Eight Questions for Patrick Mele

Behind the ideas of an interior designer and wallpaper doyen
Wallpaper designed by Patrick Mele Sauvage/Savant

While on set with Patrick Mele for April's Express Yourself feature, we chatted with the interior designer about his creative process, the new company he's launching (Sauvage/Savant) and his love for patterned papers.

CTC&G: Congratulations on launching your first wallpaper! What made you want to design one?

Patrick Mele: I participated in a Hamptons showhouse and designed a bathroom with raised paneling. I didn’t just want to paint the walls, which introduced the idea of wallpaper. Hayley Sarno, a friend of mine, and I wanted to collaborate and launch one of our own. Hayley’s the artist. We decided on a hedge, and I suggested black and white, so that it’s classic but not staid. The paper looks like it’s drawn by an artist, which circles back to the Hamptons and its love for the arts.

CTC&G: Your company name is Sauvage/Savant. What does that mean?

PM: The name Sauvage/Savant is a play on the personalities of my business partner, Hayley, and me—a yin/yang of sorts. We are two types of people with different ideologies and aesthetics that balance each other out. Savant means brilliant, just on the border of abnormal, and sauvage is a French word meaning wild or natural. Plus the S’s make for a nice alliteration.

CTC&G: Where did you look for inspiration for your debut paper, Hedge?

PM: We started with nature—flowers, wild berries. Privet hedges are everywhere in the Hamptons; I love the architecture of them. Our whole concept for papers, fabrics, and eventually, lifestyle products is to capture nature through an unexpected lens. This will become clearer as we develop new patterns and designs.

CTC&G: Did you base the design on your own taste or on what the market was calling for?

PM: Always my own taste. If I don’t love it, I’m not behind it—it’s false. I do everything based on what I love, and hopefully the market will respond.

CTC&G: What does wallpaper bring to a home’s interiors?

PM: Wallpaper brings personality to a room. If a space is lacking incredible architecture and you need an element to enhance the structure, it’s a great solution. Wallpaper can act like theater and completely change a room, adding history and layers. Stark modernists don’t always love wallpaper, because it’s essentially a classic concept.

CTC&G: You have a lot of ace collaborations (Ralph Lauren, Kate Spade, Schumacher, J. Crew) under your belt. How has that affected your process in these new ventures?

PM: Collaborations in general are enriching. You’re listening, learning and gaining. To be able to do it with such experts is priceless. It’s a learning process, businesswise and mentally—you’re increasing your knowledge base.

CTC&G: You co-produced CTC&G’s April wallpaper feature. What was it like styling a photo shoot?

PM: The process was fun for me: artistic and hands-on. I zoned in on bright color and patterns that aren’t timid or safe. I want it to lift readers’ spirits. I told [CTC&G editorial director] D.J. Carey, “Let’s not go gray. Let’s not do neutrals.” I’m tired of looking at grays after this hell of a winter. We need some color!

CTC&G: For the story, you created mood boards. Do you use this strategy in your own designs?

PM: I do, all the time. It’s an exercise all creative people do. I made mood boards when I worked in fashion, too. It’s a visual representation of the direction you’re going in, and is great to show to clients as well.


(Above: Patrick Mele’s Sauvage/Savant wallpaper, Hedge, hangs next to Peter Fasano (left) and Trove (right) black and whites.)