A major milestone in the career of interior designers is collecting their passions and visions into a coffee table–style book, which prospective clients as well as everyday home-style seekers can peruse for ideas and inspiration. When Caren Rideau reached that point, the direction she wanted to take was quite obvious.
“So many of my clients would say, ‘I hear you’re in the wine business,’” explains Rideau, the Los Angeles–based designer who co-owns the Santa Ynez Valley–based brand Tierra y Vino with her partner, the veteran winemaker Andres Ibarra. “It just seemed logical to create a book around kitchen design, life in the vineyard, and entertaining, which really is my life.”
The outcome, Caren Rideau: Kitchen Designer, Vintner, Entertaining at Home, does just that, employing the clean photography of Meghan Beierle-O’Brien, styling of Char Hatch Langos, and publishing power of Pointed Leaf Press to weave those elements into a beautiful whole. The core of the 240-page book is case studies of specific kitchens that Rideau created, but she also pens short entries on food and wine pairing, her passion for Mexican pottery, and her strategy for bringing Mediterranean colors into her projects.
The most uplifting takeaway from Rideau’s story is her own ascent: growing up in Arizona as part of a large Mexican/Louisiana Creole family and then succeeding in two fields — design and wine — that have been historically dominated by privileged people with white skin.
“As a person of color, it was really difficult for me, but I didn’t talk about it or focus on it,” she explained of landing in Los Angeles after college and starting her own company, Kitchen Design Group, more than 30 years ago. “Back then, there were very few people of color in design. We didn’t talk about design growing up. We talked about getting the meal on the table. And when you opened a magazine, very rarely did you see a person of color. But we’re working on it.”
Today, she sits on the board of the Design Leadership Foundation, which seeks to bring more diversity to the industry, and is encouraged by the progress of Black Lives Matter, albeit cautiously so. “This isn’t the first time such a movement has come,” she said. “We only hope that it starts to stay a little bit longer.”
Her entry into the wine industry came through her cousin-in-law and godmother, Iris Rideau. When Iris founded Rideau Vineyard in the Santa Ynez Valley in 1997, she became the first Black female winery owner in the United States, a story told in her recent biography, From White to Black: One Life Between Two Worlds. (Read Vanessa Vin’s interview with Iris here.) Caren would often visit the winery, which is where she met Andres Ibarra, who served as Rideau’s winemaker for years.
After becoming a couple, Caren encouraged Ibarra to go out on his own. “I really love your wines. I believe in you as a winemaker. Let’s do this on our own,” she told him. “He’s run the gamut and been in the wine industry as long as I’ve been in interior design.” Together, in 2012, they started Tierra y Vino, sourcing fruit primarily from La Presa Vineyard and sharing their wines with customers at a tasting room in Buellton on Industrial Way.
Though not a winemaker herself, Rideau is well-versed in the process and regularly helps out in the cellar. “My favorite part is the fine-tuning of the wines before they go into the bottle,” she said. “I feel like I have a pretty good palate, and that’s where Andres and I work so well together as a team.” They split their time between his place in Santa Ynez — where they often hang with other winemakers and drink this region’s wines — and her place in L.A., where they tend to buy wines from other parts of the world.
The book is a testament to how much the kitchen and table plays a role in their relationship, but also of how far Rideau has come in life. “It hasn’t always been easy, but I can safely say that it’s been a really good run and I’ve created a name for myself in the industry,” she said.
She’s pleased to see both design and wine opening up to people from all backgrounds, at least compared to when she began her career. “It’s slow,” said Rideau, “but it’s changing, so I have to be optimistic for that.”