Our Town: Helping make a house a home

Dr Tom Ferraro

It is always amazing when you finally notice something for the first time. 

I was walking out of CVS and as I passed the magazine aisle I looked on the top shelf and saw that it was filled with house and garden design magazines. Maybe you have to be a female to see these things because I assure you I never noticed them before. I was too busy looking for Sports Illustrated.

This little insight about house and garden design came at the right time because I was about to interview the owner of Bela Casa Decors the design shop on 58 Hillside Ave. a few doors  up the street from Peter Andrews. Bela Casa Decors is owned by Patricia Mendes and her mom. 

The mother, Alcinda, has been a seamstress her entire life so Pat has been observing designers since she was a child. By the way, her sister Tania works there as well and is studying architecture. 

As my readers know I have always been concerned about the importance  of beauty in our public space in Williston Park. Using Carmel by the Sea as a perfect example, I have frequently discussed how courtyards, piazzas, parks and passageways add a sense of charm and safety to a town.  

But there is another kind of space and it is called private space. Private space in a home can be designed to enhance privacy, safety, joy or connection between family members. And the experts in this field are called interior designers. 

Pat opened her store in 2011 after she graduated from the Metropolitan Institute of Design. She told me her job includes space planning, window treatments, customizing furniture and selling dish and glassware as well as accessories. I asked her why home design is important and she said “a house is not a home until it is designed properly to provide a feeling of warmth and love.”  

By the look of her shop she is happily entrenched in the beauty business. Lots of nice looking fabrics, dishes, pillows and such.  Her family is from Portugal and she may inherit her sense of creative style from there. 

One of the great architects of modern time was Antoni Gaudi, the Spanish Catalan who designed all those amazing buildings in Barcelona which included broken ceramics. And my favorite and one of the most beautiful restaurants on earth is in the Paradores Hotel in Santiago de Compostela just north of Pat’s home town. And let’s not forget the iconic Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain. There is a heightened aesthetic in both Portugal and Spain. 

The way Pat works is to first interview the client at home, then design the plan, choose the fabrics, make measurements and then execute. I asked her if conflicts arise between husband and wife like in living room scene in the Brad Pitt movie Mr. and Mrs. Smith. She said rarely but usually the husband will insist that she never touch or change his beloved recliner. 

As a psychoanalyst this conjured up images of the beleaguered husband trying to find some security and safety in the only way he knew how, by controlling the recliner and the remote control button. I thought I ought to offer her my card for them but thought twice about that.

Pat also said she will interview the children for input if their rooms are being designed and she said they are not afraid to suggest the use of color. 

Pat said that the modern use of color is to use neutrals like beige and gray and then to accentuate with a ’pop’ of lilac or teal. And honestly I have no idea what teal looks like. Sounds like a cross between tea and steel so maybe it’s kind of like a bright gray or brown. 

With that the interview was over and I took my snapshot and left. I am always one to support those who try to bring beauty into our world.  This is why I like the dancers at Arthur Murray Studio on Willis. This is why I like Suhwa Kim of Aroma Hair and Nails and this is why I like Patricia Mendes. 

So the next time you want to add some beauty to your table or your bedroom or your family room support this local design genius  and go to Bela Casa Decors.  And tell her I sent you. That way maybe she will give me one of the old recliners that she pulled away from a sleeping husband.

Share this Article