Interior designer, stylist and makeup artist Melissa Rettore stumbled across yet another string to her bow when she started doing watercolour hand drawn renders and soon realised people would pay her to sketch their much-loved homes. It’s work she has come to really enjoy because of the personal stories behind the commissions, as well as the fact she’s been obsessed with houses and their details for as long as she can remember.
It’s perhaps no surprise that, as a child growing up in Melbourne, she could be found rearranging her bedroom or madly sketching, and she remembers being as young as seven, making a hobby of walking past houses, spying into bay windows and trying to catch a glimpse of life inside.
As an adult, she went on to get qualifications in art, teaching and interior design and decorating.
“I’ve always been obsessed with Edwardian charm, California Bungalows, Victorian terraces and Melbourne’s unique Boom Style housing. It was around my fifth year as a primary school teacher that it dawned on me that my favourite part of the school year was during summer break when I would set up the classroom ― organising and styling the space. The penny finally dropped.”
Melissa realised her true calling was in interior design. “Turning a space into a home is what makes me feel content. I love that I have combined my childhood obsession of houses with my instinctual understanding of how people respond to, use, and inhabit a space. Oh, and I happen to have married a carpenter who builds houses for a living. No secret motive there at all, I promise!”
She’s been officially working in the interiors industry for the last three years. “The very first time I presented a design concept, my hand rendered sketch highlighted with watercolour received a great response from my peers and tutors. I suspect this approach offered a personal touch that digitally produced images lack, and captured their attention.
“I began sketching houses to assist with designing colour schemes. What started as a preliminary approach to design planning, led me to develop a unique series of architectural drawings that I now regard as art in themselves. The clients I have designed for have also become the clients I have sketched for.”
She’d already been sketching purely for pleasure for a long time though, largely prompted by her love of nostalgia. “I started to explore my inspiration through an investigation into my childhood. I grew up in Melbourne’s charming suburbs of Coburg, Brunswick, Preston and Reservoir and started sketching memorable houses of my childhood.” This evolved into an exploration of iconic TV houses of her childhood such as Ramsay Street (Pin Oak Court) from Neighbours, Monica’s Apartment from Friends and the McCalister mansion from Home Alone.
“I love sketching the exterior of houses and places I frequented as a child. I have fond memories of heritage buildings, local pasticierras, Italian restaurants, churches, the family bakery and local businesses,” says Melissa, who admits her home is a shrine to things that remind her of the good times. “I’m a sucker for gorgeous architectural details and ornate houses and over time I’ve allowed myself to become obsessed with drawings and discovering the details within each architectural style.”
Her favourite sketching job is a funny little story. “I had recently taken a screenshot of a gorgeous little kitchen I wanted to sketch, while deep in an Instagram rabbit hole. A few weeks went on, and I had forgotten about the image and started sketching another find. After sharing the sketch on Instagram, it gained the attention of the owner of the original kitchen I was going to sketch. Her name was Jen Bishop.”
[Yes folks, that’s how I got talking to Melissa, and I couldn’t wait to share her work with you all. Of course, Melissa has since sketched that kitchen, my pride and joy, and here it is! You might also recognise my living room above! Jen]
Ironically, her own home — contemporary with black structural details, concrete floors and bright white walls — is the complete opposite to the character houses she loves to sketch. “My styling inspo comes from my favourite artist Claude Monet’s Water Lilies. Wherever possible, everything is organised by colour, and I display nostalgic treasures I’ve collected throughout my life. My dream home is a character-filled arts and craft home with a stepped roof, in a leafy suburb. Think gingerbread house meets Alice in Wonderland!”
Among those who have commissioned sketches from Melissa are proud homeowners that have fallen in love with their new space, and people who have recently sold their childhood home and want a keepsake. “Interior designers have used my drawings to help sell their designs, stylists have used them in properties they finesse, and agents have bought them for vendors as settlement gifts,” she says. “I love it when family members buy one for their parents or grandparents, and share with me the stories and history attached to a home.”
If you’re interested in getting a sketch of your own home, you can simply send Melissa a photograph, she quotes depending on the amount of detail required, and it’s yours within three weeks. “If there’s a floor plan that you need help visualising, I can sketch the space and assist with a theme and scheme or with the styling and design.”
If you’re as nostalgic as Melissa you could ask her to, for example, sketch your grandparents’ kitchen from the 70s from a photograph. What a great keepsake or meaningful gift idea!
Sketching a coloured interior starts at $350. Detailed black and white exterior house sketches start at $280 ($350+ for colour) and basic black and white house sketches start at $120. These are provided as digital files or prints.