New Orleans-based interior designer Melissa Rufty is one of the reigning authorities in the design world, and we had the pleasure of chatting with her about her work. Although she hangs her hat in NOLA, she has a well-heeled client base across the country. It’s a funny thing to speak to Melissa, who had a former life in public relations; she is so loathe to self-promote and almost thunderstruck when I asked her how she would like to be known as a designer.
“That’s just it,” she says. “I don’t want to be recognized or have a look that’s totally determined.” As she explains it, she creates an image for others but never for herself. Utilizing her old public relations jargon, she says she doesn’t want to be a brand herself but rather to give her clients their own brand.
She might be humble about her own firm Melissa Rufty Design Studio, but we want to gush! Her work is vibrant and springs from an authentic place. In her New Orleans-based designs, it would be easy to fall back on what’s always been done in the tradition-steeped city. But she is bucking traditions that feel stale and fostering the styles that have staying power. She can boast of a client list that’s a veritable “who’s who” of New Orleans society and then some. Just trying to imagine her daily workload gives us a proxy anxiety that she never lets show for a minute.
Melissa is also a regular feature in all the design publications: Architectural Digest, House Beautiful, Garden & Gun, and more. We here at Fireside were all abuzz when she so graciously agreed to answer some of our questions.
Five 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 and pioneering. Are there any combinations of color 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 do your preferences evolve with current projects? I do struggle with a look. I don’t want people to know it’s me. I want to repackage my client’s 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 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 Street and share a courtyard with go-to fine linen shop, Leontine Linens.
We are so grateful to Melissa for answering our design queries. It was tricky work to select interiors to feature here, which is why we recommend a perusal of her website below for even more liberated color palettes and elegance.
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