Tulsa-based designer Mel Bean of Mel Bean Interiors knows the importance of marrying form and function, all while creating spaces that reflect her clients’ personalities. Take today’s home tour for instance—Mel is welcoming us into this midtown modern abode, full of enviable natural light and bold details that brighten up it’s neutral base. She’s also sharing a bit into her day-to-day, design process and vision, plus the best advice she’s held in her back pocket and valuable lessons she’s learned along the way.
What do you love about being an interior designer and how did you get your start?
I absolutely love when I can get in a creative “zone” of problem solving, addressing the functional demands of real life with beauty and the expression of my clients’ identities. It’s a thrill for me to find the restrained balance of color, texture, form, and livability that resonates with a family.
It was this craving for a creative outlet that first lured me to switch my major from Psych/Pre-Med to Interior Design in college. I immediately knew I had found my place, my passion. I have continued to hone and develop my design eye, as well as my professional growth, through many incredible life experiences and collaboration with many inspiring people. And the expression on my client’s faces when they first see the finished product is bliss for me!
If you had to describe your design style like a cocktail, what would it be?
My design style is like a Mojito made with the best Cuban Rum, Havana Club. It has subtle layers but is simple, smooth and approachable.
What is your favorite part of the design process? The most challenging?
My favorite part of the design process is presenting a unique design to my client and watching it turn into a true collaboration. All of the work and creative flow culminates in a vision and conversation with our clients where we can all see a glimpse of what is to come. We have wonderful and fun clients!
Interior Design isn’t just fun and games, it’s hard work! The most challenging part of the design process is when tension builds towards the end of a long construction project. Sometimes a shift occurs where the client experience has gone from an exciting pursuit of their dreams to a somewhat stressful experience in which they just want it be DONE already! This is common, and we work hard to help relieve the stress, and bring joy to even the most challenging parts of the journey.
Walk us through a typical day in the life of Mel Bean Interiors…
I don’t think there is a typical day in the life of Mel Bean Interiors! Some days are packed with client meetings, which totally energize me. Others are heavy on the details of running a business, and collaborating with my marketing team. Some of my favorite days are creative days of design development with my interiors team, sourcing inspiring products, mixed in with a lot of laughter and fun. Our weekly staff meetings involve a wine tasting, and we also take turn choosing restaurants for monthly team lunches. My staff is incredible and I couldn’t do it without them!
I am also a mother to 11 year old twin boys, and beginning and ending the day with these hilarious, sweet souls is a big part of how I have the energy to do it all. It’s a lot of hard work, but I feel so fortunate to live this life I love!
One of the best bits of advice I have been given is, “If you find you are the smartest person in the room, get out of the room.”
With a diversely talented design team in your studio, what is your best advice for others who want to expand their business and hire employees?
One of the best bits of advice I have been given is “If you find you are the smartest person in the room, get out of the room.” For me, this means hire people who have skill sets that compliment areas you may be weaker in or less passionate about, and learn from one another. Challenge yourself and never stop growing personally and professionally. Don’t feel threatened. Some of my favorite designs have been projects where we have pushed one another, and the design, beyond our comfort zone and explored the space we climb to together, as a team. When a designer has the space to explore and develop their creativity, they take a meaningful ownership over the process. I make sure my hands and eyes are on everything that goes out the door, and we can achieve more together than on our own.
And don’t underestimate the power of hiring the professionals you need to excel on the aspects of the business not related to design. In addition to our design team, Mel Bean Interiors has an incredible office manager, a super detailed purchasing specialist, the best book keeper, and other professional consultants who make Mel Bean Interiors stronger. I really do have the best team!
What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned as a business owner?
There have been so many lessons – good and bad. The most profoundly impactful lesson is a broad one: remain dogged in my pursuit of learning, of growth. There is always something to be improved upon, always inspiration to be found. Own your mistakes, and learn from them. Managing a business, and a team, leaves less time for the creativity that drives most of us in this industry.
If you find yourself suffering a lack of creative expression, make immediate changes to ignite your passion! For me this can mean visiting an art gallery, travel, time in nature, or simply an hour of uninterrupted design. But the most valuable lesson? You’ll never know what you are capable of if you are afraid to try.
What is your proudest accomplishment to date?
I am so proud to have created a successful business which has given me the opportunity to work with incredible clients, and a truly amazing team. I get to do this on my terms: a supportive and encouraging work environment, dream projects all over the map, the ability to travel and explore my passions, while still preserving, and even benefiting my life with my boys, family, and friends.
If you could sit next to any other designer in the world on a 5 hour flight, who would it be and why?
Oh, this is a fun question! If time travel is a thing, I would choose Elsie De Wolfe. In a time where “work” was a man’s world, she carved out a space for her gifts and was wildly successful, contributing largely to the creation of the profession of Interior Design. I am awed by her strength, inspired by her designs, and fascinated to know more of what it must have been like to design in a time where a path had not been paved for her.
What are some design elements you’re looking forward to using this year in your projects?
I’m excited about the opportunity to use unique forms in less expected ways: an amorphous sofa, sculptural lighting, carved tables. Dreamy shapes in all types of materials.
Instagram account(s) you’re currently crushing on:
@nicolehollissf, @leannefordinteriors, and sooo many travel accounts!
Current favorite podcast:
Podcasts: Radiolab, which helps my mind’s need to know more, more!
How I Built This – hearing the stories behind the making of some of the worlds largest entrepreneurs is truly inspiring, and I find myself cheering them on!
3 apps you can’t live without:
Instagram (obviously), Spotify (I listen to music pretty much all day, every day!), and Door Dash (for when I need to eat but don’t want to break my creative zone!)
Favorite beats usually playing in the studio:
We have such a variety! A few of my faves on Spotify: “Chill Hits” playlist, Vance Joy Radio, “An Elegant Affair” playlist, “Classic Acoustic” playlist.