My friendship with Mel formed very quickly and easily. She was sweet, genuine and kind, beautiful and funny, talented, and very giving of herself (oh and did I mention that she is also drop-dead gorgeous)? The kind of person that you just want to hang around. We were both working in the art department of different film projects, but on the same floor at Pixar Animation Studios, what seemed like a lifetime ago. Sometimes during our breaks, we would sneak away and chat about anything - work, life, our hopes and dreams.
Mel had been a freelance photographer outside of work, so when EleStory was still brand new and I was in need of a great photographer to capture our first collection on model, Mel was the obvious choice. I booked a photo studio in the Mission district of San Francisco, gathered a few of our friends, my little June (who was almost 2 at the time) and her cousin, and had some fun!
Fast forward almost nine years, we are both living out our dreams, and are both mamas of two girls. I still remember three years ago, when Mel shot my maternity photos while I was pregnant with our rainbow baby, she and Josh were contemplating making a big move with their first daughter Winter out of Los Angeles to pursue a simpler life. It was going to be a hard decision, but, not surprisingly, they did just that. I wanted to shine a little spotlight on my beautiful friend Mel and her darling girls, Winter and Sunny, in hopes of inspiring you.
Tell us your story: who are you and how did you get to where you are?
Most people I know call me Mel. I am an-all-things-creative person at heart. I am constantly starting new projects before I finish my last and live to have that feeling of inspiration to try something new. I’m 37 years old now and proud to say that I have switched courses in the wind to focus most of my hours every day on mothering my two little girls, Winter and Sunny. Becoming a mom to them has taught me to check my own ambitions and see the beauty in living life in the moment.
What was the impetus behind the move to rural Somerset and to build your own home?
My husband and I bought our home after we saw an opportunity to purchase 2 acres of land in across from my mother in-laws' wedding venue. At first we thought, yeah. We can do a little renovation and turn it into an Airbnb.
What ACTUALLY unfolded was purchasing a house, sight unseen, 8.5 months pregnant. Then moving our entire lives up to the country in the Sierra Nevada foothills and then tearing the entire place down. We spent 1 year rebuilding the house during Covid, the whole while filming the renovation for a TV show called “First Time Fixer” that aired on Chip and Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Network. Least to say we moved into the home. The project grew and we began to consider this place home despite living 250+ miles from where we had started.
What has been the hardest part of building your home?
The hardest part of building our home was most definitely thinking that we would crash at my in-laws' place for 3 months (bless them) while we did the renovation (all of us in one room) and then end up staying there for the whole rebuild of the house (1 year). I would nurse the baby in bed, laying on my side to keep her quiet. Co-sleeping uncomfortably. People would come in and out of every room because the house is also a working airbnb and wedding venue and the baby would wake up! I would need to potty train my toddler, change diapers, keep to one room - all of it was very overwhelming and I didn't have my mom to help me! I would be rushing around to pick up toys and messes behind Winter (then 3 years old) to keep things tidy since I was a guest in the space. Whew…just writing this is giving me the sweats!
What has been the best part?
The best part has been living in this space that every detail was picked out by us. We spent most of our lives renting a home. It feels so wonderful to have a place of our own, to put plants into the ground and know that they will be there for us in the years to come. I have loved collaborating with my husband Josh and seeing his talents shine. Watching him figure things out as we dream and then have those dreams exceed expectations.
Which is your favorite space in your home and why?
Our garden is my favorite space in our home. I have never been able to go as big as I can out here on our two acres. I love being outside and watching the seasons change as I teach myself about growing every vegetable and flower! I love playing in the dirt with my kids, watching them dig up worms and pick veggies right out of the ground.
How has motherhood changed you?
In every way and shape possible. Motherhood has transformed my existence. I am amazed by the community of mothers that surrounds me. I never really understood what was happening with new moms behind the curtains. Every mother knows what I am talking about here. To know that every person came from the body of a woman astounds me! I feel less self-centered and care less about my own personal successes.
Sometimes that can feel like I have lost a sense of my identity but then I step back and I am relieved to be thinking outside of myself for most of the day. It is a beautiful thing.
What do you hope to teach your girls as they grow up?
I want to teach my children to have a love for nature and steer them away from being consumed by the addiction of smart phones.
I would love to introduce them to all of the things that they are curious about and cultivate little people who are passionate human beings about whatever catches their interest. My biggest hope for them is that they will feel loved and know that we are there for them. Another big hope is that they will look at the world and their community and wonder how they can contribute to it and make it a better place.
What do you and the girls like most about dressing up in EleStory?
Children have the most beautiful capabilities to go to another place with the most simple transformations. Throwing on an EleStory dress with the beautiful little details like the silk bows and sparkling embellishments take my girls to a magical mindset. They love to dance in the middle of the kitchen. It’s really a special thing to witness!
What are you most looking forward to in this season of your life?
This season seems to be flying by. I am excited to see my children’s relationship with one another continue to grow.
I am excited to be moving onto a phase with the girls that isn’t encumbered by feeding and diapers and get them out exploring with my husband and myself.
Thank you so much, Mel, for sharing such a beautiful part of your lives with us. It serves as a good reminder for us mamas that although motherhood may look very different for each of us, we can live our lives with an intent to see the beauty in these everyday moments.