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 wonderfullyI 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. Thats 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 agents 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 withor perhaps because ofthe 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 becomea 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 Inns 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 dont overwhelm the setting, and plenty of sunlight in the rooms. Sunlight plays a big part in the Cinnamon Room, Ozelsel favorite of the Inns 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 dont 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! Ozelsels 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, Turkeythe 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.