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.

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