Mel is one of the co-founders at Manscapers, a famous exterior design and landscaping firm in New York and LA known for their thoughtful, stunning work and of course, their highly entertaining show on Bravo, Backyard Envy. Word to the wise: it’s a must-watch. We had the great pleasure of catching up with Mel and learning more about her home kitchen, her philosophy on good design, and her tips for maximizing the utility and joy of spaces in your home.
FORM Design Team
September 3, 2020
Mel is one of the co-founders at Manscapers, a famous exterior design and landscaping firm in New York and LA known for their thoughtful, stunning work and of course, their highly entertaining show on Bravo, Backyard Envy. Word to the wise: it’s a must-watch.
We had the great pleasure of catching up with Mel and learning more about her home kitchen, her philosophy on good design, and her tips for maximizing the utility and joy of spaces in your home.
Please enjoy the interview. We certainly loved learning that even though she and her team work on exterior spaces and we work on interior ones, we share the same fundamental approach to design.
Mel and her team have covered a lot of terrain, so to speak, with their designs, from Brooklyn brownstones to upstate retreats to suburban family homes. No matter the backdrop, their spaces always look equal parts gorgeous and inviting. I wanted to immediately dig into how they strike that magical balance.
“I actually started my career in interior design. And the greatest lesson I learned there was: start a project by simply asking, ‘What do you want to do in this space?’ It seems pretty obvious, but people rarely start with: what does this space need to support in terms of daily activity.”
“We use the same approach for our exterior spaces. I’ll stand with our clients in their yard and ask them to imagine a Saturday morning or afternoon and talk us through what they like to do. You get incredible storytelling that informs the overall design. You also realize that a lot of people like to relax in their yards with a beverage, so more often than not, a well-designed backyard means you always have a place for your drink.”
“But yeah, good design should make you feel happy and relaxed. There should be a quality of easiness and effortlessness. You shouldn’t have to think about things. And there should also be a quality of the space feeling lived in, that feeling that people can and should be in the space. That’s why I always go back to: what do YOU want to be and do in your space.”
Mel lives in a Brooklyn flat and is quite familiar with maximizing space. But in the process of maximizing space, she encourages people to remember to let themselves show up, to put the things they love in a space, even if that’s a simple appliance or yes, a plant. She talked to us about how she’s turned her smaller city kitchen into a multifunctional space to support what she needs and loves.
“Every morning, I wake up 30 minutes before my daughter, so I can get her breakfast ready and make my black iced tea. And we spend the morning in the kitchen, hanging out. It’s our special time. I love it.
“And then I’ve cantilevered a work surface into my kitchen, so I can transform the space into a little office area afterward. I have a home office, but it doesn’t feel as warm or inviting as the kitchen, so I work here. And then of course, I’ve worked my plants into the kitchen, so I can have the feel of the outside, inside.”
“I think it’s so important to really make a space yours. I think of it as putting that layer of humanness over the design. It provides warmth, and it allows the space to truly become yours. Like, I love my Magic Bullet. It’s this tiny little blender, but I make my daughter smoothies all day with it. It helps make our kitchen ours.”
Mel and her team are fiercely creative, and I asked her how she approaches creativity. She provided a definition that made me go, “Whoa.”
“Creativity is challenging your first instinct and looking at a problem from the exact opposite angle. When you do that, you might find an incredible new way of doing things. It might also fail, haha. But it’s always worth a look.”
Please check out Mel and her team on Bravo’s Backyard Envy. It’s such a fun show, and you learn so much about exterior design and landscaping. And if you live in New York or LA and are in need of some landscape design, they are the team to work with! And give them a follow on Instagram!
"We believe that good design improves people's lives. We focus on personalization, performance, and peace of mind."
Danny Soos & Tom Sherman