New Orleanian Interior Designer Melissa Rufty is one of the reigning authorities in her field and although she hangs her hat in Nola she has a well-heeled, national client base. It’s a funny thing to speak to Melissa who had a former life in PR, she is so loathe to self-promote; almost thunderstruck when I asked her how she would like to be known. That’s just it… She says, “I don’t want to be recognized or have a look that’s totally determined.” The way she explains it, she could do this for others but never for herself. But even now, occasionally, she will slip back into the old PR lingo when she says things like, she doesn’t want to be a “brand” herself but rather to give her clients their own brand. She may be done with marketing but clearly, she’s taken the finer points and applied them where she could; careful to not let them run roughshod over what is still mostly an art to her, her own firm Melissa Rufty Design Studio. So, Melissa won’t tell you but I will… and I want to gush! Her work is vibrant and springs from an authentic place but one that’s not overly precious and considering her backdrop of New Orleans; it would be easy to turn to what’s always been done. She’s bucking traditions that feel stale and fostering the ones that have staying power, merit and feel personal. She can boast of a client list that’s a veritable who’s who of New Orleans society and then some. So, trying to imagine her workload gives us a proxy anxiety that I’m sure her expertise somehow absolves her of. Melissa is also a regular feature in all the design handbooks: Architectural Digest, House Beautiful, Garden & Gun, etc… inevitably, we here at Fireside were all abuzz when she so graciously agreed to answer some of our questions.
5 Questions for Designer Melissa Rufty
- Do you have a favorite room? I like the bar or powder room. It’s an opportunity to go big economically and make a statement. Also, you’re not tied to the rest of the house with respect to continuity.
- Are there any rules for you? The rule, if any, is not to follow any. Breaking the rules is a recipe for the most exciting and rewarding projects. Cookie cutter designs never pass. You have to dictate your own spin to every new project.
- What period of antiques do you gravitate towards these days? I love the clean lines of Directoire. I like inlay, yes but antiques with heavy carving are not a favorite for now. I’m also drawn to Art Deco, Biedermeier, Chinoserie and Oriental antiques. I aim for lighter and glossier, modern vibes.
- Your use of color is so inspiring & pioneering; are there any combos that are off-limits for you? Or is there always a way forward? I definitely have an affinity towards the weird, unexpected color combinations. I feel if it works in nature it will work in your living room. I think taking a cue from the natural world is critical.
- Do you have a personal, stalwart style that you keep for yourself or are you ever evolving on your own preferences, say in accordance with your current projects? I do struggle with a look. I don’t want people to know it’s me. I want to repackage my clients vision to fit them not ‘brand Melissa style’. So, I would say my range is broad; always changing. I’m constantly inspired and so it’s nearly impossible to settle on one ‘look’; that would feel like stagnation. I can’t even shop for two client’s at the same time. I’m so linked in with that particular clients needs, that I can only look for them. I have to do an alternate and walk through for each different client.
Melissa is also partnered with fellow designer, Adrienne Casbarian and together they co-own Malachite; a slightly hidden, interior store with a treasure trove of a collection. They’re located on Magazine St. and share a courtyard with the go-to fine linen shop, Leontine Linens.
We are so grateful to Melissa for answering our design queries. It was tricky work to force ourselves to cherry-pick interiors to feature here, which is why we recommend a perusal of her website below for more liberated color palettes and unstuffy elegance.
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