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Jun 23, 2011
08:00 AM
Window Shopping

Pleasant Living Is a Chic, Elegant Design Heaven

Pleasant Living Is a Chic, Elegant Design Heaven

Rick Shaver and Lee Melahn's Pleasant Living space on East Wilson Street is so unassuming I almost drove past it. Right across from the (proposed) Central Park space and on the east side bike path, the duo's quaint interior design firm/small retail space is a charming little home-turned-art-gallery-turned retail space with a sign outside announcing it's there.

Step in and you find exposed brick walls, wood flooring, a sitting area (shown above, with a couch from the Shaver/Melahn Studios line), sleek, chic home accessories and even a globe hanging sideways on the wall.

Shaver notes that globes are a favorite design element of theirs and they once designed and filled an entire storefront with globes at their former store Mercantile in New York (a customer promptly bought all of the globes). But this interior and furniture design pair have very impressive credentials—during their time in New York City their firm was featured in Gotham Magazine, Country Living, Metropolitan Home, The New York Times, O at Home and more.

Now the couple have opened shop here in Madison, moving back for family reasons (Shaver grew up here) and are digging their heels in the Madison market with interior design services as well as event design.

Q: So you both lived in New York City and had a design studio there for twenty-five years. You also had (and still currently have) your own line of custom furnishings that used to be represented in seven multi-line showrooms throughout the U.S. How do you describe the line to people?
A: Our furniture line was launched in 1998 and our licensed line with Cresent Fine Furniture began in 2005. The line is under the name Shaver/Melahn Studios. We describe the line as contemporary influenced by the French Moderne Moverment with its clean lines and basic shapes.
Q: Describe your interior design aesthetic. What are your favorite projects/rooms to tackle?
A: We’ve always used the tagline of comfortable elegance to describe our design aesthetic. Our goal is to help our clients discover their style and then to design spaces around what makes them comfortable. Our favorite projects are where we can open the door to a client’s undiscovered comfort zone and create a space that is unique not only in its design but in its singular representation of the client 

Q: Who are your favorite designers?
A: There are so many terrifically talented designers out there but the one’s we feel most kindred to are those with an eclectic aesthetic. We’re very impressed with designers like Chris Coleman, Shelton & Mendel, Thomas O’Brian and Bill Soffield.
Q: What's your favorite design trick for a small room?
Install drapery all the way to the ceiling. It softens the room and lifts your eye up rather then out, making the space feel larger. Another trick is to paint it a dark color. It makes the corners disappear and deceives the eye as to the true size.
Q: Name the hottest color pairings/schemes right now that you're loving.
A: Chocolate and vanilla, gossamer blue and ivory, and multiple shades of warm greys.
Q: What's the favorite design project you've worked on?
Rick: An apartment in the Majestic, an Art Deco building on Central Park just across West 72nd from the famous Dakota where John Lennon and Yoko Ono lived
Lee: A one-bedroom condo for an artist and her teenage daughter. I did [it] all in oranges and yellows.
Q: What makes a well-designed room?
A room that can reflect a client’s personality and make you say wow at the same time. Most importantly a room has to function properly.
Q: If I had $100 to spend, what should I spend it on? How about $1,000? How about $10,000?
Lee: For a $100 I’d spend it on paint, for $1,000 I’d spend it on a pair of beautiful Zia-Priven lamps and for $10,000 I’d buy a vintage Robert Doisneau photograph.
Rick: [For] $100 [I'd buy] paint, for $1,000 new drapes and if possible new pillows, for $10,000 a great piece of furniture that acts as a room’s focal point.

Check out the designers' (highly enjoyable!) Pleasant Living blog here!

Pleasant Living, 1227 E. Wilson St. 251-0995.

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About This Blog

As Madison Magazine's style editor, Shayna Mace writes the monthly "Window Shopping" column about Madison's coolest store owners, products and shops. She also reports on Madison's most stylish people, chic items she loves, store events and sales, and additional dish in her weekly blog. Her favorite places to check out around town are local boutiques, consignment and vintage shops for one-of-a-kind treasures, new restaurants and bars, and anywhere that affords her the opportunity to meet and talk to Madison's most inspirational (and many times, fashionable!) people.

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