by Carla Hall D’Ambra
Walking into The Rinfret Group design studio late one August afternoon was a breath of fragrant, fresh air. A delicious candle permeated the room, and it was perfect for the late-summer season. Not too much, not too little. Simply, undeniably perfect.
Meeting Denise Rinfret and Missy Rinfret Minicucci, the creative duo of The Rinfret Group was also a breath of fresh air. Denise, beautiful, blonde, sun-kissed tanned, and the mom of this mother/daughter collaboration, greeted me at her office door with a genuine, welcoming warmth and I immediately felt right at home. Missy, her daughter, gorgeous and blonde, wearing a classic shift the color of a yummy orange popsicle, entered the office from another room, glowing with vivacious energy. It is at once apparent that both these ladies have impeccable style, but what is also so evidently striking is their graceful presence.
Denise Rinfret has been designing for twenty-five years. She grew up in Manhattan and attended high school in New York City. Her father took her to art classes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and they toured all the museums together as she was growing up. Her cultured childhood influenced her tastes in art and fashion. As we chatted, Denise spoke fondly and softly of her wonderful relationship with her father. Her dad passed on recently, and like any loving daughter, she is devastated. Denise keeps a beautiful, timeless black and white photograph of herself with her father, sitting on her desk directly beside her computer screen so her dad is always in her eye’s view.
Denise Rinfret describes The Rinfret Group style as an elegant and refined look. The lines are clean, with tailored upholstery and classic furniture pieces. Denise has been featured in The New York Times, Newsday, and many publications such as House Beautiful, Traditional Home, Better Homes & Gardens, House and Gardens,and Distinction Magazine, winning the Designer of Distinction Award from the latter publication in both 2000 and 2007. Better Homes & Gardens has referred to Denise Rinfret as a “rising star” and as a “designer worth watching.” She has also contributed to design books Decorating On A Dime and Breaking The Rules. Denise has appeared on Good Morning America and her Hamptons Designer Showcase Kitchen was featured on LNBC’s LX New York. Her kitchen in the Inspired Designs Showcase was featured in November 2009, and Traditional Home Magazine has named the The Rinfret Group as notable designers in 2010, 2012, and 2015.
Missy, who could quite possibly be a Lilly Pulitzer muse, or a J. Crew catalog model, and the other half of the Rinfret design team, describes The Rinfret Group style as traditional with a modern twist and a sense of humor. “We love beautiful, traditional lines and classic decor, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously,” laughs Missy Minicucci.
Missy Rinfret Minicucci spent her childhood immersed in the design world. She spent her weekends at design showcase houses and weekdays with her mom, Denise, in New York City at the D&D Building and at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Her grandfather was an architect and put a pencil in Missy’s hand, teaching her to draw, so it was assumed that Missy would indeed follow her mom’s path in the interior design world. While studying at Fairfield, Missy interned in finance, and worked for a hedge fund in Greenwich. She found herself daydreaming about being in the studio with her mother working on design projects, so she decided to take some time off and help with her mom’s design business. Missy became so passionate about design that she enrolled in New York School of Interior Design and she never looked back. After design school, Missy worked on her own, first with a Manhattan designer, and for the luxury Italian furniture company, B&B Italia, as well as the renowned fabric company, Cowton & Tout. Missy’s influence is Mario Buatta, and after working in the design world on her own, she feels right at home working with her mother and bringing in young, fun New York City clients.
The Rinfret Group has a distinguished list of clientele in Manhattan, Long Island and Connecticut. They have worked with Nancy Shevell, aka Mrs. Paul McCartney, Frank Pellegrino of the famous Manhattan restaurant Rao’s, and they recently did the Manhattan penthouse of shipping executive Doris Ho. Denise and Missy do large-scale projects and they also do design work on studio apartments. Their clients are business executives, notable stars, as well as local neighbors. The Rinfret Group has a modern but classic approach to their work and their rooms are highly identifiable as a Rinfret room.
Denise and Missy are currently working on a design project for the Ronald McDonald House. As we discuss the project, both women are animated and excited. “We love doing projects such as this, said Denise, “and we believe in the mission of the Ronald McDonald House.” As Missy shows me the idea board for the project, she speaks sweetly of the creative choices they’ve made for the room. And like everything else about The Rinfret Group, it’s not too much, and it’s undeniably perfect.
First published in 25A Magazine, 2015