Mix Masters: Patrick Mele

Patrick Mele creates a botanical fantasy in celebration of decorating and spring.

It’s nearly the end of winter, yet spring has already sprung for this installment of our “New Mix Masters” series, where a designer creates a space using only items found within the 23,000 square feet of period furnishings and accessories at Avery & Dash Collections (plus Benjamin Moore paint, Carlisle flooring and greenery by Diane James Home). Known for devising timeless spaces by culling pieces from the past and the present, interior designer Patrick Mele surprised and charmed us with his verdant, garden-inspired vignette. This pretty garden room is a welcome reminder that spring is just around the corner.

How did the idea for this space come together? Creating the space happened over the course of about 10 days. Because I worked with Ralph Lauren and was in that world for a while, there’s always a story-telling for a room. I imagined an elegant white-washed brick home in Southport, a 1930s mansard-roof home covered with ivy. This would have been the garden room. It’s soft, pretty, Old World. I’m thinking about the music that’s playing in the room. And who’s the woman? I can envision her serving pink lemonade, and she’s a little crusty, maybe throws out a curse every once in a while, but she’s also very genteel.

What celebrity can you picture living here? Anne Bancroft. She’s the consummate hostess, but a little irreverent. But also feminine. She’s a constant source of inspiration. I’ve based a lot of things on Mrs. Robinson’s home—that garden room is seductive. Plants are seductive.

What is the overall aesthetic of the space? I think this room is a celebration of Decorating, with a capital D. I look to all the old greats like Mario Buatta, who was a mentor and a friend. I’m also inspired by Albert Hadley and Rose Cummings.

What was the first piece you chose? Since I was using this handmade greenery by Diane James, I wanted the vignette to look as green and authentic as possible. Then I found that fabulous outdoor set, which has almost a gothic aesthetic. It has a lot of personality and great lines.

Why paint the floor? When you paint the floor a light color, it shows off the legs of the furniture. Everything bounces off the floor. Mundane objects can take on a real polished, heightened effect because you notice the room from the ground up. I knew that the graphic lines of the furniture would punctuate the floor in a very interesting way.

Tell us more about your selections for art and color. I wanted to surround the space with varying tones of greens. I love plant life and used Old School, Old World botanical prints mixed with modern color field work. Then I went around the antiques center and found things in greens and blue shades of greens. The pink makes everything look so good without being preppy—glamorous rather than preppy. Palm trees and uplighting are also glamorous and lend great drama.

Why did you tent the room? I just wanted to cancel out the industrial ceiling. Also I love a campaign vibe—that feeling of just moving around. I wanted to tent it more!

What are some tips on creating such a space? What’s fun about a room like this is you can bring in elements that you have from outside. You can create this without a ton of money too. These are fine items, but you can put together just a folly kind of space. Take an enclosed porch that you don’t know what to do with, then paint the floor pink or white, bring in wicker, plants, maybe a birdcage, and add art. Add a lamp—lighting transforms a space. Don’t overthink it.

I feel like this really fits with the #plantlove trend. Plants bring energy to a space, such joy. I grew up on an old 1920s gentleman’s farm in Greenwich. My neighbor (president of the garden club of Greenwich) was an elegant woman with a gorgeous home. I was enamored of her, and she took a liking to me. I started helping out in their greenhouse. She felt comfortable enough with my skills, that by about age 13, she trusted me to take care of it while they were away in Florida in the winter. And I would go in there, and it was the most beautiful, peaceful, therapeutic, calming environment to find myself in.

What would you like to take home from here? The African chair, and I love all the Chinese elements. The Chinese altar table is just great.

What’s the best thing about coming to Avery & Dash? The C&G audience should embrace all of these antiques centers because you can get such an education from the wonderful, knowledgeable people here: It’s a free crash course in art and decorative arts. Run don’t walk!

A version of this article appeared in the March 2019 issue of CTC&G (Connecticut Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Winter Garden.