Melanie Burstin on Creating a Minimal and Warm Home
We're glad you're here! It is our belief that your home should be a place of solace, peace, and inspiration. In these trying times, more than ever, we hope your home’s beauty can provide light and moments of happiness. We will continue to post beautiful images and inspiring content in the coming months in hopes that it will be a source of brightness. We hope to connect with you here and on our social channels to share our love of home together.
We recently chatted with Melanie Burstin, an LA based interior designer. Melanie gives us insight on how to create a minimal yet warm home, what her career path looked like, and how she deals when a project doesn’t turn out like she had envisioned.
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Tell us about your journey to being an interior designer.
My design career began in the art world actually. When I was 22 I was directing an art gallery in Beverly Hills but I felt really ready to jump into design. So I boldly cold emailed a handful of designers and I was lucky enough to have a few incredible mentors take me under their wings. One notable designer being Rosa Beltran. In exchange for my help opening her furniture showroom (my gallery experience was useful here) she took me on as her design assistant and I got to use my skills and taste in real life client situations. Soon after working for her I started taking on my own clients on the side. So really from the beginning I worked on my portfolio. Next came my time at Emily Henderson Design which was such a blast. Emily is really generous with her employees and she was often crediting me and sharing my work on her platforms which helped me gain some notoriety. Throughout this time I also maintained my own client workload and soon there came a day when I had too much to do and made the leap to go solo!
You describe your aesthetic as minimal yet warm. How do you achieve that balance?
I start by designing with just the basic furniture pieces and I don’t plan out a ton of side tables or accessories. I start minimally for my clients. Once the bigger items have arrived I come back in with fun pillows and trinkets. This way I can see where the holes are instead of over decorating a space. These textural and personal layers also then add the warmth.
What are a few of your favorite things to add to a room to make it feel lived in?
Souvenirs from vacations are my favorite design trick to make a room feel lived in. They add layers, which adds comfort. They also add an undeniable personal touch. Shopping with your gut is a great way to ensure a cohesive collection, because every item lives under the umbrella of ‘your taste’.
You live in LA! What are a few of your favorite things to do and see there?
LA is the best, but the East side is really where it’s at! I have a favorite hole in the wall Japanese Cafe in little Tokyo I frequent for Udon. I’d share the name but if it were to ever be too busy I’d cry for hours so it shall remain my little secret. (Unless you DM me and I’m in a generous mood). Without fail my friends and I often find ourselves on the patio at Zebulon on a weekend night (a fun music venue and bar in Frog Town). Mh Zh is a really delicious restaurant in Silverlake. You sit outside, sometimes on milk crates instead of chairs. It’s unassuming and very hip in that there’s no sign. The food and ambience are really great. El Prado is my favorite bar because I can walk there and they always have new orange wine to try and only play vinyl. (yes I hear myself but these are things I love!). And then the museums and art galleries are really amazing over here too. The Moca and Hauser and Wirth are really fun to start with.
Where do you find inspiration?
I try to constantly take in inspiration, but a lot of it definitely does come from Instagram. I usually go down foreign rabbit holes like interiors in Japan and Australia. I also can’t turn off my design brain in real life so I’m often noticing details everywhere I go. And then I call them out. And when I’m with design friends we can go on and on. But when I’m with non design people they’ll usually say something about how they’d never have noticed the trim in the bathroom at that restaurant etc.
Has there ever been a project where you weren’t sure if the outcome was going to be what you had hoped for? How’d you deal with it?
When I designed the Goop offices I 100% felt this way. Goop had been growing so quickly that the office I was designing was already filled with employees once items started arriving. This meant I didn’t get to see the space gradually come together. It was very crowded and covered in boxes as people had already moved in but didn’t have all the furniture yet to unpack their products and papers and things. The scariest part was that I couldn’t instal or style anything until the day before the shoot because people were working there and I couldn’t interrupt workflow. I was pretty scared I wouldn’t have everything I needed. So I overpacked extras for styling and hoped for the best. I don’t know how but I managed to pull it together in time for the shoot and loved the way it turned out.
What are a few current trends that you are loving?
I’m surprising myself to say it but I’m loving furniture made of more of an aged wood. I don’t want to use the terms ‘rustic’, and it’s definitely not ‘shabby chic’ either. But it’s more along the lines of ‘vintage french modern’. I’m also excited to see a lot of color coming back. I’m slowly starting to integrate more into my designs but it’s fun to see everyone breaking out in new ways.
What is a decor faux pas you see all too often?
I think because we’re in a digital age where we have such great access to seeing the world, recreating a pinterest image that’s probably not right for your space is something I’m seeing a lot of. Another common downfall of this regurgitation is a failure to personalize it at all. We’re lucky we can find inspiration so easily but inspiration should be a jumping off point rather than something we carbon copy. I know that’s harder for people with less design experience to do, but I hope an interest in trying to personalize what we see and love becomes a new trend.
What are a few tips for someone looking to refresh their decor for the new year?
Less is more! I’d start with a big clean out. It’s natural for our tastes to change, so why not go through your belongings and furniture and resell or donate anything that’s no longer feeding your aesthetic. Then objectively see what you’re missing and only buy things that would fill those holes. It can be easy to jump on trends and spend and spend but instead I think it works out better if each purchase is more intentional. This way you can avoid your home following down the trend line and instead you’ll have a natural evolution of your personal style.
What’s next for you?
I’d love to do a restaurant or hotel. So, restaurateurs and hoteliers hit me up!
All photos provided by Mel Burstin