November 2019 Member Spotlight: Melissa Lee

Melissa Lee of New South Home - Charlotte, NC

When did you realize that you wanted to become an interior designer?
My husband and I bought our first townhouse in Falls Church, Virginia, right when we turned 24 and it was a DUMP. It was when the real estate market was super hot and it was almost impossible to find a home without being in competition with other buyers and multiple offers. I walked through the place thinking of all of the things we could update and change to make it our own. When we got outside I turned to my husband and said, “Nobody’s going to want this house - let’s buy it!” Both he and my real estate agent looked at me like I was crazy.

We spent the next year designing and updating the home on our own and I realized how much I loved working on it. It was then that I realized that I absolutely loved anything and everything to do with interiors and home design and that this was what my second career needed to be. We sold the home less than 2 years later and made a 33% profit on it - the new buyer asked if I would help decorate the home for him!

Who was the first interior designer to make an impression on you?
One of my favorite shows on HGTV was Sarah’s House with Sarah Richardson and her assistant Tommy Smythe. I loved watching their room transformations on each house she updated and really liked her comfortable transitional style. It was right around that time we were working on our first home and I got so much inspiration from her rooms and designs.

What are some of the things that influence you, aside from furniture and décor? 
I love trying out and discovering new restaurants because there are so many factors that influence your experience dining out these days. The creativity of the chefs with food, bartenders with craft cocktails, and designers with interiors can create such an amazing combination when done right. Restaurant and hospitality interiors always push the limit on design compared to residential design and the combinations of flavors that chefs are introducing in these really cool spaces just make for an awesome evening. (I always make a point to visit the bathroom because those are even cool, too!) There are so many new and exciting places in the Southeast that are just awe-inspiring - one of our favorite all-time spots is Artisanal in Banner Elk from a food and design standpoint - it’s a must-go!

What are your go-to basics?
1) A solid neutral colored sofa in a performance fabric (preferably Revolution!) is a MUST for our clients. This gives the piece longevity based on the durability (most of our clients have kids and/or pets) as well as allows a quick style change / room update by swapping out pillow colors and patterns.
2) We also love custom pleated window treatments in a linen/rayon blend either in a colorblock or with a simple tape on the leading edge. They soften the room but keep them from feeling too busy or traditional with overwhelming patterns.
3) Simple metal drapery rods from Select Drapery Hardware with french returns and rings in different metal finishes are used in 90% of our projects.
4) Our neutral base colors for any room is always mix of taupe and gray to keep the palette timeless. We will typically layer in colorful accessories so that it gives a room a classic base that can easily be updated over time. 

Are you seeing any particular style requests trending among your clients?
Yes! We’re loving more of the modern pieces and rooms that our clients are showing us as their inspiration. This makes our jobs more interesting because of the challenge of mixing modern style with the traditional Southern Charlotte architecture. I have two projects that I am working on now where we are balancing their more modern style with existing traditional pieces and the home’s architecture. Mixing styles gives a home a more collected look that we love to create in our projects.

What's been your career highlight to date?
Earlier this year we worked with a custom home builder, Joyce Buiding Co, to design their newest spec house and hosted a small Charity Showhouse benefitting Leukemia Lymphoma Society at the home. We had over 150 guests in attendance and we raised over $11,000 based on ticket sales, raffle items, and furniture sales. It was so special to see how many people came to support our company and the cause and everyone loved the home! 

However, I know that the IDS Charlotte Showhouse room and event that I am working on with my good friend and designer, Brenna Morgan, is going to probably be the newest highlight for me in 2020! :)

What's the most treasured item in your own home?
I have a restored 1911 Steinway grand piano from my parent’s home that I learned to play piano on starting at age 8. It’s one of the few furniture pieces I brought with me after my dad passed away and it’s right in the first room when you walk into our home. There are scratches under the keyboard from my sister and I reaching up to turn our music pages and our belts scratching across the wood. I’ve considered having the piece refinished so that it would cover the scratches, but at this point, I realized I like the story of them more than having a pretty finished piece! :)