Today I’m meeting Mel Brasier of Bravo TV’s Backyard Envy at the Americano Hotel (one of her design projects!). A classical trained dancer at the Alvin Aliey School, Mel reinvented her talents as a commercial interior designer before joining forces with friends James and Garrett to start Manscapers New York. In addition to planning the grandest backyards and rooftop spaces in the city, Mel handcrafts custom furniture all the while looking perfectly stylish! Follow her @melbrasier, @backyardenvyofficial and @manscapersny.
What’s your favorite pair of jeans and where did you find them? I am in love with Acne jeans but also wear Gap, Levi’s and Reformation denim. Reformation is in the lead for favorite pair this year. 90% of my closet is Reformation at this point.
I noticed that you wear minimal lightweight jewelry which makes a lot of sense if you are using shovels and saws on a typical job! What are some of your favorite pieces? I don’t wear a lot of jewelry and have given away most of what I use to own (which I now slightly regret since having my daughter). But the things I do own and have are from my all time favorite store in Brooklyn called Catbird. I wear a yellow gold, lightweight choker daily. I have a few other similar pieces that I wear occasionally as well. I never really got a wedding ring (I thought I didn’t want one at the time but have completely changed my mind) and I’m now have my eye on the catbird Fairy Light ring to make for my absent wedding band (I have been married almost 4 years and have been wearing a ring my mom gave me, ugh.) I also wear a small-ish silver men’s watch everyday. It’s my favorite thing I own and wear it no matter what work we are doing.
I wasn’t surprised to learn that you have a background in dance as dancers have the best posture and style! Do you feel that your ballet training and yoga practice has inspired your style? 100%, yes. I have a thing for good posture; it’s something I always notice and am aware of. My nearly two decades of dance training and yoga have given me the gift of a strong back and core which leads to good posture. Good posture makes any outfit look so much better. Beyond posture, I defiantly have a “dancer” style of dress in the sense that I constantly layer (think “warm ups” and legwarmers over leotards) but now in a construction worker’s life.
What advice do you have to young entrepreneurs that want to start a business with their friends? Starting a business is really hard, with or without your friends. There are lot of times in the beginning that you find that you are paying others a lot more than you can pay yourself, which can be very discouraging at times because most likely you are the one putting in the most hours. My best piece of advise if you are going to start your own business is to go ALL IN. Don’t have a back up plan or a secondary source of income to fall back on, because if that’s the case you will most likely run to that the second things get a little rocky (rather than sticking it out in your own venture). If you are lucky enough to work with your friends I really recommend making friend dates outside of work, the same as you might do in a long-term relationship. Friend time without work talk has saved my friendship with my two best friends.
Who are some of your favorite interior and landscape designers? I am very into pottery and ceramics for interiors. My current obsession is a Swiss artist named Carmen D’Apollonio. She makes (mainly) lamps that are beautiful yet playful sculptural pieces. I’m so drawn to her work and been eyeing a few pieces I want for my apartment. For landscape designers, my current and forever obsession is Piet Oudolf. He’s a genius, no questions asked. I think most landscape designers would agree with me. For those who are not familiar with his work, his style is a very naturalistic. He creates a meadow style that uses perennial plants and creates palettes that are rhythmic and full of texture and color. There is a choreography to his work that plays with bloom and decay (throughout the year) in any given garden. For those in New York, his most well known work is the High Line park on the West Side of Manhattan.
What’s your favorite outdoor spaces in the city? The High Line of course all year round, summer time tacos at Chilos in Bed Stuy Brooklyn, Dumbo House for a Sunday hangout and my own backyard. It has become a clubhouse of sorts for my group of friends. We have a huge backyard (rare for Brooklyn or NYC in general) and an above ground pool (which my sister loves to remind me is only cool if you live in Brooklyn). I love to entertain at my apt./ backyard, mainly so I don’t have to leave home.
What are you tired of seeing in exterior living design and what would you like to see more of? I am tired of seeing outdoor spaces that aren’t taken care of. Yes, I know I am a landscape designer by profession and a gardener as my hobby and I love to take care of my outdoor space to the extreme, but I am tired of seeing outdoor spaces not treated with the respect they deserve. A lot of people are intimated by outdoor space and plants in general and that’s really one of the main reasons my partners and I started our landscaping business – In order to make plants and outdoor spaces more playful and add to one’s quality of life rather than be an after thought and unattended space. I would love to see more confidence in general with taking care of plants and landscape. All it really takes is the tiniest bit of effort and things will thrive. I don’t believe in having a “green thumb” or “black thumb”. It’s all made up.
What did you wear the last time you went out to dinner? The last time I went out to dinner I wore black high-waisted jeans from Reformation and a long sleeve Patagonia t-shirt tucked in with Nike trainers.
Where did you go and what did you order? The last time my husband, daughter and I went out to dinner, we went to Diner in Brooklyn, which is on my block in Williamsburg. I ordered a hamburger, mainly because my daughter is obsessed with French fries and I want to keep her happy in order to have a nice meal. She’s just 2 ½ so meals out as a family are rare right now.
What song will you never delete from your playlist? My friends and husband, who all have great music taste, joke that I only know three bands / singers which are LCD Sound System, Led Zeppelin, and Paul Simon. I do know slightly more bands than that, but those are my top three of all time.
Do you believe in astrology? If so what’s your sign and which characteristics are important parts of your personality? I don’t really believe in astrology but my husband and I are both Scorpios and I have been told that that’s a crazy combination??!!
If you could go in a time machine, where and when would you travel to? I would travel to the future and meet my daughter and her great -grandchildren. I would love to see how she is as an old lady with a clan of offspring of her own.
What would you wear on this time machine adventure? I would wear my short, white Alexander Wang wedding dress because I am sad that I got to wear it once so far (and maybe my family of the future would think I am vintage chic?!).
If you were a flower or plant what would you be? A Peony – that is my 9 year old step-daughter’s name and I because of that, all of my family identifies with that flower like it’s our family symbol.
If you could invite anyone in the world to a dinner party would you invite and why? I would invite my husband. He travels for his work a lot and I never feel like we are in the same place at once. A dinner party would be a nice date.
Fill in the blanks regarding your closet!
The last thing I bought on vacation was Silver Coach Booties when I traveled to Las Vegas to see my family.
I spent too much money on Rimowa luggage but saved a lot of money on winter coats (because I steal all of my husbands).
I would love to wear Anything from the new Bottega Veneta Collection and appear in this publication Architectural Digest – in my dreams!
I don’t wear any fragrance at all but I love smelling this fragrance on someone else Essential Oils, like the inside of a yoga studio!