Name: Johnelle Mancha (Founder of Mignonne Décor)
Location: Oakland, California
Size: 980 sq/ft
Years lived in: 5 months, rented
Stepping into artist and designer Johnelle Mancha's Oakland cottage is like entering one of the great salons of 1920s Paris. Welcoming rooms, outfitted in exquisite vintage decor whisper of European aristocracy, Middle Eastern adventures, and the joys of classic American recreation. The vibrant atmosphere, complete with a working fireplace, elicits conversation, spoken preferably with an accent française.
It's no wonder Johnelle's home is so delightful, as owner of Mignonne, a Berkeley boutique brimming with revamped vintage furniture and home decor items, it's her job to seek out the stylish. Unique pieces like a cream leather chair festooned with a swag of metal studs and an art deco dental cabinet are surrounded by an assortment of lovely ladies who gaze out from flea market frames. There's the cheeky 1940s calendar girl, the sparkling fairy of Italian vermouth, and the buxom boudoir vixen in robes of blue.
But the beauty of this abode goes beyond the individual things that fill it. An intrinsic elegance permeates each of the cottage's five rooms. Perhaps it's the endearing character of its many subtle imperfections, patched up, or enhanced by Johnelle's own skilled hand, that make the space so alluring. When she moved in the house wasn't quite right. She painted the sink cabinet in the bathroom blue, plastered one bedroom wall with 1940s wallpaper, and ripped up the wall-to-wall carpeting to reveal paint-splattered planks of hard wood. Perfect they're not, but Johnelle, dressed in her own paint-splattered work clothes and vintage high heels, can relate.
My/Our style: I definitely have an eclectic style, and tend to lean towards unique decor, and color. I don't want my house to feel like a museum, or too cluttered, I just love to have things that are not so obviously store bought, and that have a flair. As far as style, it changes day to day. My motto, for both my home and my shop is that if I love it and can wear it, or see it in my space then I can buy it, keep it, or pass it along to someone else.
Inspiration: The times and the history that has passed before us. I love old books, records, clothes, dishes...
Design, and designing things myself for my home and shop. I have recently loved finding vintage textiles - "Suzanis" in particular, and making pillows. I will juxtapose vintage with a modern or classic linen, pop color, denim or funky fabric. I guess that is really what inspires me the most - somehow transforming something old to make it enjoyable, functional, and different once again.
Traveling! Colors, people, accents, clothes, buildings... My house is really a collection of my art, my finds, and favorite things. I want people who come over to remember and notice little things that are different, like if I poor a glass of wine in an 80-year-old vaseline glass goblet.
Biggest Challenge: Finding the time to be at home to continue specific projects and enjoy my petite garden! Having a shop keeps me away, but when I can relax, and make a fire, and reflect on my new projects with my other half, and enjoy my space, and play cards, I am happiest!
What Friends Say: "Where did you find this?!" It could be a cool painting or just some random new decor piece.
Biggest Embarrassment: Not finishing a few projects because I have something so unique in mind. For example, I have a beautiful vanity, I haven't had it too long, but it is missing the drawer pulls. Most people I would imagine would just go buy something from the hardware store, but for me it isn't that simple... I have something specific in mind that once I see, I will just know it's a match. Until I find them the vanity will just have to live with out the pulls!
Biggest Indulgence: My rug and couch. These two key elements are important in creating a space and help ground and pull all the decorative elements together - no matter what your style is. They kind of set the stage!
Best Advice: You don't have to spend tons of money to create a really cool room/home! Sometimes people think if a store looks small, or unique, or old that it is going to be more expensive than shopping at Target or other department stores. Vintage dishes and glassware are so fun and you would be amazed at how much is out there! You can challenge yourself to create your own collection, like maybe only shop for vintage dishes that have yellow in them!
Many times clients will come in to my shop and say, "I've been meaning to stop in, I drive by all the time!" They look around at my revamped furniture pieces, and say "wow, I really thought your prices were going to be a lot more expensive..."
I try to always have a good range of prices, meaning that I always have a few pieces of furniture that are under $100 on my floor. Also, the service we offer of letting people choose to bring in a piece of furniture they already own, for me to paint or revamp can be budget savvy!
Dream Source: The galleries and quirky shops you stumble upon while walking down the unexpected streets in Paris. I love being inspired by the architecture and the novelties of new stores. On a recent visit, I stumbled upon a home boutique that specialized in only handmade local white ceramics, and the collections were displayed on cool vintage furniture pieces, and you had to walk down the oldest stone staircase into a little cave with more of the ceramics! To me, these types of experiences are so dreamy, and inspire me in my furniture line, and design.
Green Elements/Initiatives: In my home, green elements are found in almost everything. I have a record player, which means I don't buy CDs. I have so much fun collecting records. If I'm debating will I or will I not like this record, it's easy, because they're inexpensive, and most importantly I love the snap crackle and pop!
All my dishware/glassware is vintage. I collect green vaseline glass from the 1930s to 1940s. I also love handmade items, like my handblown red wine goblets - green, because they are handmade versus machine produced.
Most of my furniture is vintage and/or repurposed by me. Repurposed furniture reduces the amount of trees harvested for new furniture; reuses existing furniture, which means one less item in a dump or landfill somewhere; and supports recycling because refinishing a piece transforms it into something new and functional again. There's so much stuff out there, I think its amazing to try to reuse as much of it as we can!
Appliances: Practical and functional!
Hardware: Vintage silverware, sterling/sterling plated mixed collection.
Furniture: A few new elements - modern 1960s-inspired grey tweed couch, Kartell lucite lamp deigned by Laviani. Antique pieces - mid-century modern window bench/storage piece, antique French oak Louis coffee table. Vintage pieces repurposed by me - chest of drawers in the kitchen, vintage black and white dental cabinet I use for jewelry, and clothing, overstuffed dark green vinyl chair with accent pillows, turquoise and stainless office chair, petite leather studded vintage chair, antique oak and cane dining table, Baroque 1970s original fabriqued armchair, deco oak vanity, vintage mirrored bed...
Accessories: Vintage lamps, vintage pillows, pillows designed by me using suzanis, books, records, art.
Lighting: Antique wrought iron green patina oversized chandelier, 1960s blown glass lamps, Kartell lucite lamp.
Rugs and Carpets: The hardwood floors were covered with carpet when I moved in. Old carpet is no fun - one of the only old things i don't swear by. (Old rugs are another thing) I ripped out the carpet, and the floors are now wood - kind of artsy with some paint splatters here and there, but i love them! My living room carpet is colorful! Pinks, oranges, blues, teal, it is from Iran, and is hand knotted wool, vintage, circa 1950s.
Tiles and Stone: Bathroom floor - 1930s deco penny tile, black and white!
Bed: 1930s mirrored bed.
Artwork: Millard Sheets "Three Gay Birds" Seriagraph, black and white 1950s, photographs printed and developed by me, huge French art deco poster, Nicole Buffett painting, Picasso prints, my own art, and much more local art pieces, statues, busts!
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(Images: Celeste Sunderland. Originally published 2010-07-22)