Melissa Galt is the great-granddaughter of acclaimed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, daughter of Academy Award-winning actress Anne Baxter and goddaughter to famed costume designer Edith Head. These special people from her past inspire Melissa because they earned respect for their creative genius and for doing what they loved.
I got the interior design bug early. My Mom had a well-traveled sense of style often incorporating such disparate elements as antique Persian rugs with exotic Chinese opium beds as sofas and a hand painted chest from Mexico converted into a bar. Surrounded by art and treasures from the world over, it is small wonder that I believe in interiors based in art – including rugs as “artwork for the floor” – and personal mementos from far and near. While living for today, it is by understanding the past that today’s inspirations are found and tomorrow’s dreams delivered. And so I would like to share with you my story and how my past helped me find my inspiration for today and tomorrow.
I have made the South my home for the last 15 years, but was born and raised on the West Coast and have fond memories of being a sun worshipper and occasional surfer. I still smile at memories of the lime green room with sky blue ceiling and white shag from my junior high school years. It was very cool for the day! We moved often growing up, giving me a ready sense of adaptability and a head start on my philosophy of moveable furnishings.
By sixth grade I had moved within Los Angeles four times and spent fifth grade in a Manhattan brownstone while my Mom graced the stage in Applause, Applause. Summers and holidays were divided between trips to visit Dad and his extended family in Hawaii, and Mother’s folks in Arizona. Thanksgivings were typically spent at Taliesin, the Western Home base that great-grandfather Frank Lloyd Wright had designed. And there were the annual pilgrimages for a month in the summer with Mom driving to national parks, after the requisite month at a sleep over camp. Adventures like the white water rafting trip down the Middle Fork of the Salmon River for a week were the norm.
The big European adventure was between fifth grade and sixth, the three of us kids with Mom, and a dear family friend headed off the France, Italy and Denmark aboard the SS France. Beyond breathtaking chateaus, driving through Tuscany, and all manner of new taste sensations, the trip will likely be remembered most for the Venice fiasco. Landing in the airport, the family was immediately taken to a water shuttle, necessary transport to their hotel. Halfway there, motoring at a good clip they hit something in the water. Suddenly water started pouring into the bottom of the boat, Mother yelled “aqua” in Spanish with Italian pronunciation, and the driver took one look back, turned ash white and gunned the boat to the nearest ramp. Waist deep in water he got us all out and tossed all our soggy belongings with us. Turns out later that we had encountered sabotage meant for the President who had arrived a day early. Never a dull moment with Mom!
It was in eighth grade that my sister and I went on tour with Mom through Baltimore, Philadelphia, Detroit, Toronto, and Ft. Lauderdale. She was on stage with Hume Cronyn and Jessie Tandy with shows nightly and twice on Sunday. We saw her an hour a day and the rest of the time was spent with a tutor on our school work and exploring local cultural spots. Longwood Gardens and Dupont’s Winterthur were lasting highlights, as was the private tour of a Detroit car manufacturer. Appropriately, I also seem to have a strong memory of the hotel rooms, the most unforgettable being in Fort Lauderdale with lots of crushed red velvet (I promise it was a respectable place, albeit the 1970s!)
I relocated to the East Coast for boarding school in Massachusetts. The culture shock and even language differences, East to West, were startling, but I survived the three years and graduated with honors. Taking a year off after high school, I explored the retail world, only to find too quickly school was more fun! My initial pursuit was a degree in costume design, following in the illustrious footsteps of my godmother Edith Head. Realizing I wanted a broader education, Mom suggested focusing on a business path. So I pursued a Bachelor of Science degree in hotel administration from Cornell University and enjoyed the camaraderie as a sister of Pi Beta Phi.
Following the frozen years in beautiful upstate New York, I began a career in hospitality purchasing. A path that proved fortuitous in providing critical buying skills because essentially, if you ate it, drank it, slept on it, or wrote with it in a hotel, I bought it! This experience provided me with invaluable resourcing (a.k.a. shopping) abilities, and broad business capabilities. It also kept me moving.
Launching my career in Ryetown, New York, I moved quickly to Philadelphia and with a summer stint at the Grand Hotel on Mackinaw Island, Michigan before heading South to Charlotte, North Carolina. Moving every eight months in hotel work, I skipped from Charlotte to Birmingham, then to the Opryland Hotel, Nashville and from there to a final hospitality position at Callaway Gardens in Columbus, Georgia. I enjoyed the newness of each position and locale, but was frustrated by the lack of creativity. One can only do so much with storerooms and freezers!
And so it was at Callaway Gardens that I decided to reevaluate my options and return to school for a degree in interior design, pursuing a long simmering creative passion. Owning a town home in Birmingham, I moved back to Alabama for a design degree from Southern Institute, and worked full time for an architectural firm and Steelcase Dealership before segueing to a management position with a local fabric retailer. With a genuine talent in space planning and materials selections, I often freelanced with retail clients. The groundwork was laid for hanging out my own shingle.
Feeling limited in Birmingham, I set my sites on a larger venue…Atlanta beckoned. Starting work with a prominent furniture retailer, I soon realized that I could be of greater service and deliver a broader range of design options as an independent designer. Headstrong and determined, I was spurred on to launch my own company, Linea Interior Design, Inc in March 1994.