You’ll likely feel like a kid again, (albeit a matured and cultured one) as you tour this understated and elevated treehouse. Architect, Clarke Design Group, built this home to hug the existing trees and marshland, while Designer, Melissa Lenox, furthered the indoor-outdoor fusion with sleek finishes that contrast and highlight the incredible nature surrounding this home. Take a peek at the stunning photos captured by Katie Charlotte Photography to see why this home makes the kid (and adult) in us so happy.
Let’s talk about this amazing home we’re touring today. Is there a specific moment in this project that you are especially thrilled with?
I love everything happening in the entry. You are basically encased in steel which is quite the dichotomy of nature…but there’s so much glass that it works. The combo of the Kristin Blackney art, the Amber Interior bench, and the classic Urban Electric pendant, all while standing there taking in that gorgeous view – it’s pretty special. I also love the Pele bubble light in the master bath. It’s fun but very airy.
Your design firm specializes in ground-up construction. What part of this process most excites you?
We are almost all ground up and full gut reno these days and I love it! I love the big picture. It’s very gratifying to be with a client from day one, when everything is on paper, and then to move them into their new home and see that shine in their eyes. I think that’s what I most think about at the very beginning – how can I make these clients excited about this space but also create a place that is nurturing to their soul and also beautiful for them to live in.
After five years in interior design, you decided to launch your own firm. Can you share a bit about what lead to the founding of Melissa Lennox Design?
I started working for an architecture and interiors firm in San Francisco right as I was completing my design degree at UC Berkeley. It was an amazing opportunity, and I had an incredible mentor with extremely high standards who taught me so much. But I’ve always known I wanted to start my own firm to allow me the freedom to do my own thing creatively and also make my own schedule. I’m not your ordinary 9-5 gal! I also ended up unexpectedly moving to the east coast, so it made sense to just launch on my own when I moved to Charleston.
Before pursuing interior design, you had a career in business and marketing. Does your previous career play a part in your current profession?
Gosh, I had no idea at the time but that business degree and years managing marketing budgets really do apply to running a design firm! There is so much beauty and creativity in this business but, in the end, I’m running a business. I am also helping people navigate how to allocate large budgets and balance where to spend their money. It’s great to have the confidence to know how to handle that and I think so much of it comes from my time in corporate America. This business is also all about deadlines. The only thing I love more than a deadline is achieving a deadline early!
The home we’re featuring today feels so open and airy, I can hardly tell where the home ends and the outdoors begin. Please tell us a bit about the inspiration and process behind designing this home.
From the start, my main and very clear goal was to bring the outdoors in for an open living/treehouse concept. The splendor of the live oak trees and marsh is undeniable – what can compete with that! All the main living spaces and the master suite were intended to marry the interiors with the unique and beautiful Lowcountry view. Phil Clarke, the architect, did a wonderful job of wrapping the house around the trees in a way that allows us to do this for the entire back of the home. It’s really quite stunning to be in the space with all the doors open. You really do feel like you’re outside!
The outdoor living space is an entertainer’s dream! How did this all come together?
These clients love to entertain and the husband is an amazing cook (I can vouch from experience!) so the large outdoor grill was a must. There’s the huge Gloster sectional for lounging, the chaise loungers for sunning yourself by the pool, and the bar top facing the marsh for early morning email checks and coffee. We hit all the high notes!
We peeked at your Instagram and in addition to gorgeous photos of your work you also have a few stories on international travel. Will you tell us a bit about what attracts you to travel and how it inspires your designs?
I’ve been an avid and frequent traveler since my early 20’s. I love the perspective shift that being in another setting and culture provides. I think it’s easy to only see our own world and our own reality. But there is a great big world out there and much of it is nothing like what we experience in the US. I have always been intrigued by the diversity of cultures, mainly when they are a dramatic shift of my own norm: uber modern architecture in Singapore, old-world colonial building in Laos, exotic tree houses in the Amazon jungle, medieval fortresses in India, glamping at it finest in the Serengeti…I could go on and on. What I’ve realized is that inspiration is everywhere, and I try and infuse a bit of those other worlds into my design aesthetic.
When working with clients, what steps do you take to design the home of their dreams, while also ensuring it’s livable?
I first start with the big dream. This means selecting inspiration photos to develop a concept for a look and style they will love. Next, we talk about their lifestyle and how they will live in the space…. all the things, kids, dogs, do you spill all your wine, do you eat pizza on the sofa, etc. I use tons of performance fabrics and there are so many more options these days that are beautiful and durable. A home must be livable and comfortable or what’s the point.
This home has an almost spa-like feeling, it’s luxurious, serene, and comfortable. How did you achieve this cozy quiet mood throughout the home?
I’m glad that came across as that was the goal! Having designed this client’s previous home, I knew that simplicity reigns. They do not like clutter, anything overly fussy, or without purpose. They are the true embodiment of “clean living”! Minimal Luxury was the goal and again we layered in neutrals to create interest without overwhelming that space. The intention was glamourous yet comfortable with the overarching focus being a home of serenity and calm.
How would you describe your design style? If we were to tour all of your homes what common thread would hold them all together?
My design style is generally relaxed. I don’t use a ton of color (although I’m trying to branch out!) and lean towards soft neutrals. One thing that all my homes have in common natural light. My goal is to have a window in every room, except non-walk-in closets. For me, natural light is 100% the ultimate importance.
Are there any books, music, or artists that you’ve been immersed in recently?
I’m pretty into Raphael Saadiq these days. He’s got a great chill vibe. I love photography and recently purchased an Anne Menke piece that I love. I also recently discovered David Ballam at Sarza in NYC whose work is stunning. When it comes to art I think you need to really feel something about it; whether it’s joy and happiness or something uncomfortable. For books, I recently finished “Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea” by journalist Barbara Demick. It’s a deeply moving narrative of humanity and also very eye-opening to a completely different existence.
It has been over a year since we’ve all been challenged to reimagine how our homes nurture and serve us. What does a well-lived home mean to you?
I am of the mindset that you should absolutely love your home. Psychologically, it really does provide so much peace and comfort. The last year has been such a turbulent time and I think people have really started to realize how important it is to have a home that is comfortable and that makes you happy. The best feeling is being gone for a long stretch of travel and then walking through my front door. I always immediately feel grateful to be engulfed in my special place.
Love what you see? Take a peek at the talent behind the story… Interior Design: Melissa Lenox Design · Architect: Clarke Design Group · Builder: Curtis Daniel Homes · Landscape Architect: Remark Studio · Photographer: Katie Charlotte Photography