Dubbed a “modern-day Slim Aarons” by Town & Country and Veranda, Nick Mele’s vivid, expressive photography has been featured everywhere from The New York Times to Vanity Fair. His maximalist work is remarkable, revealing, and always firmly tongue in cheek, with a focus on peering “beyond the hedgerow and behind the wrought iron gates,” as he puts it. Places like Palm Beach and Newport are characters in his photographs just as much as his subjects, presenting an opportunity to see past the gilded glamour and to meet the real personalities who populate these legendary locales.
With that spirit of exclusivity in mind, we’re proud to present several of Nick’s photographs exclusively on Chairish, along with a curation of his other pieces and a selection of his favorite vintage finds. Below, learn more about his experiences as a photographer and his favorite places to shoot, and be sure to shop his original photographs as well as his quirky, character-rich Chairish favorites.
First things first, how would you describe your personal aesthetic, both in your work and your approach to interiors?
I’m a maximalist. More is more and less is a bore. I like pattern on pattern and interiors that look lived in. Furniture is meant to be sat on and pets are welcome on the bed. I like personality and humor. I’d rather see a home with bad taste than no taste at all. I think all that translates into the world I try to create in my photographs.
We’re excited that you’re selling some pieces with us! Tell us about them.
I’ve spent most of my career documenting a world beyond the hedgerow and behind the wrought iron gates of communities like Palm Beach and Newport. With my recent foray into fine art, I’ve tried to create scenes that are at once familiar yet fantastic, a fanciful peek into the rarefied spaces within these resort towns.
Tell us a bit about how you approach your photography sessions. How do you work with your subjects?
I try to approach all of my photography with a sense of whimsy and humor. I believe the environment and how the subjects interact with it is just as important as the subjects themselves. So anyone I photograph should be prepared to let go of their inhibitions a little and have some fun with it. I promise to only keep the good shots.
You’ve shot some incredible interiors over the years. Any favorites, or particularly unusual spaces?
It’s so hard to pick! I’ve said it before, but I have always loved Mimi McMakin’s house in Palm Beach. It’s an old church that has been renovated into a fabulous home filled with stuffed animals and umbrellas and vines draped around four poster beds. My words surely don’t do it justice. I also have a soft spot for my grandmother’s former home in Washington D.C. that was decorated by Parish Hadley. It was the perfect combination of grand design and comfort.
Any tips for the amateur photographer, especially when it comes to shooting interiors?
I’m a big proponent of studying other photographers and trying to emulate what they do until you develop your own style. Then practice. The only way to really learn is to go out and shoot.
Some of your clients include brands like Ralph Lauren and Lilly Pulitzer… What’s it like shooting for them, as opposed to individual clients?
Unlike almost any other type of photography, shooting fashion is a collaborative process. You can be the best photographer in the world, but if you don’t have good stylists, models, and hair and makeup, then you are fighting an uphill battle. So you really need a good team behind you. On top of that, it’s about creating a cohesive story over the course of multiple outfit and location changes. The number one goal is to make people want to buy the clothes. So they are the focus, even more so than the subject. You’re creating a lifestyle.
On Chairish & Vintage Shopping…
What do you find most compelling about Chairish?
I love that you can get lost scrolling through the pages. It’s fun to pick through your favorite items even if you aren’t actually looking for something specific.
How does sustainability factor into your design choices and love of vintage?
It’s less about sustainability for me than an appreciation for the past and for well made things. There was a level of craftsmanship you find in vintage goods that doesn’t exist as much in the mass produced market of today. I love things that are unique and really speak to the personality and style of their owner. Even more, I love furniture and clothes that have a story.
Are there any dream vintage/antique “gets” you wish you could have?
A really fabulous old game table (that I don’t have the space for)
What are three of your favorite pieces on Chairish now?
Some Design Favorites…
Favorite way to create a statement-making moment in a room:
A giant fine art photograph by Nick Mele!
Favorite decorating “cheap thrill:”
Decluttering. Sometimes just getting rid of all the stuff you’ve been holding on to for no reason can make a room look fresh. Which is totally hypocritical because I love to photograph spaces full of knick knacks, old books, and collectables. And I have terrible trouble letting things go. Maybe this is more of my wife’s cheap thrill….
Favorite iconic piece of vintage design:
Chintz. When your family is as messy as our is, chintz is great at hiding the stains.
Favorite paint color:
Varying shades of blue
Favorite piece of decor in your home:
Two old decanters labeled “Arsenic” and “Hemlock” that I stole from my grandmother
Favorite designer or artist from the past you most often turn to for inspiration:
Favorite style icon:
Design destination every creative should visit at least once:
I’m not sure. If you think of a good one for me, let me know and I’ll meet you there.
Best piece of career advice you’ve ever received:
Find out what makes you unique and lean into it.
Some Lifestyle Favorites…
Favorite vacation destination:
Favorite hotel that’s inspired your work while traveling:
I’m always inspired by The Colony Hotel (but that’s cheating because I live in Palm Beach).
Mama Luisa’s in Newport
Favorite small museum:
The Phillips Collection in Washington D.C.
Favorite Instagram accounts to follow:
Favorite hostess (or thank you) gift:
To give? A framed photograph. To receive? Chocolate.
Favorite adult beverage:
I’m still looking for one that won’t give me a hangover
Favorite way to unwind at home:
A great movie
Favorite entertaining essential:
A good caterer
Lead image: Champagne Stand by Nick Mele