I had the pleasure of interviewing Melissa Rufty of MMR Interiors for my latest interiors feature for Peachy Magazine. I have been a long time fan of her work and am delighted to share more of her work and inspiration in my latest “Creative Minds” interview….
When did you know you wanted to pursue design as a career and how did you get started?
I had a successful career in advertising. I loved it but the pace was not sustainable with a family. I quit to raise my children but quickly found myself in need of a creative outlet. I had a passion for interiors and quietly started helping people. Before I knew it, I found myself in a new career.
What is your creative process?
It starts with the client and the space. I don’t have a go-to “look”. Like in my advertising career…I see my design work as packaging and branding the client. I like the home to be a true extension of them. I don’t necessarily want people to walk into a space I have decorated and say “Melissa Rufty did this room”. I would prefer it to look like a really great representation of the client. It makes my job harder but definitely more rewarding.
What is your latest creative breakthrough?
Our Kitchen in the swamp barn project. It had to be functional enough for a staff of caterers but also look like it had been there for a long time. It was no easy task but I think we achieved the goal. We went as far as to design an island outfitted with old wood crates to cover up the conduit but also serve as useful but rustic drawers.
What do you do for inspiration?
My office is on Magazine street where I am surrounded by countless artists, antique stores and galleries. It takes about ten steps in any direction to get inspired. I’ll hit the street and find a piece of art or an antique rug that speaks to me and often the palette for the whole house starts from there.
What has been the most pivotal moment in your career?
There will be a collective eye roll from your New Orleans readership when I say this but – Katrina. There was so much damage that putting people’s homes together took on a new meaning. It showed me that it goes way beyond adornment. Making people’s spaces is a privilege that I don’t take for granted.
Tell us about your current work.
It has been a fun year. In addition to my New Orleans projects, I have worked on one of my favorite projects of my career. It is a party barn in the bayou. It is a working barn, entertaining space and guest house combined. It is situated right on the swamp complete with a quarter mile lit swamp walk that goes to the main house. I can’t imagine there will be many projects like that in my lifetime! It is so unique and the owners took great care in integrating it into the environment. I always am working on a New York apartment or two – I love mixing my Southern perspective with the edge of New York.
Can you give us a glimpse of what to expect from Melissa Rufty in the future?
We are working on a beautiful old house in Monroe, LA. It is one of those great houses they just don’t make anymore. It was once decorated by Mark Hampton so it is fun to go back and look at old publications to see the differences and similarities compared to what I have done in the space.
What do you want to be remembered for?
Infusing soul in my design work. I want to achieve more than just pretty spaces.
Do you have any advice for budding designers?
Try to stay away from “the latest and greatest”. Learn how to discern what is a flash in the pan from what has staying power.
Whose work do you admire?
The list is endless…Tony Duquette for his flair, Amelia Handegan for her classicism, Bunny Williams for her layering, David Hicks for being timeless. Like I said – the list is endless.
What is your dream vacation?
My needs are simple – a nice beach with my family.
What is your secret vice?
Watching TV in the bathtub.
What is your idea of bliss?
Peace and quiet. I have three teenage daughters and two dogs that are frenemies…I am usually knee deep in drama by 7am.
If you had a theme song, what would it be?
The Rolling Stones…paint it black. I’m doing an all black butlers pantry right now and I am crushing on it big time!
What do you collect?
Sweetgrass baskets (I’m originally from South Carolina)
What is your favorite color?
Any shade of green.
Favorite design trick?
Clearly – putting a banquette in any useless corner I can find! It works every time. I have clients tell me again and again that is where people congregate.
How has New Orleans influenced your design aesthetic?
I was captivated by New Orleans from the start. I feel that the qualities of the city definitely come through in my design….a little bit of gilt here, a little bit of grit there, comfort and a sense of joie de vivre throughout
What is your favorite space (interior/ architecture/ garden) in New Orleans?
There is no shortage of great spots in New Orleans. There are too many to list…from beautiful garden district homes to dive bars with plaster falling off the walls exposing the 18th century brick, the Sculpture Garden at City Park.
Thanks Melissa for a great interview!
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