Rhonda Melnrick caught the art bug in 5th grade when her teacher offered after school art instruction. Her love of art and creating continued on throughout her years at school and even though she entered college on a nursing scholarship, she ended up graduating with a degree in graphics design. She began her faux finishing career painting murals in nurseries after she gave birth to her twin sons. Once all three of her boys were school aged, Rhonda began taking classes and expanding her business.
Although Rhonda started out as a muralist, murals now only make up about 5% of her business. She has expanded her repertoire to include walls, concrete, ceilings, floors, architectural details, high end furnishings, and concrete sculpture. Asked about her favorite finishes, Rhonda says that she favors anything with troweling. She loves working with multilayer plasters and hybridized acrylic skimming concrete like Skimstone. She likes concrete for its versatility, as she can use it for floors and countertops as well as vertical applications.
To expand her customer base, Rhonda began by knocking on doors and calling designers. Her legwork and persistence paid off when she connected with Heartland Interiors. They had her paint murals in the store and had her add unique details to furniture that came into the shop. Her work at Heartland Interiors opened doors for her, helping her to meet other designers and builders in the area. Now Rhonda has been in business for 29 years and all of her work now is strictly by word of mouth.
One of the connections that she made with a builder led to her working on homes on the Seattle Street of Dreams for many years. She credits this opportunity as the building block of her business that led her to her main clients of high end residential builders, architects and designers. Working with builders from the beginning conception of the design of the home is a high point of her job. The opportunity to work directly with the home owner as well as builder and designer to shape the feel of the home to meet the client’s style has become her favorite aspect of this career.
She approaches her projects as an illustrator saying “I go in as a good listener and adapt my skill set to help bring a cohesive style to their home that represents them. It’s always about the client, it’s their home and their brand. I take great pride in the fact that I’ve created a space for them that instantly feels like their home.”
One of her favorite homes that she worked on was a home that was being built in Naches, Washington. She worked on the samples for the home for an entire year. The home was 16,000 square feet and she actually lived in another home on the property for the 2 years that she spent working in the house. Although she did some work in just about every room in the house she says that a ceiling that she completed in the house that looks like banded copper is her absolute favorite.
Another of her favorite homes was an Art Deco style home built in 1905 that was built by the same builder as the Paramount Theatre in Seattle. All told, she worked on the house for 4 years. She worked on everything from staining concrete and painting murals, to copper leafing in the stairway.
Asked what she likes most about her career, she says she likes the variety and instant gratification of completing something that becomes a small part of the larger whole. She enjoys the problem-solving element of having to create either the focus in the room or the supporting design element that highlights another element like stone slab, lighting, or stonework that needs to be the star of the room install. The challenge she enjoys is making the decision on the balance and editing of her surface embellishment contrasted with the other elements in the space.
Talking about the current trends in the Seattle Area, Rhonda says that she finds herself using troweling to create new textures to build the more contemporary look that is popular in the area, rather than stenciling which lends a more Italianate feel. Urban Farmhouse and Loft styles are also trends that have gained popularity. These more contemporary styles have forced her to adapt her work to subtle finishes to blend with the cleaner contemporary, natural styles.
Rhonda almost exclusively uses Faux By Kathy to purchase her supplies, saying “I could get my products someplace closer to me but, I don’t want to sacrifice the great customer service that I get from Faux By Kathy.” Some of Rhonda’s favorites of Faux By Kathy’s offerings are Proceed, Kathy’s Bella line of products, Metropolis, Perfetto, and Professional Finish by Golden, saying that she uses it more than anything because it is incredibly user-friendly and everything mixes well to create custom products on site.
She says that Kathy and Sue’s customer service is why she remains so loyal, they go above and beyond. They will mix custom colors from swatches that Rhonda provides, and if there is ever a problem with a product they contact the manufacturer themselves and do the legwork necessary to make it right. Kathy and Sue are always ready to share their knowledge and expertise as well.
For more information about Rhonda Melnrick or Shade Tree Studios, please visit her website shadetreestudiosonline.com. She can be reached via phone at 425-327-9066 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org