Happy Place Interiors Spreads Sunshine

Melanie Zaelich transforms a dark, under-utilized dining room into a light-filled family space—and gives back even more

Photos by Melanie Zaelich (Happy Place Interiors)  

Melanie Zaelich had scheduled a Staged-To-Stay Home Styling Session with a new Minneapolis client, but ended up “performing a miracle,” the client’s husband says. While giving Zaelich a tour of her home, the client, Natalie, commented on how most of the living areas were on the “dark side” of the house, shaded by rows of evergreens. During the pandemic, Natalie would often sit on the staircase “to get a little sun.” Zaelich, a Certified True Color Expert, designer, and founder of Happy Place Interiors, was concerned.

Zaelich asked Natalie how much her family used the sun-filled dining room on the other side of the house. “Hardly at all,” was the reply. So, while the client was out with her son, Zaelich got busy. With art and decor Natalie had already purchased, and by repurposing furniture and accessories the family was planning to donate, Zaelich transformed the space into a light-filled family room for enjoying morning coffee, doing puzzles, or simply hanging out in the sun.

“We use the room multiple times a day now versus maybe monthly when entertaining pre-pandemic,” says Natalie. “It’s the perfect place for reading, playing games, having great conversations with family and friends, and, for my two-year-old, playing trucks, watching squirrels, and looking for UPS trucks.”

“What I highlight most to guests who fawn over the room,” Natalie adds, “is that it was done with items we were going to get rid of; the sofa, bench, chandelier, a few pillows, and the silver table were all on our donate list. To get this amazing room we love, using pieces we already had at no additional cost was phenomenal, and a testament to Melanie’s miracle working!”

That’s not all. Zaelich donates about ten percent of her profits to charities that help people find, fix, or furnish homes, including Joy Collaborative, Bridging, Hearts & Hammers, and My Very Own Bed. Her website also includes a list of local decor, lighting, furniture, bedding, cookware, mattress, and wallpaper companies that also give back.

Why? “Because I can,” says Zaelich, “and I was raised that way, by a single mom who always volunteered. Before I owned my business, while working in the corporate world, I volunteered. Now, I can give financially, and spread the word via clients and social media.”

Zaelich is dedicated to spreading sunshine wherever she can. “When I met with Natalie, really all she could talk about was the need for sun. I decided if I could do one thing for her, it would be finding a way to bring more light into her life.” And, she did.

What about the family’s dining room? Zaelich moved the dining table into the light-filled kitchen, which had plenty of space.

“The pandemic changed our mindset to prioritize function for 100 percent of the time that we live here, rather than the five percent of time we entertain others at home,” Natalie adds. “Melanie’s work in our new family room provided us with an amazing change of perspective. And frankly, everyone hangs out around the kitchen island these days anyway.”

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