A short distance from Greenwich’s famous Avenue, perched on William Street, is a 500-square-foot jewel box of a retail studio. It’s the brainchild of interior designer Patrick Mele.
Every inch glossy white, the shop is a 3D canvas of Mele’s vision and finds from across the globe. Curated pieces and collections range from 20th-century kilim carpets to antique crystal Chinese theatrical headdresses to contemporary art by friends. On one wall, figurative drawings by Brooklyn-based artist Wayne Pate. Tables of pottery by Nicholas Newcomb. A display of Régime de Fleurs, a fragrance line for the body and home. Poetic wax from Creel and Gow candles. “For the most part, today’s consumers thirst for something that offers a unique experience … somewhere and someone you can actually visit with, escape your everyday and perhaps learn a new thing or two,” says Mele, whose design headquarters opened last December. “I think that’s one thing the shop brings to the table.”
Patrick Mele shares his memories of Kate Spade, the prodigious craftswoman, brand leader, an…
A Greenwich native whose family has deep roots in the local business community, Mele felt his hometown was the ideal base of operations from which to serve his domestic and European clientele. “My dad, Richard Mele, owned several restaurants in Fairfield and Westchester counties … some may remember ‘64’ on Greenwich Avenue,” Mele says. “He’s always had a great aesthetic sensibility, and runs his own design practice. My mother [Patricia] has exquisite taste as well, and she’s had my back from day one, running the design business and now the shop. I couldn’t do it without her!”
Creative influences came early for the now-34-year-old Mele. “I grew up in a family that was always building, creating, working on the house, going junking and antiquing, finding cool things. I began a window-dressing business when I was 14, and grew it to work with many retailers on Greenwich Avenue before I left for college.”
Mele started college at Syracuse University studying environmental design his freshman and sophomore years, before transferring to NYU where he graduated with an art history degree. All the while he took electives in fashion and the decorative arts. Midway through his freshman year at Syracuse, he was asked to be the representative for the fashion school, responsible for entertaining visiting design luminaries such as Oscar de la Renta and Michael Kors, as well as Kate and Andy Spade. “I hit it off with the Spades right away, and they were generous enough to offer me a summer internship, which lasted four years.”
Immediately after graduating from NYU, Mele landed a full-time job with Ralph Lauren as a stylist and merchandiser in the home division for their flagship stores in the U.S. and Europe. “It was amazing,” Mele says. “But even then I wanted to do my own thing.” He launched his decorating and design business soon after.
Mele is content with his shop’s location — close to but not on Greenwich Avenue, the home of high-end fashion and beautiful baubles, and one of the most expensive streets for commercial real estate in the country. “I really like that we’re a destination,” Mele says. “I’ve always loved this corner, it’s a well worn cut-through to the heart of downtown.” He didn’t want Greenwich Avenue. “It wasn’t ever really an option; it’s changed so much over the last 25 years. I’m praying for reasonable rents so more interesting people can move in and bring some much-needed vibrancy to town!”
Asked to divulge his influences and style, Mele says, “I’ve always gravitated to strong personalities and environments — something that leaves a lasting impression. The best rooms throughout history really made a personal statement about their inhabitants — where they’ve been, what made them tick and where they wanted to go. I think we used to be less afraid to make a statement through our surroundings … and have increasingly become timid and homogenized. I’m happy to work within a maximalist or minimalist framework depending on who and where I’m working … as long as we share a mutual passion for beauty.”
And what motivates those who seek him out? “People come to a designer because they long to live in a way they presently are not,” Mele says. “It’s the designer’s job to go in, distill the personality of the client, open their eyes to new possibilities, new ways of seeing, new approaches. More often than not, from my experience, people don’t know exactly what they want, or they struggle to convey it aesthetically. It’s my job to guide their initial intuitions to the next level, provide insight, knowledge; why that chair, why this fabric, what makes it worth investing in. I don’t like to settle on the easy road, based on initial comfort levels. By the end of the project the client should feel they and their home have gone through a transformative process — that is when I feel we’ve achieved success.”
Mele’s staff is lean and agile. In addition to mom, he has a part-time draftsperson on staff, terrific interns who pull a great amount of weight, and an army of skilled artisans and contractors with whom he has long-standing relationships.
Besides being a native, there are many circumstances that keep Mele in Greenwich. “It’s a dynamic town with a big international audience,” he says. “It’s host to a sophisticated, well-traveled crowd with a thirst for the unique — it’s my hometown and I’m happy to be here.”
His advice for first-time Greenwich visitors: Explore backcountry Greenwich (“It’s really beautiful”), Conyers Farm, the Audubon Society on Riversville Road (“Unbelievable”), Montgomery Pinetum park (“A fabulous horticultural institute, very cool”), Greenwich Point beaches (“Gorgeous”). He also recommends sampling the roast chicken at the French bistro Le Penguin.
Mele’s current project highlights include a couple with residences in New York and London (“a beautiful Cheyne Walk Victorian”), two assignments in D.C., a large-scale, three-year Bedford, New York, renovation, and a pre-war duplex in Brooklyn Heights.
One of Mele’s D.C. projects is in the Bloomingdale neighborhood, an area near Howard University that’s seen a renaissance over the past several years. The project was a gut renovation of a 19th-century row house, modernizing and opening up the space. The residence has a wonderful garden and courtyard area in the rear that’s being redone as well. The overall scheme, a mostly black-white-and-neutrals palette, incorporates streamlined and masculine-bent furnishings from Design Within Reach, Cassina and Gio Ponti.
The photo above is a dining room from one of Mele’s first residential projects in Pelham, New York, the client a long-time family friend. The room showcases Mele’s discerning eye, primarily consisting of found antiques, anchored by a favorite table the client already owned. The two panels flanking the mirror in the back are framed antique wallpapers.
But things at home keep this industrious creative plenty busy. In May, Mele initiated a creator-in-residence program. His first subject was renowned artist and entrepreneur John Derian. “He was installed at my shop for a month; he’s built an incredible following around his decoupage work … a whole aesthetic and environment that is specific to him, not easy to achieve.”
Mele adds: “I may expand; a dream is to find the right second space in the city. There’s more to do in Greenwich. Maybe develop different categories.”