with me!”

  15. Thoughts on Design

    Penny, This is a real home! You can tell it has a designer’s touch, but it still is wobbly and only – if you know what I mean. People live there – not a stage set. You see the garden tools. Little personal items sprinkled about. Books look like they’re read and used… The little fridge and sink corner is terrific! The skirts are such a clever and inexpensive way to dress it all up! Love it!


    1. penelopebi

      Hi! The expression “wobbly and only” yes……I get it! It resonates…I love it……I will quote it!

      Is it “southern”?

      Did you make it up?

      I completely “get it” and I will footnote you!


    2. penelopebi

      Dearest John!

      Thank you so much for this comment……again! You explain everything so beautifully!!

      You are right about it all ; and thank you!

  16. Lyndia Rono

    Oh my goodness, you are amazing at capturing the “life” of a room. I so much appreciate that you described how every “nook and cranny” connected to the next photo. It certainly allowed me to feel as though I was visiting the home right along with you. My favorite photo is of the sitting room with the mirror reflecting the opposite corner of the room, filled with books, her piano with the lovely candlestick, the old leather chair with velvet cushion, and of course, her cherished treasure from her grandmother on the bookshelf. It is beautifully photographed and deserves to appear in a magazine.

    Thanks so much for taking us on this magical mystery tour!! It was lots of fun.

    1. penelopebi

      Thank you so much for taking the time and thought to respond this way! It thrilled me; as it thrilled you! thank you so much for your comment!

  17. joni webb

    this is weird but in houston i grew up with a girl whose mother had built their house around a tree! you walked in and there was this tree int he middle of the house!

    what a gorgeous place – that living room- i have died and gone to heaven!

    1. penelopebi

      WHAT is “weird”? I love that! Do you know where it is? Can you find that house?
      Funny the things we see that are “different”; look “weird or funny” as children? I missed that phase (much to my mother’s chagrin”! (I must have plugged my ears!)
      The first time I saw a house built completely (all four sides) around a courtyard with a swimming pool that looked like a reflecting pond and an enormous tree ; I was in 8th grade. The poor boy had asked me to come to dinner at his house ( with 20 others); and then go to the dance!
      I spent the entire “dinner” part asking his mother (who had designed it all with her architect (Bob Ray Offenhauser));to take me through every square inch. She did. She became such a “mentor” and my idol for the rest of my life!!!

      I am not exaggerating!. I have a “collection of her divine and encouraging notes to me… her inimitable and unmistakeable writing!) I think she lived to be 101; her husband just “went up” at 105!!

      I will scan and see if that would work on the “blog” Fascinating…….pure talent….just like you opened a “can” “PURE TALENT on the label! POOF!! “Biji Wilcox” would have popped out!
      Ready to share……always……I learned so much from her.
      Most of all; she was completely generous in sharing anything and everything she had learned; people whom she used to make things, every idea and where it came from! I thought everyone did!
      Isn’t it too bad; everyone doesn’t!

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