Designer Spotlight: Jersey Ice Cream Co.

Tara Mangini and Percy Bright have a love for old homes and leaving those homes better than they found them. The couple, founders of the design firm Jersey Ice Cream Co., travel to homes across the World - from London to Nashville. Known for their elegant kitchen designs and rustic finishes - their work feels fresh and unexpected yet timeless. We chatted with Tara about working with your partner, her tips for giving your home a quick refresh, and what's next for Jersey Ice Cream Co.

Shop Jersey Ice Cream Co's Faves

"A bunch of things I like...clearly my head is in Spring!"

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You are traveling home designers - tell us about that process!

Traveling to the job and really living where we work is something that started out of necessity and has become an integral part of our process. It’s not always possible when we’re on larger or more commercial projects, but we find that our best work happens when we get to live in the space day in and day out and let the design slowly evolve and come together in a natural and organic way. It can be tough sometimes - living in less than desirable conditions, being totally immersed mentally and physically in work, being away from the comforts of home (friends, the gym, a morning cappuccino) but at the end of the day we would rather have the freedom to work that way, than be stuck plugging things into spreadsheets and floor plans on a computer any day.

It can’t always be easy owning and operating a business with your partner. How do you balance that aspect?

Honestly, the business part of things has honestly never been that tough for us. We have the usual struggles anyone does - trying to talk about work less, dealing with stress and money and contracts and deadlines - but I think being in it together is a key to our success. We’re a major support system for each other, and the fact that we can go wherever the work takes us, and still be together, makes the whole live-where-you-work thing possible. We pretty naturally fell into our roles within the business, which makes splitting up the work easy and effortless for the most part, and share a design aesthetic that is pretty seamless between the two of us. It just works.

Your designs are filled with such beautiful textures and patinas. What are your tips for achieving that look?

Thank you. We’re really into wall finishes, and rarely just paint a wall and call it a day. A textured or wallpapered wall gives you such a strong foundation, and from there we just keep adding to the room until it feels finished. To be honest, we always wish we had a few more weeks just to really keep layering in textures, but we try to do our best with the time we have.

Describe a day in the life for you.

Happily for us and our general aversion to a strict routine, our days really vary from one to the next. I’m the kind of person who needs to exercise everyday or I’ll go nuts, so most days start there, but the rest could be anything.

Yesterday we left for a quick drive to pick up a sofa we bought at auction, and ended up having our car break down on the way, so basically sat in a bar all afternoon waiting for it to get fixed. Today we’re replying to emails and doing work for some clients in the city. Tomorrow we’re leaving bright and early to head upstate and get some more work done on our place up there.

Our best days are the ones where we physically get a ton of work done, and sit down at the end of the day exhausted and satisfied. We hope to have lots of those in the coming months.

Who or what has influenced your style?

I think we are probably influenced most by the houses themselves. We look at a ton of real estate online and in person, and walking through hundreds of old houses has created some shared design language between the two of us. Walking through the streets of another city or place does the same. We went to Gotland, Sweden recently for a project and were so inspired by the design there. It felt like we were seeing color for the first time.

When do you feel satisfied with a project?

There’s just some feeling of things being right and finished that comes over you sometimes. In those moments I feel satisfied.

What are simple touches that you think really make a difference?

Plants, artwork, rugs, pillows, books, imperfections, a comb on the dresser, a pile of firewood, a candle burning, a coffee stain, something baking in the oven, a view from the window. It all makes a difference.

What qualities do you like to be present in your designs?

Overall we really want our work to have a sense of story, a sense of place, to be thoughtful, welcoming, and memorable. We want it to feel like the design has evolved over time and wasn’t just plugged in from a plan we created on a computer screen. It really isn’t about any of the finishes or fixtures as individual items, it’s about the entire space as a whole, and the memories you make there.

Are there any DIY projects or “quick fixes” that you’d recommend to someone wanting to freshen up the look of their space without a full remodel?

There’s a million things you could do. Really. You could go buy $100 worth of flowers. You could paint your walls pink. You could rearrange everything you already have and not spend a penny. Don’t be afraid to just try a few things!

What is the best advice you could give to someone trying to break into the design world?

We started with no formal training, no experience, and low expectations - so anything is possible. But it’s tough! Try not to let yourself get totally overwhelmed with what is happening in the world of Pinterest and Instagram, and just focus on the thing that’s happening in front of you. Take things one step at a time. Trust your gut. And keep following the parts of the job that make you happy.

You recently bought a house, congrats! What plans do you have for it?

Thank you! It needs a ton of work, but we are really excited to design and run the project with 100% freedom. We’ll most likely enjoy a few months with it and sell it so we can buy another place and start the whole process over!

What’s next for Jersey Ice Cream Company?

Our work is at it’s best when we have complete responsibility and freedom over a project, so our hope is to continue to buy houses that we can fix up ourselves and sell or rent. We also have some real estate plans. We know the hunt for a place upstate can be tough, and we hope our knowledge about the area combined with our understanding of home renovations can make the whole process a little easier for people.

Describe your style in 3 words.

We’ve been asked this so many times and we still have no idea how to answer it. And I’m ok with that!

Favorite city?

New York! For better or for worse.

Five things you can’t do without?

Coffee, exercise, friends, pizza, each other

Favorite account to follow on Instagram?

Don’t make me choose! x
Overall we really want our work to have a sense of story, a sense of place, to be thoughtful, welcoming, and memorable.

Photos: 1, 2, 3 by Nicole Franzen, 4 by Tristan Spinski, 5 by Heidi's Bridge, 6 by Beth Kirby