Melissa Nuñez knows what she wants when it comes to her home–she’s even moved across the country for it, coast to coast! Spending her undergraduate years on the east coast, Melissa’s next step was law school on the west coast. After her first year she soon realized her path was leading elsewhere, so she left law school behind but decided to stay put in San Francisco. Thus began her love affair with the city by the bay.
Melissa’s priority is home, and one she defines with her easy, cool, and streamlined style. Whether she’s scouring Craigslist for the perfect piece to add to her abode, or saving her hard earned dollars for the perfect investment piece, Melissa knows just who she is when it comes to design. We especially love her theory that “design is never done!”
Melissa had us at her love of travel and how her creative side influneces her home decor choices. Read on for advice on how to score home furnishing on a budget and to find out just what home means to Melissa.
Full name: Melissa Nuñez
Location: Cole Valley, CA
Current title/company: Recruiter at MedAmerica/CEP America
Educational background: Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Spanish, Loyola University Maryland
Tell us about your career background.
I moved to Baltimore for college and graduated from Loyola University Maryland with a Bachelor of Arts dual degree in political science and Spanish. Always knowing that I wanted to attend law school, I left the east coast behind and began my first stint of living on the west coast in San Francisco. Upon completing my first year of law school, I just knew law school wasn’t the right path for me but what I did know for certain was that I wanted to stay in San Francisco. So I turned my reading/writing/research chops into a research associate role at a boutique merchant-banking firm in the city. Although the people were great and I loved what I was learning about finance and private equity, the market was still very volatile. After a year and a half I was offered a chance to recruit for finance and for three years I did just that. Just recently I made the move into healthcare recruiting, proving that recruiting is recruiting no matter the specialty!
What is one of the most important lessons you’ve learned in your career thus far?
One of the most important things I’ve learned during my tenure as a recruiter is to not judge a candidate by her resume. A resume is more like a road map; it’s when you meet a candidate that you really figure out her journey. That analogy applies to me as well! My own resume reads as much — college, graduate school, finance, and now healthcare. But outside of my daily job, I’m much more creative.
How has moving influenced your creative side?
Multiple moves have given me the ‘travel bug’ and I love all the things that traveling involves: eating, reading, and picture taking! Traveling has also strengthened my sense of home. The idea is put into words most accurately by one of my favorite authors, Brian Andreas, with his very aptly named story, Comfort: “Whenever I go on a trip, I think about all the homes I’ve had and I remember how little has changed about what comforts me.” Transforming our Cole Valley apartment into a home, which I share with my husband Alec, is equally a favorite pastime. I’m not even close to being an interior designer but I can fake it with the best of them!
You’ve moved quite a few times, even across the country. What defines “home” for you?
The concept of home is very important to me. When you move a lot as a kid, or even as an adult, your concept of home is a bit unconventional. It’s not a house or a physical structure. Rather, it’s an idea or feeling of being where you should be. I’ve lived in five states, four houses, two countries, and more apartments than I can remember. They say home is wherever you hang your hat, but “home is where my wifi connects automatically” may be more appropriate for me! Being a modern-day nomad had taught me that home is what you make it – your friends, your family, and your community. I’d love to put down roots at some point and I have a sneaking suspicion that it will be in the Bay Area. I’ve been here over six years now, the second longest I’ve ever lived anywhere, and it makes perfect sense that in this transitory city I feel most at home.
How long have you lived in your apartment?
My husband and I have been in our apartment 4 years — thank goodness for rent control! Before we lived in Cole Valley, we lived six blocks north in the Upper Haight neighborhood. Like a lot of San Francisco homes, our apartment was vulnerable to the dampness of living in the western part of the city and we incurred a horrific mold outbreak. It’s hard for a home to feel like a home when you can’t even hang pictures on the walls or keep leather goods in the house. But when we were forced to move it turned out to be serendipitous — Cole Valley was where we were supposed to be all along! We fell in love here, got engaged here; we even got married here (all within a 7 block radius of our apartment!).
What was the decorating process like?
Design is never done. It’s still going! Everything in our home has been acquired over time. I came to San Francisco with a little more than four suitcases and Alec came with basically just his mattress and TV, so it’s amazing how we have cultivated such a grown up apartment in just a few short years. But what I’m most proud of is that we’ve done it all on a budget! Our wedding at the Randall Museum was featured on Style Me Pretty for having great style on a small budget and I want every part of my life to follow that mantra, especially my home.
Being a modern-day nomad had taught me that home is what you make it–your friends, your family, and your community.
When you are on a tight budget the best place to start is Craigslist. Our bed, the West Elm Parsons desk, and the bar in our dining room are all from Craigslist. About a year ago we converted our apartment’s living room into a second bedroom and the dining room into a living room/dining room combo. We sold our original Craigslist dining room table and chairs and couches for smaller more apartment sized ones. Buying them new was pricier, but I know they’ll be pieces we’ll have for a long time. Also, be resourceful! I painted three rooms and re-did the cabinets under the sink. I added new hardware in the kitchen and DIY’d the Ikea Rast dressers. This is the best way, I think, to save money and make it personal.
What is your favorite budget-friendly piece in your home and why?
Probably our bed frame. It’s really beautiful and well made and it was only $150 from Craigslist. That or the Ikea island in our kitchen. It’s incredibly durable and looks a lot more expensive than it actually is!
What is your favorite and least favorite thing about your home?
I love the giant N in the hallway that I nabbed from the Alameda Flea Market. It perfectly encapsulates the “Nuñez Nest” moniker for our home. I also love that we have a ton of artwork. The first Christmas gift Alec gave me is this drawing of the streets that make up the Lower Haight/Panhandle part of San Francisco. He also gave me a print by Matte Stephens called “Driving in Europe” and it reminds me of us. The big print in our dining room is on permanent loan from my mother-in-law (all I did was frame it!). Our watercolors were done by my friend Melissa Kelman who I’ve known since I was 10-years-old. My least favorite thing? There isn’t one right angle in the whole place, which makes it nearly impossible to hang said pictures! And the light fixtures leave little to be desired.
What advice would you give your 22-year-old self?
I moved to San Francisco from Baltimore when I was 22. I was totally scared and barely knew anyone so I’d say, “Don’t worry — this city is going to be the greatest love of your life.”
Melissa Nuñez is the Everygirl…
Morning or night?
I’m a total night owl. If I could stay up until 2:00 a.m. every night and still make it to work on time I would.
Coffee or tea?
Coffee. I can literally drink a cup before bed and still fall asleep. That made law school really hard.
Favorite way to spend a Sunday in San Francisco?
Sleeping in, brunch at Zazie, urban hike to Grand View Park or Twin Peaks, seeing friends, and taking lots of photos. Followed by an evening of take-out and HBO.
Going out to eat. Or traveling. Ideally both at the same time!
If you could have lunch with any woman, who would it be and what would you order?
I’d be too nervous to eat! I’d need a cocktail instead. I would love to sit down and have lunch with Sheryl Sandberg for all of her business advice and Amy Poehler to teach me how to tell the best jokes. Nothing makes a woman more beautiful than to be both funny and smart.
Aiden or Big?
I, like Carrie, always dated Big. But I made sure to right her wrongs and marry Aiden.
From my mom, “Be nice to everyone you meet.”
Living Room/Dining Room
Dining Table, CB2
Chairs, Advanced Interior Designs
Half Moon Bay Print, gift from mother-in-law
Streets of SF Print, Upper Playground
Record Player, Urban Outfitters
Jules Verne Print, Postertext
Ferris Wheel Print, Mat Rick
Lamp, Crate & Barrel
Couch, Crate and Barrel Troy Sectional (similar here)
Dwell Studio for Target Pillows, (similar here)
Coffee Table, West Elm
Driving in Europe Print, Matte Stephens
Visit San Francisco Print, Mark Alcock
Z Gallerie Buffet, Craigslist (similar here)
Love Mugs- made by Alec’s brother
Large Blue Serving Dish, Heath Ceramics
Blue Ikat Bowls, West Elm
Knobs, Anthropologie (similar here)
Planters, Cole Hardware
Kitchen Island, Ikea
Bar Stools, CB2
Vintage Flower Storage Bowls, Fishs Eddy
Blue flower mugs, Anthropologie
Watercolor Prints, Melissa Kelman
Phone Dock, Jonathan Adler
Bedside Lamps, Target (similar here)
Bedding, West Elm
Nightstands (hacked), Ikea
Knobs, Anthropologie (similar here)
Peonies Print, Minted
Dresser, Pottery Barn
Lamp, Jonathan Adler from Therapy SF
Giant N, Alameda Flea Market
Home Sweet Home Print, Minted