Mehmet & Lale Ozelsel – Bed and Breakfast Owners

by Jennifer Heaslip

Mehmet and Lale Ozelsel own Melange Inn and Gardens, a bed and breakfast at 1230 Fifth Ave. West in Hendersonville. Mehmet is a retired chemical engineer and Lale is a retired economist. They’ve gradually expanded the bed and breakfast, and hold weddings, serve private dinners and cater for the community. They have two sons, living in Miami and Edmonton, Canada, and a daughter who lives in Germany.

You’re from Turkey. How did you get to Hendersonville?

Mehmet: We were both born and raised in Turkey. The first time I came here was for graduate school at LSU. I’m an LSU fan. I worked for DuPont in Germany, then came to the plant in Brevard after a brief time in Rochester, N.Y. We bought Melange in 1996.

How did you end up owning a bed and breakfast?

Mehmet: We lived in a lot of old homes, in Laurel Park, in Rochester. The foundations and the charm of an old home were always priceless. We weren’t planning to open a bed and breakfast, but the idea just came to us. This was a private home but it came with a sales pitch that it would make a great bed and breakfast. Lale jumped on it but I was skeptical. I bet Lale she couldn’t make it work, but then I saw that she could. We opened officially in 1996, but I retired in 1998 and we really started putting it together.
What is the history of the house?

Lale: We are the fourth owners, and the home was built in 1919. It’s an Erle Stillwell house (the famous Hendersonville architect). The first owners lost the house in the Depression, and the second owner was a North Carolina senator and lawyer. The third owners received the house as a wedding gift from the bride’s father. It went from a New England style to a very affluent French style.

Where did you get the name Melange?

Mehmet: The idea is melange. Everything is from somewhere else — that’s our strength. It’s also a weakness because we don’t have a specific theme — we’re not a Victorian bed and breakfast or a country bed and breakfast. We have many styles and perspectives. There are also a lot of family photos. It just kind of fits.

Lale: It’s a blend of cultures. You can see the details in this house. We have everything from a hand-painted sink from Italy to my great-grandmother’s wedding dress from Turkey to chandeliers from Austria and a lamp we bought in Hendersonville. The marble fireplaces are originals.

Tell us a little bit about Melange.

Lale: There are five guest rooms, and the top floor is 2,000 square feet — it’s the honeymoon suite. There’s a lot of personal touches. None of the furniture came with the house — there’s some that are family heirlooms that are Austrian. We serve private dinners in the courtyard by candlelight and use family heirloom settings and crystal. We call it “the Mediterranean courtyard.” Brides love to take pictures here. There’s a rose garden patio and two lawns for weddings. We also have a large enclosed area for the wedding receptions, and we call it “the tile pavilion.” There’s many large tiles imported from Turkey.

You’ve expanded over the years, adding space and services such as weddings. Why keep growing?

Mehmet: The aim was to invest over the years, as you realize what your needs are. A wedding planner put the idea into our head about holding weddings. … A former chef wanted to turn it into a restaurant, so that’s how we got into the sit-down dinners.

What are your future plans?

Mehmet: I love this job now and we will still be here. I love it more than Lale does now!

Lale: We’ve worked and invested 15 years of labor and love. A lot of people buy bed and breakfasts and inns and sell in five years. But we never thought of that. It’s love.

INN-Ternational Indulgences

Our State

by L.A. Jackson

It is not hard to find good ol’ southern hospitality at a bed and breakfast in our state, but there are some inns that enhance this regional cordiality with unique friendliness only found in faraway lands. These special retreats call North Carolina home, but they also call upon the customs and comforts of other countries to provide guests with memorable experiences that show, when sincerely said, the warmth in the word “Welcome!” knows no borders. Three bed and breakfasts in particular that specialize in inn-ternational indulgences for their guests are ………… Mélange in Hendersonville and……….

The Mélange Inn is all about threes. Mehmet Ozelsel, a native of Istanbul, Turkey, lived temporarily in Hendersonville three times, and on the third stay, he and his wife Lale, decided to settle down for good in the town. And in doing so, they established a bed and breakfast that spans across three cultures. Mehmet Ozelsel explains his wandering ways, “In my job, I crisscrossed the Atlantic several times between DuPont plants for extended assignments and projects during 23 years with the company. DuPont had a plant in Brevard, and we lived in Hendersonville. In all, I was transferred three times to the area. Following the last transfer, we wanted to settle in the USA. It worked out wonderfully—I was in the right place at the right time.” After they chose to live in Hendersonville, the Ozelsels had to decide where to stay, and eventually found a 7500-square-foot Colonial-Georgian style house in the downtown area. That’s where fate stepped in. Mehmet Ozelsel remembers, “At the time we bought the house, there were two stately homes across the street, and both were inns. (Now they are private homes!) It was the real estate agent’s sales pitch that this house, too, could be turned into a bed and breakfast. Lale jumped on the idea, but I was skeptical at the start. As naïve and unreal as it sounded, she said she could make the bed and breakfast work as a business. We had a bet going for two years, and at the end of the period, I lost and took early retirement to devote both of us in this new page of our lives.”


Although at times the Ozelsels’ project to turn the home into an inn closely resembled the Tom Hanks movie “The Money Pit” in both time and expense, they did have an interesting structure to work with. It was built in 1920 by famous N.C. architect Erle G. Stillwell as a summer home for a wealthy New England family. In 1962, it was presented to Tom and Virginia Moore as a wedding present. The Moores were lovers of all things from France and proceeded to add a definite French touch to the house. In addition to incorporating Empire-style wallpapers, crystal chandeliers from Vienna, hand-painted porcelain sinks from Italy and marble mantles from Paris, the Moores decided to add a little bit of Versailles to their Hendersonville home. Ozelsel says, “It must have been some undertaking to transform the formal living room into a small copy of Versailles’ Gallery of Mirrors. The design of the wood parquet floor was taken from the original Versailles plan. They even added a false door to imitate French interior symmetry. There are gilded mirrors in each direction to generate an endless depth feeling. The large marble fireplace, crystal chandeliers with candles and window dressing complete the setting.” Even with—or perhaps because of—the elaborate additions by the Moores, it took time to convert the home into an inn. Ozelsel notes, “We started with renovations on Christmas Day, 1994, moved in mid-1995 and officially opened in May, 1996. Lale and our daughter Amina came up with the name Mélange. The name fits literally to what the house has now become—a little bit of that, a little bit of this to make a blend.” Into this blend, the Ozelsels added a Mediterranean influence from their own heritage, which is most obvious in the Inn’s secluded 1.5 acres of landscape. Ozelsel says this includes fountains, running water, lots of roses,

Typical of this transformation is the Mediterranean Court, of which Ozelsel notes, “We copied a traditional brick wall design with arches seen from Moorish Spain to Southern Turkey in a two-tone color stone inlay. Together with an iron gazebo, it is reminiscent of our ‘old country.’ Lale and I can sit there hours reading and sipping coffee or wine. The venue has become popular for private candlelight dinners.” The Ozelsels also included their own Turkish touch to the inside of the Inn, but it is a light stroke. Mehmet Ozelsel notes, “We wanted the interior decoration to be easy going, elegant yet comfortable. There are small carpets that do not dominate the hardwood floors as well as antique lamps, frames and pictures, which accent but don’t overwhelm the setting, and plenty of sunlight in the rooms.” Sunlight plays a big part in the Cinnamon Room, Ozelsel favorite of the Inn’s five rooms. He says, “Because it was originally the sun room in the house, it has banks of windows on both sides of the room. Now that the trees have grown, you might also say you have a tree house feeling. We also added a new section and made a bathroom with a large Jacuzzi tub under a skylight.” Lale Ozelsel is partial to what she calls the “girlish” feel of the large Scarlet Room with its king size sleigh bed and the outdoor setting of its private porch. Plus, she adds, “I don’t care as much about Jacuzzi tubs as Mehmet does!” When it comes to breakfast, Mehmet Ozelsel also cared enough about his guests to the point of enrolling in a culinary school to fine-tune his skills. Now, he describes a typical breakfast at the inn like a seasoned chef: “The emphasis is, of course, on taste, but also on presentation, where, as they say in Turkish, ‘The heart did not accept what the eye has seen.’ For starters, a fresh fruit course may be a muesli parfait, a pear poached in prune juice, a stuffed baked apple in puff pastry or fresh pineapples over caramelized sweet potato soufflé.

An egg entrée may be a traditional quiche Lorraine, a cheese and turkey omelet in baguette or a bird nest sandwich (A tasty blend of sliced turkey breast, eggs, cheese and tomatoes on sourdough bread.). We are also as at home presenting a German-style Bauern Fruehstueck or Aegean-style eggs and vegetables baked in clay pots. Although I have to say that, when our children and grandchildren visit us from abroad, they only want pancakes, waffles and scrambled eggs with bacon!” Ozelsel’s culinary skills extend beyond breakfast, as the Inn also offers private dinners. They are usually five-course meals presenting traditional international favorites and fusion food. Such dinners are often served outdoor, complete with fine linens and antique china as well as silver and crystal ware. America, France, Turkey—the Mélange Inn offers some of the best of these three worlds. It was all brought together by the efforts of Mehmet and Lale Ozelsel, who realized a dream through hard work and by showing their guests that hospitality is a universal custom. L.A. Jackson writes inn-teresting articles from his home in Apex.  home in Apex.

A Taste of Elegance

Bold Life

by Cathy Horton

Sometimes, the sum really is more than the total of all its parts. Take Melange, a hidden gem of a bed and breakfast that is a gourmet restaurant, a living museum and more.

Aptly named, this classy amalgamation of cultures is showcased in décor, food and service. Known as a wedding venue (and justifiably so, with its breathtaking gardens and pavilion spaces), Melange should be better known for its spectacular food and European service sensibilities. It was my great good fortune to be included in a celebration at Melange recently. Driving into the property transports one immediately from Hendersonville’s 5th Avenue into a refuge of perfectly landscaped gardens, fountains and arbors. Better yet, stepping into the front foyer brings you directly into Eastern Europe…lavish décor and artwork, brought back to human scale by family photos everywhere you look. Remember, this is not just a B&B, it is also the home of Mehmet and Lale Ozelsel.

The grand Colonial-Georgian style home is a labor of love for the Ozelsels and they have created “Candlelight Dinners” to showcase their eclectic heritage, both in décor and food. Born in Istanbul, Mehmet spent years traveling the globe working for DuPont. They purchased the home on 1994 and spent the next two years renovating and updating it to accommodate guests.

The evening of our party was cold and clear… a fire blazing in the oversized hearth and a tuxedo-clad server bearing trays of Royal Cassis (a lovely aperitif of champagne and crème de cassis, a black currant flavored liquor) set the tone for the evening ahead. The tables were set with crisp white linens, fine china and crystal, while candles glowed throughout the room.
Candlelight dinner menus are arranged in advance with Melange. And as long as at least two people order the same item, the choices are wide open. Appetizers included light-as-a-feather crepes wrapped around brunoise vegetables and hazelnuts, a baked green bell pepper held crab and shrimp and was cloaked with a light citrus sauce and, my personal favorite, Cherkessian-style potted chicken came wrapped in baby lettuce leaves. The soup course was next, brought out on a different round of spectacular chargers with warm breads offered to accompany choices such as French Onion, curried salmon and a delicious combination of chick pea, spinach and tahini.

Melange offers their guests a modest $5 corkage on any wines that the guest chooses to bring. Our host, Mehmet, made sure that wine glasses were topped off as we headed into the salad course, which was highlighted by a baby spinach and wilted red cabbage with toasted pine nuts and gorgonzola. The interplay of ingredients from Lale’s heritage (a combination of Russian and Yugoslavian) is evident and a delicious change of pace. Pomegranate seeds, sesame crisps and a subtle hand with aromatic spices including cumin, coriander and curry lent layers of flavors that had many of us guessing at the ingredients.

Entrees were a high point as well. Shrimp a la Melange came baked in a clay pot, with caramelized mushrooms, red pepper and onions baked with shrimp. Puten Schnitzel, thinly pounded turkey served with a Hunter’s cream sauce and crisp fried eggplant was delicious. Schnitzel, while simple in preparation, can be tricky to do well. The turkey was moist and the crispy coating was light and perfectly golden. Eggplant Mousakka, a traditional Greek-Turkish dish featuring ground beef and béchamel sauce was layered in subtle flavor. By now, you are getting the picture that the menu is eclectic.

Heading into dessert, we tucked happily into lavender crème brulee, roasted pears cloaked in puffed pastry and a decadent chocolate pyramid cake. Lale and Mehmet emerged from the kitchen to a round of applause and chatted about their food and heritage. He explained, “Lale’s upbringing with the traditions and culture of the Turkish kitchen touches on the rich heritage of Mediterranean, Arabic, Persian and Greek cuisine.”

“When I go out to a restaurant and am content with the experience afterwards, I am happily full…that wonderful feeling of inner fulfillment of having eaten a good meal and feeling at peace with the world,” Mehmet said. That summed up my experience at the beautiful Melange…I couldn’t have put it better!


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