Artful Interiors


I’ve been fortunate enough to meet many wonderful artists and artisans throughout my life. I would like to highlight one particular artist, Isabelle Rey, whose work carries on the proud tradition of world renowned interior illustrators.

Once upon a time, there were no cameras. If one wanted a portrait, one had to spend a fortune to commission a work by an artist. It was a symbol of status to have a commissioned portrait. The aristocracy also wanted to preserve their beautiful rooms for posterity. These lavish surroundings were ornate and wonderfully detailed. To capture these details, a portrait had to almost be photorealistic, before that term was even coined. Isabelle’s work reflects this tradition.

A “bible” for interior designers is An Illustrated History of Interior Decoration by Mario Praz. Out of print for years when it was reintroduced, I immediately bought it and loved looking at the amazing illustrations of all types of rooms.  My interests in interiors was always huge, but having this marvelous book as a reference inspired me to look at the world of interior illustration. I first met Isabelle in Paris through a mutual friend. I thought her work was amazing; such detail, the pattern upon pattern of the rich fabrics trimmed with intricate passementerie; the gleam of a gilded chair reflected in a mirror; the miniature portraits on the walls in perfect scale to the room. One’s eye could wander endlessly. These were rooms done by the great masters of layers: Geoffrey Bennison, Vincent Fourcade, Renzo Mongiardino, and later Jacques Garcia. In one of these glorious rooms, I noticed a small dog.  For those of you who know, I love design, gardens, and flowers, but my first love are my pups, so I asked Isabelle if she created dog portraits.  She said that she had never specifically focused on dogs in her work, but she was happy to portray mine. Here are two portraits she completed of my dogs The first picture is Luna and the second is of Trollop.  I am going to tell my dog story and show all of Isabelle’s dog portraits that she has done for me and others in another post…

Miss Luna above: And Trollop below:



Isabelle is a very select member to a long line of great interior illustrators. When she was young, she voraciously reproduced patterns and fragments of rooms in her house. She is intrinsically drawn to details and perfection. Throughout her career, her patrons have included designers Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé, Alberto Pinto, Oscar de la Renta, the “beau mode” of Paris society, and a fair share in the U.S. as well. She has been commissioned by Cartier in Paris, Bergdorf Goodman in the US, the Stephanie Hoppen Gallery in London, and her work has been exhibited at the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent in a one woman show.  Her particular technique is precise and miniaturist. Isabelle has been crowned the heir apparent to the genre of painting brought to its zenith in the work of the great Alexandre Serebriakoff. I first heard about Serebriakoff when a dear friend gave me a specially printed edition of his work. I cherish it.

isabelle-rey-2 isabelle-rey-1Interior Illustrations by Alexandre Serebriakoff (above)

Serebriakoff was dubbed “Europe’s Rembrandt” for his mid-20th century portraits. His vivid interiors brought his subjects to life with vivid colors and the finest details, down to unique wood grain patterns. Mario Praz described such work as “vibrant with expectation, still animated by human warmth, like a bed only recently abandoned by the man who slept in it.”

Following in the steps of Serbriakoff, Isabelle’s work is filled with remarkable detail, and her attention to natural light and shadow is astounding. For so long, such interior illustrations were a closely held resource, almost a secret amongst those “in the know.”  Those who had the wherewithal to have their interiors painted were members of a special club.  Isabelle is a French woman who has helped keep the tradition alive. Here are some of her interior works.





The extraordinary eye and the hand to paint the amazing detail is a trademark of Isabelle’s work ( above and below)IMG_4636

Isabelle currently resides in the south of France, where she collects vintage pieces of paper, along with other odds and end,s and creates ephemeral art. While she continues to produce beautiful interior portraits, she is an artist that can paint anything from pets, to children or gardens.  Her eye is like a microscope in search of every astounding detail.

The following illustrations are works that Isabelle completed for me depicting some of my rooms in Weatherstone and New York.  Next up will be the Chinoiserie Room at Chisolm House and, hopefully, a beginning collection of exotic birds which so fascinate me.


The big room at Weatherstone


The master bedroom at Weatherstone


A work in progress—the unfinished painting of my New York City living room—you can just barely see the perspective lines for the intricate ceiling in the room.

In this age of Instagram and instant digital photos, high-precision portraits are more rare and valuable than ever. Artists such as Isabelle should be celebrated for bringing fairy-tale interiors to life. She is an heiress, expert, and champion of this style, and I feel that anything that we can do to support such great talent is really important. They keep an age-old tradition alive that is forever timeless. -cr

Isabelle Rey can be contacted directly via or phone, 00 33 6 20 79 43 14 . Isabelle’s work is also available on Etsy.

de Ravenel


49 thoughts on “Artful Interiors

  1. Thank you again for always taking your loyal followers, (such as myself) into a world we would never know
    without you. Always educational, inspirational, and exceptional. I have come to expect nothing less from you.
    Anxiously awaiting the publication of your next book to add to my collection.

    Donna Chappel
    Donna Chappel Interiors

  2. Dear Carolyne.
    This post has brightened a gloomy Saturday afternoon in the UK.
    What a spectacular FEAST .So much to absorb,I will look at this post for days to come.
    I am someone who will go to the cinema and theatre and be more interested in the set direction and decor of a room or how a table is laid,than listening to the dialogue.
    These illustrations are films in themselves.
    Looking forward to whatever your next post might be.Cannot wait.

    Miss Lunar and Trollop both look magnificent.

    • Thanks Wendy Happy to bring a little sun to all of us on a wintery day. Yes one can look for days at the splendid work of Isabelle. I shall post about all my doggie portraits before too long. best, carolyne

  3. Isabelle’s art and illustrations are incredibly beautiful!Thank you so much for sharing!

    The Arts by Karena

  4. Ms. Roehm—Wonderful post, showcasing not only a gifted artist, but also the beauty of the rooms you have created!

    After reading your Paris post (and all the subsequent comments) I feel compelled to add a commentary about the incredible gifts you add to my life—all unknowing. We will probably never meet, but I will always be thankful for your incredible generosity in sharing your taste and style.

    When I am down, you lift my spirits. When I’m having a grey day, a peep into one of your well-thumbed books in my library sets my mood right again. When I am seeking ideas or inspiration for a garden, an item of room decor, a gift, or a project, you are the first person I think of. Through many tough times in my life, I have gravitated to your books—not only because they are beautiful and stylish and filled with optimism—but because they are delightfully warm and authentic. A grand lady yourself, you NEVER make your fans feel like they are poor neighbors from Missouri. In fact, you send the message over and over that style is achievable for anyone who works at it.

    I have a degree in English from William and Mary, a Masters in Journalism, two Masters and a doctorate in Psychology—and I could care less if you have a typo in every line of your blog.

    Just keep sharing the incredible magic of your perspective with us, ok, Carolyne?

    PS–If you decide to take a small group to Paris, I’m in even if I have to get a second job to pay for the trip…

    • Dear Sally,
      I cannot really begin to express how much your email means to me. I just read it to my mother who was touched by it as well. You have made me feel that my small efforts are worth every minute. I do hope our paths cross someday so I can thank you in person. Who knows maybe someday I shall guide a group of you to France, or Italy to show some of the things I so love about these amazing places. I am never going to be shy again about my typing skills because I have the endorsement of one very well educated lady who gives me hope that what I do with my books and this little blog bring moments of happiness on a gray day. Thank you kindly –carolyne

    • This was written so well that I can’t possibly add a single word. Apparently she too seeks out the pleasure that your books, photo’s, and articles provide. You must know that you inspire people in a very profound way.
      Thank you,
      Mary Goldenberg

    • Dr. Sally Mounts said everything in her email to you, Carolyne that I
      had wished I could say every time I read your blogs and your books,
      and yet couldn’t come up with the words. Thank you Dr. Mounts for
      saying it so perfectly. It describes how we all feel about Carolyne.

      Thanks for making my day.

      Donna Chappel

  5. Carolyne ,this is Just magnificent and breathtaking.I shall enjoy this post for days on end.
    Miss Luna and Trollope are wonderful.Thank you for sharing all this.

  6. Wow! I can’t decide which is more amazing, the interiors themselves or the portraits of the interiors. A simply astonishing talent. Thanks for sharing. XOXO

  7. Dear Carolyne,
    You will never know what a mentor you are to me — opening my eyes to worlds I never fathomed!! You’re a welcomed, envied and (above all) beloved inspiration to all your loyal followers.
    Thank you!

    • Thank you Justine ( I always have loved that name, Justine) for your kind comment.. These comments keep me doing this cr

  8. Thank you Carolyne for taking the time to share Isabelle’s
    wonderful art!

    Breathtaking rooms and drawings.
    Trollop’s drawing is unbelievable too, so real!!!
    From Barcelona

    Muchas gracias,


  9. Greetings cr !

    It is always a pleasure to look at your talents away from the crazy World….

    Knowing your past fashion design as perfection, I must tell you, your interiors are unreal !

    Enjoy the beauty you sure through photos…

    Samuel Brock

    • Thank you Samuel—It is somewhat the same world —both are based upon the same design elements-line,color, texture proportion, but interiors incompasses the spatial as well. cr

  10. Dear Carolyn,

    Thank you for introducing us to this remarkable talent! The attention to detain is extraordinary and it is wonderful to see a talent that can beautifully portray your “pups” as well as your amazing interiors. I look forward to all of your posts and wish you well in all your current endeavors and I am so glad you seem to have made a full recovery from your accident.

    Best Regards,
    Alan Murray

  11. I don’t often yell out WOW! when I’m reading a blog, but that’s how I started off with this particular one.

    Each of these images is so eye-poppingly gorgeous. Not only gorgeous, but a wonderful tutorial into a history of the arts I was unaware of.

    Isabelle’s work is so detailed and remarkable — I just checked out her work on Etsy and her attention to detail is amazing. Really enjoyed the ‘peek’ into your home these paintings allow.

    It’s a grey-sky day this morning here in my part of the world, but these paintings are like a big blast of sunshine!


  12. I find sketching makes me a better photographer as well as a better writer for it makes me study the light and see what is before me. It also instills a greater reverence for masters such as Isabelle Ray. It does seem as if the owner stepped out of the room for a minute. Her portraits of your dogs, amazing. Thank you for bringing this artist to our attention. As always your blog is a bright spot in the gray of winter.

  13. Carolyne,

    This is simply lovely. I learned so much from reading this, and Isabelle is certainly very talented. I look forward to seeing more dog portraits!


  14. Thank you, Carolyne, for the wonderful post and beautiful images. You continue to amaze and inspire me with the elegance of the world you share with your readers.

    Gwendolyn Smth

  15. the doggies are just grand + one talented lady Is Isabelle + you have made my day carolyne + thank you for the introduction

  16. How vibrant! How alluring! Thank you so much for sharing these and supporting artists. I went to Isabelle’s Etsy store. Simply divine.

  17. Carolyn dear,

    What a most exceptional talent she posses, truely amazing detail I just cannot imagine !


    Sorry to leave the message on your blog but I have no other contact information.

    Fondest Regards,

    Sorry to

  18. Beautiful, with such amazing detail. I am always so envious of artists who can conjure images and perspective in mind, and then breathe into life on canvas. Oh to be able to see inside their minds for just a minute. Thank you for sharing. What breeds are your dogs?

  19. Wow,wow, is almost impossible to believe these are paintings..incredible ..I might hang up my paint brushes for good..I’ll never come close to this !!!!!
    Xo. Weasy Blodgett

  20. This is one of the best posts I’ve read. You are a remarkable writer and visionary. I echo everyone on here when I tell you that my day is a little brighter. XOXOXO

    • Thank you Patti—she is incredible— as one friend wrote makes you want to rethink painting and maybe give up watercolors so much to learn so little time….cr

  21. In your line that reads “I first heard about Serebriakoff” you write “limited addtion” where I think you mean, “limited edition”.

    I am the one who gripes about typoes, but in the end I think this does you a favor–and it shows who is reading carefully.

    The English majors here who think it is not important to point them out, are not in your best interest.

    • I know you are right—I did mean edition!!!!!! Good lord what am I going to do? Went to see Still Alice and was so upset that I write things like that to really scare myself!!!! cr

  22. This story takes me on a journey. I can close my eyes and feel like i am in these rooms. This post sparkles and shimmers.


  23. “Wow” is indeed the guttural reaction to these magnificent paintings. I, too, thank you for introducing us to Isabelle’s incredible talent and helping to perpetuate this historic artistic genre. Awareness is the first step to appreciation, and once again you have enlightened your grateful followers. I can’t wait to see Isabelle’s depiction of your glorious Chinoserie room in Chisolm House.

  24. Dr Mount has said it all! Thank you , thank you,thank you.I hope to be re incarnated with just some of your taste and elegance.To hope to be completely like yourself just does not seem to be obtainable .You are such a gifted and unique person.Im so glad you get to share all your well earned praise with your mum xxx

  25. i have never read your posts before. i came across this in Instagram. I AM SO GLAD THAT I DID!

    beautiful images, wonderful story, informative history

    you have a new follower. please keep these coming! 😀


    p.s. buying a book too.

  26. Isabelle Rey’s work is extraordinary and you are quite right to say that she has inherited the mantle of the great Alexandre Serebriakoff. Her depiction of the Blue Bedroom at Weatherstone is exquisite, but then that is one of the great bedrooms of all time to begin with!

    Many thanks for this inspirational and informative post.

  27. Carolyne,
    I have followed you for many years through your books and your postings online. Also, I saw you speak in Dallas a few years ago at TABLESCAPES. I am always so inspired by your work although I know it is an avocation for you. I too, love interiors, gardening, flowers and especially doggies. A beautiful, four year old Havanese named Sadie has recently come to live with me after the passing of my beloved Nicky, a Shi Tzu. Isn’t it amazing how these little dogs know you need TLC after a major loss? Through your beautiful posts, I feel like I know you. If we should ever meet, I think we would be “simpatico” with our similar interests. Although I would have so much more to learn from you! Thank you for all of it.

    • Hi Judy,
      yes those little four legged babies are wonders —teaching us love and giving us love. I am in charleston working have one of my little Havies with me for comfort. best, cr

  28. Carolyne, Thank you so much for this incredibly interesting post. Ms. Rey is such a talented artist, I can understand your desire to have her record on canvas all of the special things you love. And because of your love and devotion to your pups, it follows that you would want such wonderful remembrances of them. Those of Miss Luna and Trollop are just gorgeous! It is so generous of you to share your knowledge and all of the beauty in your life. Your books have brought me such pleasure. Your style is truly unmatched today! I look forward to the additional paintings of your pups!

    • In a couple of week I shall do that post. Currently in gardening mode in charleston with just one of my babies. best cr

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