Tour an Exceptionally Zen, 650-Square-Foot Home
Melanie Burstin's serene LA escape will even convince maximalists to go minimal.
Updated Sep 29, 2021 7:33 AM
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Unfamiliar night noises, lonesome Bachelor binge watching, and assuming full responsibility for the family of cockroaches seeking refuge under the kitchen sink are just a few reasons that might deter someone from living alone for the first time. But for Homepolish designer Melanie Burstin, heading out on her own meant the freedom to create.
“Designing a space just for myself has officially been my favorite project to date. I’ve never felt more comfortable in my own home,” says Burstin.
In search of endless warmth and constant sunshine, the New York native recently made the familiar trek from NYC to Los Angeles, following the same footsteps of many winter-averse Manhattanites before her. Here, in the neighborhood of Echo Park, Burstin found her slice of West Coast comfort. Natural light and blonde hardwood floors were all she needed to bring her 650-square-foot blank canvas to life.
“I think most designers would agree that we are our own worst and hardest clients. That said, it was so great to not have to compromise on any of my vision. If I liked something, I bought it! I knew what I wanted my space to feel like, and it was so fun to not have to get approval from a partner or roommate.”
While it’s clear Burstin has developed a signature sense of style, interior design wasn’t always in the cards for her. “My design career actually began in the art world. I was working at a gallery in Beverly Hills, and after a few months—at the ripe old age of 22—I was promoted to director, and started running it,” she recalls.
With an eye for balanced and distinctly personal spaces, Burstin made an effortless, yet unexpected transition to her dream career. “I had hoped early on that art would be my in to the design world, and so, as I felt more and more ready to leave the gallery, I attempted to jump careers. It started with an internship with an amazing designer while I continued to work at the gallery, and soon transitioned into assisting a second designer, who was also opening a furniture showroom,” she says.
Though the designer has worked on countless projects, nothing could compare to creating a space all her own. Luckily, Burstin had very few cosmetic changes to make in her new abode, aside from swapping out the dated light fixtures for something more current.
“I wanted something that felt warmer,” she notes. “My overall vision was minimal, yet comfortable. I love creating spaces that feel modern and cool, but still warm and inviting.”
Sure, you could call her a minimalist, but that really wouldn’t do her style justice. Burstin’s aesthetic is seemingly more complex and more layered than that.
“My style is modern and minimal, but warm. It’s really important to me that a space feels chic and exciting, but comfortable and inviting. I think, in design, I’m a minimalist—but probably not in other aspects of my life (for example, my wardrobe). Every friend of mine who comes over and sees my home comments on how my bedroom inspires them to want to get rid of all their belongings and furniture. That wasn’t my intention, but I really wanted it to feel relaxing, and like a retreat. For me, that means less is more.”
Minimalist or not, one thing is clear: When it comes to material, Burstin has an obvious preference. “I love wood,” she admits. This singular obsession informs just about every object in her space—from her tiniest tchotchke to the living room sofa.
“The reason I fell in love with this apartment was the color of the floors, kitchen cabinets, and the amount of natural light it gets. I think wood is the perfect backdrop, as it’s warmer than concrete and other minimal materials, but it still disappears when it needs to,” she explains.
While many might fear that having so much of one thing in such a tiny space would certainly overwhelm the eye, Burstin’s exceptional display feels anything but one-note. Case in point: It looks good because it feels genuine.
“I think it’s funny when friends and clients ask me about mixing wood tones, and if you can have too many woods. For me, there’s never too much, as long as it’s broken up by clean, white walls. I’m really inspired by Japanese design, and even when you look back into their culture’s design history, it’s a majority of wood, which I find really stunning.”
Not unlike the rest of the home, there’s an elementary beauty to the designer’s art collection. In the bedroom alone, abstract prints, tiny framed figures, and intriguing sketches make up an understatedgallery wall
Rather than haphazardly gathering artwork the moment she realized she would be living sans roommates, Burstin grew her collection organically.
“First and foremost, the most important thing with art is that you have a guttural feeling of connection to it. Loving each piece is really important. I know a lot of people worry about how to create a collection, but I believe if you love each piece, a collection will naturally form because the art will have your aesthetic as a through line,” she suggests.
Of course, the real influence behind Burstin’s space—and the force that continues to fuel her vision—is Japanese minimalism. The shapes, textures, colors, and materials she’s currently craving from across the Pacific are inspiring her (and, by default, us) to bring spaces together in fresh and exciting ways.
“I’ve been obsessed with Japanese culture and design for a few years now. The soft minimalism is just done so perfectly over there. I may not have used any in my own home, but I’m also really into lime wash at the moment. For every new project I have, I want the walls to feel textured, and for the floors, walls, and fixtures to seem like one material. I love the way wood tones and greens work together. Throw in splashes of yellow, and I believe you’ve got my color palette!”
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