Article by: Loannie Dao | Photographs: Juley Le
A good kitchen effortlessly supports one’s lifestyle even in its most idle state. It is where we go to feed on nutritious meals, gather with loved ones, and learn to relinquish the burden of a long day.
For Melissa Lee, the founder of Bespoke Only, her kitchen is the epicenter of her home. Lee grew up in Taipei, a vibrant metropolis which she describes as, “an urban yet somewhat quaint ‘little’ city that my heart will always call home”. These days she lives in Brooklyn, New York, but travels back and forth from the East coast to Los Angeles, California where the rest of her family resides. With great affection, Lee says, “Los Angeles is a special place where my family spends time together in and have many cherished memories of.
Lee’s philosophy is rooted in various forms of inspiration. She says, “I’d like to consider my design aesthetic a mix of all my past life experiences – relaxed, easy, free, and never fussy.” At the core of her style is the pursuit of intimate and unconstrained design achieved through natural materials and textures.
Far from ordinary, Lee’s home is filled with a unique balance of style that brings harmony into her life. Perhaps the most notable space, her kitchen. Lee’s home life revolves around the kitchen where she and her husband host intimate gatherings with friends. “My husband and I cook a lot during the week and often host for gatherings. I always envisioned a space that is comfortable for entertaining, mingling and sharing – where many wines are to be had,” she says. The kitchen compels a more candid and genuine exchange than most other spaces.
When asked about the renovation process, Lee said, “it was very straightforward, and I loved being my own client. The design process was between me and myself, making it a lot faster and easier than standard renovations.” Lee explains that, “the kitchen is meant to be practical, intuitive, and without anything too precious. Seeing the end product, I would almost describe it as a bit of a casual bistro vibe.”
“As someone who really uses the kitchen, function always has to come first when designing,” she says. “I believe the flow of a kitchen needs to make sense before anything else and the functionality of each appliance and fixture should be considered with the user’s cooking and dining habits in mind.”
Lee’s morning routine starts in her kitchen where, like every New Yorker, she slurps on a piping hot cup of black coffee. “When we have time, my husband and I hand ground fresh beans and make a simple French press. When I’m feeling extra relaxed, I take my time pouring over a Chemix and enjoy watching the slow drip. When I’m on the go, it’s always a quick espresso,” Lee says. When asked whether she cooks, assemble, or orders out, Lee tells us that she and her husband cook a lot during the week. She loves the comfort that only a homemade meal can bring. Her kitchen essential is made up of Trader Joe’s frozen chicken gyoza and a variety of hot sauces. “Frozen gyoza is so easy to make and I love spicy food. I always have all kinds of hot sauces on hand at any given time,” Lee tells us.
For a full meal, Lee shares her favorite recipe with us, “roasted chicken is my quick go-to that never fails. It takes practically no prep or active cooking time. I have several different ways to season depending on the given pantry and fridge stock. An old faithful recipe from Sweet Paul Magazine is mixing assorted olives, capers, lemon wedges and chicken thighs in a dish and roasting everything for approximately 30 mins in 400 degrees.” Regardless of what is on the menu, she also enjoys the convenience of takeout and the endless selection of cuisines available in the city.
When asked what she would do differently if she had the chance to redesign her kitchen from scratch again, Lee says, “Nothing. My kitchen has been working wonderfully for me and our guests. I’m proud to say it is nice to look at and even better to enjoy.” And when she’s not mulling over a hot stove, Lee is thumbing through the pages of her favorite publications and sifting through deVOL Kitchen. “Their catalogs are like kitchen design porn,” she concludes. — Loannie Dao, Senior Writer & Founder of Theory of Place