As the sun dips behind the grand mountain range, a golden hue sets the valley ablaze, lighting up the grassy, flower-coated fields and tree-lined streets in the most glorious finale to another magical day in Ojai, California. Yes, this is heaven on earth. It's why so many Angelenos seek out this spiritual space as a weekend escape from the bustling city. Creating a retreat-like home was a key part of the brief for Deborah Rhein, an interior designer and the founder of D.L. Rhein, when tasked with redecorating this four-bedroom, four-and-a-half bath, and 4,705-square-foot home in the Ojai hills.
The 2.37-acre property, complete with panoramic mountain views, is the epitome of peace, and her clients wanted to dial that zen factor right up by turning it into the ultimate weekend family getaway to unplug and unwind. After meeting in college, Rhein says the creative couple started a successful production company together that now produces a number of popular documentaries and television shows. "With two little girls and a big family on both sides, we wanted to create a Shangri-La for the owners and their guests traveling from near and far," she tells MyDomaine. "Weekend getaways, family events, and holidays have this house bustling all year round. Any way to make it calm and soothing was the ultimate goal so that every visit [would be] magical."
The end result is a tranquil space where you can breathe and get away from it all. Ahead, Rhein shares her style notes and the renovations that turned this house into a home.
Rhein's main goal was to ensure that everyone who entered it felt instantly at home and completely relaxed. "We wanted the owners and their guests to melt into the super-plush sofas and piles of pillows," she explains. This feeling is conjured in the heart of the house: the living room. It sits right in the center of the home, and even opens out to the pool. "Kicking back with a glass of wine in front of this fireplace is always a good idea," she adds. "Our favorite find was the vintage loomed wedding bench. A Moroccan tray turned it into the perfect coffee table and a conversation piece."
When selecting colors, Rhein wanted to match the natural aesthetic of Ojai. That meant lots of wood in the "hue of the indigenous trees," with white furniture to create a clean foundation. "We kept it fairly neutral throughout the home, adding some unexpected touches in each room," she notes. "Our clients are world travelers, and the subtle tones and styles from their favorite places inspired and influenced how we chose to decorate the space."
The magic of this room is in the large, arched windows that allow the warm Ojai light to fill the neutral space and bring the room to life.
Her "modernized vintage" aesthetic fit in perfectly with the client's brief, with a focus on sophistication and comfort. "My passion has always been to recycle and repurpose well-made furniture to create a unique piece with lots of character," she says. "I am always—I mean always—on the hunt for the next great find, and curious to make a house a home that fits the personalities of the residents."
This year marked the first of a new family tradition: hosting Thanksgiving in Ojai. When they couldn't find the right table, Rhein had one custom-made so it would fit the aesthetic and spatial needs of this room. "I designed the dining room to blend between the open kitchen and living room," she says. "Layering the room with sheepskins and fresh plants brings the outside in and enhances the natural and relaxed vibe that fills the house. An olive tree and vintage olive pots are an homage to their European travels."
While this house is large, it doesn't feel overwhelming, as each space is "cozied up." Rhein adds, "Many things are easily moved from room to room as needed. It is impossible to not feel completely relaxed when you walk through the doors."
The kitchen is where the biggest renovations took place. They eliminated the upper cabinets, added open shelving, and installed a backsplash of concrete tile behind the stove. "The entire house was painted white, [which was] a much-needed change from the existing yellow walls," she says. Apparently, the floors were red concrete when the couple moved in, as the prior owner was going to put in hardwood. "I loved the idea of the concrete, so we sanded, polished, and sealed it, making it ideal for a home where traffic is constantly flowing inside and out," she adds.
Crafting the perfect kitchen wasn't about spending a lot of money. In fact, Rhein loves a mix of high and low with old and new. "These barstools were inexpensive and just what we were looking for," she says. "I'd rather put the budget toward an outrageous handmade cement tile."
The silk-cashmere pendant brings a gauzy and soft light into the space. This was strategic so that it didn't compete with the stunning backsplash behind the stove. "We wanted that to be the focal point of the room," she says. And it certainly is.
To add to the modern farmhouse vibe, the team sprinkled copper baskets throughout the space and turned vintage French serving boards into wall art. This cements that "rustic and laid-back lifestyle," which Rhein says "carries into the way they entertain their guests."
The kitchen island brings the room together while creating a central hub where the homeowners can entertain their guests, too.
Whether walking around their newly planted vineyard or hiking in the mountains of Ojai, Rhein wanted to give her clients a place to hang their hats and kick off their boots. "The property is surrounded by lavender, so we couldn't resist bringing that aromatherapy into the home, as well," she says. We love the coziness this entryway has, while not forgetting the practical needs of the space.
The overall zen-like aesthetic runs through each room in the house. Rhein loved this "cohesive style," and made sure all the textiles, rugs, and small furnishings could be interchanged. In order to differentiate the master bedroom from the rest of the house, she went on a treasure hunt to find a distinct piece. "Our first find for the house was this antique rug I purchased on a trip to Paris," she explains. "The soft pastel hues are the exact color of 'The Pink Moment,' which is a phrase known by locals to describe the awe-inspiring sunsets reflecting off the Ojai Mountains."
Each piece in the bedroom was carefully considered, with elements reflective of the family's essence hung on the walls to bring sentiment and character to the space.
French doors open out to the backyard as well as to the central courtyard, so sunlight is always spilling in, making the bedroom the perfect place to wake up or catch a nap.
While there are several grand rooms throughout the house, Rhein turned the corners into decorative nooks for those quiet, reflective moments when the family can take a breather and read a book or enjoy the scenic views.
According to Rhein, the house is constantly filled with guests, so the den, which is nestled at the back of the house, provides a "hideaway" for those wanting to enjoy a drink or a great movie on the back patio. "We found some of our client's silkscreens from past projects and put them up as unexpected art with a great pop of color," she notes.
No corner was left unnoticed, including this blank wall, where they brought in a vintage metal tub and filled it with spare pillows and blankets for those family movie nights.
The dreamy aesthetic runs through each room in the house, but it's amplified in the bedroom. "We flipped over this hanging rope pendant from one of our Belgian vendors, and that was the trigger for the room," she says. "Form and function at its best. I love how it looks like an art installation while providing a soft glow."
The texture-rich styling increases the coziness of each room. Take this quiet corner, for example. The vintage cane lounge invites you in with tasseled throws, pillows, and a soft sheepskin rug beneath your feet. The sunlit window on the side seals the deal.
When looking at the spectacular yard, it's hard to imagine its former state—but when Rhein first started on the house, the courtyard was nothing but dirt. So they added gravel, tiled the entryways, and filled them with olive trees and vintage European pots for a cool Mediterranean feel. "We always strive to find unique pieces for every project, but that's hard when looking for upholstered outdoor furniture," she says. "I'm not going to lie—after looking into any and all options, no one does outdoor furniture better than Restoration Hardware. We filled in with vintage tables and stools and Moroccan pom-pom throws from our store for crisp nights around the fire. The teepee is a fun hideout for the kids in between dips in the pool."
Despite having a "time-sensitive install period," Rhein and her team managed to finalize the project in just three trips from L.A. "I still can't believe we did an entire home that fast," she says. "Planning was crucial, so [on] every trip we did, we made major progress. We wanted our clients to have a place to go to on the weekends away from the chaos of the remodel that we were simultaneously doing to their primary residence in Pasadena."