Hi readers, it’s me Mel! (aka Melanie Burstin). I’m on the blog today to finally share my fully decorated first home. As a quick reminder, I’m an LA-based interior designer who once worked with Emily Henderson for a very fun few years and just recently (eek 10 months ago) bought my first home. It’s a TIC so if you want to go back and remind yourself what that is, and/or remind yourself what my plans were so you can see if I stuck to them or completely jumped ship…here’s my intro post.
As I just mentioned, this project has taken me 10 months! I am going to go ahead and blame Covid for a lot of the delays but I’ll also blame some personal indecision as well. I’m definitely my pickiest client and man did I want this space to be perfect. Thankfully along the way, I’ve enjoyed every single second of living here and it really does feel like home. It’s perfect to me and for that, I’m grateful and excited to share.
So, let’s start with the living room and the amazing corner sectional I teased in my intro post. You guys, it is a big, big life move to have your first sectional. I would say it is ‘peak adulting’. Yes, we only sit in the same corner spot but man oh man is that corner spot comfy. I would be remiss if I did not thank my amazing OG mentor Rosa Beltran for helping me make the perfect sofa for this space. I wanted something that felt unique but also simple enough to not be crazy or trendy and I knew the perfect place to have a sofa like this made was with Clad Home. Clad Home offers the most custom options and the highest quality at the lowest prices. I work with them on pretty much every client project I have. They have countless sofa designs that I love, and then you can also just tweak everything for either style or personal comfort purposes if you so desire.
For my sofa, I went a bit off from the usual and skipped having an upholstered frame. It ended up being a fun little problem-solving exercise for us but I think it turned out great. I wanted the sleek look of a cushion right on the wood but I also wanted to make sure the cushion wouldn’t slide out every time someone sat down. I can happily say that does not happen and instead every single person (no exaggeration) immediately comments on how comfortable it is. I also just want to add that though I am so far from perfect in the world of sustainability I do try to be conscious about what I decorate my home with. For the most part, you’ll see I use custom or vintage almost exclusively. Yes, it’s because that’s often a hella stylish combination, but, it’s also the least gross? One thing I love about Clad Home is that their furniture is made in LA under ethical working conditions. Unlike most customers of Clad, I’ve even personally been to the factory and I can definitely attest that it’s true. This means a lot to me and I’m grateful Rosa cares enough to scale her business in a socially conscious way. Thank you Rosa for your help with this super comfy sectional of my dreams. And yes, I absolutely know that shopping consciously is a luxury not always available to consumers at all price points but I’m grateful I was able to take that into account and can encourage others to do the same if they’re able.
As for the rest of my living room, I ended up keeping my old rug because it’s still one of my favorite rugs on the market and my custom-designed media cabinet came out exactly how I had hoped it would. It feels perfectly modern and warm to me. I love the scale of the wide doors and the fun open corners where I get to style my ever-growing book collection. I think we could say old Mel was obsessed with pretty pottery – current Mel is obsessed with pretty books. I also purchased my first frame TV which has been fun (especially when my neighbors and I try to connect to each other by accident) and I enlisted one of my BFFs and favorite artists/graphic designers Wyatt Carroll to create some tv art for me. He made a few others as well so my intention is to rotate them though I keep falling back to this cutie drawing I love so much. I also reached out to one of my favorite LA furniture makers Waka Waka and had a very simple custom coffee table made. I love their work. It’s chic, it’s simple and it’s warm (yes my three favorite things). Shin was also so so nice and the table was locally made to boot.
Dining Set (vintage)
In the space next to my living room, we have my dining area. Now, this was a spot in my intro post where I said I really had no idea what to do. I did a bunch of layout tests with a folding table and thought I had maybe figured out a very specific table size I liked and then thankfully the solution found me… while I was aggressively hunting for it. So pretty much every morning during this decorating period I would search and search and search for vintage furniture and accessories. I’m an early riser so imagine my morning coffee spent in bed clicking between Etsy, Chairish, 1stDibs, and Instagram. Going to take another quick pause here to thank two of my BFFs, Wyatt and Remi, for whom I am so grateful for not dropping me to the curb when they had to wake up to 14 links from me every morning because I was up way before them and annoyingly sharing everything as I found it. Y’all are the best and I think it’s so funny that so many of my closest friends are from Seattle. Anyone up there want to hire me to help with their house so I can see what all the fuss is about?
Anyway, I digress, so that’s how I found my dining set. On good old Instagram. One of the many vintage accounts I follow posted my table and chairs and to say I responded in under 5 seconds was probably an understatement. It turns out they were posted by mistake but my quick intensity and over dm-ing sealed the deal anyway. They weren’t perfect but I knew I could make them be and I wouldn’t have to wait 11 weeks for them to ship across an ocean because they were already in LA. A fair amount of my indecision here was because I found my dream table in France and they just wouldn’t ship it to me because it would take too long and be too much money. I struggled to get over it. But anyway, I found my Alvar Aalto table locally and then I had the top repainted and the seats of the chairs changed as well. The chairs had this dark navy seat that wasn’t my style. I thought it would look fine to just paint the seats brown so I went to my awesome lacquering team and said ‘just match the tone of the wood please’ and then they airbrushed wood grain on the seat and now they look like real wood seats! I’m of course happy with the outcome but, I also think it’s hilarious. On top of the table, I placed a vintage Ikea table lamp from Etsy and then my favorite piece of flea market art that I have self-titled ‘Shirt Boy’ is gloriously shown off above. Cute, everything in this nook is vintage.
Right beside my dining area is my entry. I love the feel of having this big open sunny room but it does mean that once you walk into the space, you walk into the space. I’m a no-shoes-in-the-house girl and it is freezing in LA during the winter (I’m joking mom, I know it’s colder on the east coast!) so I needed somewhere to put my shoes and coats. Now this area is really small and apparently seeing clutter gives me anxiety so I knew I needed small closed storage; um yeah, in comes another custom piece of furniture! I feel like everyone knows the cool Ikea shoe cabinets that are narrow and somehow drop down to house shoes right? Well, I took that idea and tried to make it chicer. I sent my rough sketch to AD BUSCH, a custom furniture maker in Portland that I had actually found through Etsy last year, and asked if they thought they could make it happen (in my very very tight parameters). Aaron said he could definitely figure out the mechanism and then once renderings were approved, he quickly shipped me the finished cabinet and it was the first big moment that felt like I was close to wrapping up my home. No more piles of stuff by the door! AD Busch was super fun to work with, their drawings were clear and they truly worked really fast. I’m using a reception table they made for me in another project I hope to photograph soon and can’t wait to show y’all. Anyway, on top of this dope cabinet I placed a ceramic bowl I bought in Japan many years ago and a vintage mirror from Etsy (I do love you Etsy… sponsor me Etsy). For the final touches, I got these simple ball hooks and hung up my favorite jacket that I’ve been wearing almost every day all ‘winter’.
Now, on the other side of the entry we have the space that I believe has gone through the biggest transformation; the kitchen. In my intro post you’ll see I was focusing on a lack of storage space, a lack of counter space, and a cute but not quite me ‘farmhouse vibe’. I had shown a mockup of flat face kitchen cabinets and thought that would be enough modernizing but, I ended up really going for it. Firstly I realized that living with butcher block countertops was not for me. I’m using them in a project that’s a vacation house because I think in a smaller usage they’re lovely to look at and totally usable, but for every day with me spilling water every time I use my fancy pitcher, I was just over it. Again, I don’t dislike butcher block counters, I think they’re so cute! Just wasn’t right for me and my everyday. So as I realized I wanted to change out the counters, I saw that I would then have a white on white kitchen which is super nice but again didn’t feel completely me. This is where the spiral ensued. I decided to change the countertop to a nice white pental quartz and… add wood faces to my existing cabinets to warm it all up. I had a custom island built for me that holds my dishes, as well as my pantry goods (another very adult move is dishes in a drawer right?), and I added a fun little shelving unit on the back to show off the aforementioned pottery and book collections. Thank you to everyone who commented on my intro post with all your ideas for how to switch out the cabinet faces! Between realizing I wanted wood (and therefore a very nuanced finish) and needing an Island (in very specific dimensions for my tiny kitchen), custom ended up being the only way.
After my tiny reno, I then switched out the sconce to a vintage one I found on Etsy (I am in fact a broken record) and purchased a beautiful painting by artist Jack Paffett that I found on my morning internet dives. When Tessa came over to photograph everything I kinda realized that styling kitchens may be one of my favorite activities. (Call me Nancy Meyers.) I know there’s nothing groundbreaking about this kitchen facelift but it’s warm, it’s me, and man do I love it. As much as bold design choices are exciting, when a kitchen is open to the rest of the space I always think less is more. So that’s what I did.
Chair (vintage) | Desk (custom)
The first room off of my kitchen has officially been transformed into my office and wow am I loving working at a big desktop computer with all my stuff and samples away in their specific homes. I hand sketched my dream desk and my amazing carpenters made a digital rendering and then made it happen. I love plywood and I hope one day I’m one of those cool people who live in a completely plywood box. I understand if you’re not for the vibe, but it’s a vibe I’m really into. My chair is vintage from Drosemod.com and Rarify.co who have really really nice quality vintage goods. I can’t remember how I first found them but now they’re a great vintage source for my projects. They also focus on sharing the importance of vintage pieces and the backgrounds of tons of vintage designers. I love the shape of this chair and I know a lot of people are sticklers for comfort in the office and I have to say, this chair is super comfy and I can use it for hours.
Storage Cabinet (custom)
On the other side of my office, we have what some have called the ‘piece de resistance’. My gorgeous Reform custom storage cabinet. Nothing brings me joy like organizing. OK wait, that’s a lie but I did really enjoy organizing the inside of the cabinets as much as I enjoyed designing the outside. So first I found Reform online, immediately fell in love, made an appointment at their Santa Monica showroom, and went to touch and feel everything in person. I then designed a piece I thought would fit my needs (taking piles of crap off the floor) and had Reform help me confirm the correct pieces and details. A few weeks later I was so excited and home alone for the delivery that I then carried about 16 enormous boxes up the stairs by myself, broke into a huge sweat, and then immediately bumped into someone I wanted to think I was cool. It was a whirlwind 30 minutes but I was stoked to be one step closer to having it come together. Next up I had my amazing handyman (aka co-worker I spend the most time with), Edgar, come over to help me assemble it. We hit a few potential worry moments because my house is old and I would say not one wall is straight? But he did an amazing job and very quickly assembled the piece and attached it to the wall for safety purposes.
I really love the open cubbies I included (my surprise secret design element from my intro post). I knew I had a fair amount of styling bits to store so I thought it would be fun to have some open cubbies for my bigger pottery pieces to shine. But then ‘new me’ said no, you need books and that is how this beautiful little corner came together. The print next to it is by KJP Studio. I purchased it a few years ago (before the awesome Lisa Says Gah collaborations) but I hadn’t found the right place to hang it in my old house. The stool is from my trip to Japan (also a few years ago) where I brought an empty suitcase and then returned home with it completely filled with bowls, plates, trays, and the aforementioned stool. I had a lot of fun styling the desk portion of this room as well. You’ll see more cute books and um a lamp from Etsy, a lamp from Instagram, and a vintage Japanese radio from Etsy that I love way too much. Sorry, these aren’t linkable but maybe you’ll become a crazy person like me and start hunting Etsy every day at 6 am?
Let’s move to the bedroom now. I love this room so much. It’s sunny, it’s bright, it’s happy…it’s also small and a little hard to photograph. There’s not too much different from my original plan but, I did have some things arrive that ended up not feeling right, so that was a bit of a delay/roller coaster. But first, let’s start with what went right. The custom bed I designed is exactly what I wanted. It’s slightly more off the ground than my last bed but it’s still low, calming, and comfy. My vintage dresser from Etsy has an amazing patina and I had a whole lot of fun styling it. Can you name the incredible/famous/world-renowned artist that’s accredited for the painting above it? Kidding. It was me. It was a DIY in my friend’s backyard. I wanted something bold but simple that added a small pop of color. Sometimes when you have something too specific in your mind all you can do is bring it to life.
My nightstands are also a huge success. I love having storage by my bed! Hello, easily accessible hand lotion, lip balm, and kindle. I mentioned this in my intro post but they’re by the awesome Domenic Fiorello Studio. The wood tone is so perfect. I feel like sometimes white oak can be too washed out for me (which is why I often go custom) but these nightstands are the perfect warmth. They’re also so well made and stylish to boot. Loving the open cubbies for my book problem and then I also styled them with some vintage lamps from 1stDibs that I am obsessed with.
But before I found these amazing chrome and cream lamps, we hit problem number one for this room. The first pair of vintage lamps I purchased ended up feeling really small and just weren’t right. One of them also arrived shattered so though we (not perfectly) glued it back together I just already wasn’t feeling them in the space anymore. I still love the lamps though and that’s why the nondamaged one is in my office bookcase. Problem number two was the rug. I wanted a fun rug but unfortunately, it turns out I am not fun. Kidding. But, the first rug I purchased ended up really skewing my room a bit too 70s and though I was obsessed with how fluffy it felt, I knew it wasn’t quite right. I guess I’m not a shag girl. (By the way, this is not something I would do with clients but I was trying to take more left-field risks for myself). I then did another typical me thing where I had an exact idea of the perfect rug in my head that I was completely unable to find. I searched and searched and searched, and then found it on Etsy! But unfortunately, though I live and breathe Etsy, and I know there is an inherent risk with buying rugs without seeing them in person, this took the cake. In comes problem number 3. I purchased my dream rug and eagerly awaited its arrival. Except when the time came to unroll it and put it under my bed, I realized it was a completely different rug than the one I ordered. I thought I was going crazy because it had been a while so I barely remembered what I had ordered. I had a small inclination that I wouldn’t have bought this rug (because it wasn’t cute) so I went back and took screenshots of the listing just so I could do a side-by-side with the rug I physically had to see if there was anything off. Um, everything was off. Completely different texture. Completely different color. I of course then messaged the seller and said, ‘um hey, did you send me the wrong rug this isn’t right?’. They then said it was the exact same rug and that no one has ever complained before about it being different. And of course, guess what then happened…the original post was deleted. I then messaged back saying that I actually have side-by-side photos and you can see that this rug is grey and the one I ordered was cream (cough cough and a completely different weave and border and therefore a completely different rug). Eventually, I got a complete refund and I felt annoyingly guilty about it. I was duped! But, they managed to make me feel bad about wanting a refund from a small family-run company (not sure if that’s true but they did get me a little). Anyway, I do believe when you buy something that something is what should arrive. I eventually found exactly the rug I had been looking for all along from EQ3. My goal was something textured but not the kind of rugs that look like little pebble knots. That felt too similar to my living room and I wanted something softer. I’m obsessed with this one so all the hubbub is so far in the past.
Wait, kidding we have problem number 4! Well, not really a problem but definitely something that took a whole lot of effort. As you know I am obsessed with the windows in my house. And even though I am an early riser I did feel like having no window treatments was too bright for me. My windows are quaint and small but unfortunately, that means that almost every company I reached out to said they were too small. Next in my saga of wanting something specific, I decided that since I had so many windows I really would need the treatments to be soft and lovely. So Japanese Shoji paper roll-up blinds became the goal. I scoured the internet but unfortunately due to covid apparently the one place everyone in the world gets them from wholesale was completely back-ordered in perpetuity. Thankfully I found someone in the UK who had some they could send to me. Unfortunately though, they were not the right size for my tiny windows but after some quick math and logistics I realized I could trim them down and make them work. The shades arrived, I purchased a Japanese hand saw (these things are amazing!) and had my favorite detail-oriented friend Wyatt come over to help (he is the actual best). First, we used an Exacto knife to carefully cut the paper down to the correct width and then we took the saw and carefully trimmed each end of the wood at the top and bottom. The first one took a bit of trial and error but from there things moved along and I am obsessed with how they turned out. Did I mention that every window was a slightly different size? That was fun too.
Last but not least we have my little outdoor area that has turned out to be a dream. One of my besties has already copied it for her porch and as you know, imitation is the best form of flattery. Not too much has changed from my intro post since this was the first area to be pulled together. My cushions arrived, I put some throw pillows out, purchased some small planters on Etsy, and then added the plants. Moose is obsessed with her little outdoor area and likes to sleep out here in the sun some days. I may get one of those ugly door bug nets since she loves it so much so I could just let her hang there as much as she wants. That said, we do have a stray cat situation on my property. There is one in particular who thinks she is part of our HOA, but she is mistaken! Anyway, she has gotten a little too comfortable and has taken to naps on my bench. She scared me to death one night so I think my screams may have scared her down the stairs for good? But we’ll see. She doesn’t seem to respect the fact that this is Moose’s house after all.
Well folks, here comes the end of my tour. Thank you so much for following along. I can’t wait to see what you have to say in the comments (perhaps my favorite part of sharing with the EHD world is you lovely people). As a typical outro I’ll say, check out my website, and follow me on Instagram please if you want to see Moose BTS and all the other photos of my house that didn’t make it to the blog today.
And as a last note, I’d love to share something else new and exciting…I’ve started a Vlog! Over the last year plus, I have fallen in love with the medium and realized since my passion became my job, I wanted a new creative outlet. I’m having a lot of fun so if you want to see some daily vlogs where we run from project to project, or in a few weeks want to see the BTS of this shoot with Tessa, please check out my YouTube page and subscribe :). First episode is being released today! Thank you for all your support. And thanks Em for having me! Xoxo Mel Burstin