The Importance of Vibe: a Q&A with Where to Eat CLT

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The Importance of Vibe

A Q&A with Miranda Mounts from @wheretoeatcharlotte

A year ago, Miranda Mounts posted the first photo to her CLT foodie account @wheretoeatcharlotte. Now with more than 10,000 followers, Miranda specializes in finding the best spots locally to eat — places that provide diners with consistent food, experience — and vibe. With our newfound love of restaurant design launched with our Optimist Hall project, El Thrifty, we met Miranda at its opening. We also picked her brain on the best spots to check out this fall in the Queen City — the best food, patios, pup-friendly spots and most of all — the ones with the best design. 

Q: How did you get into the food scene?

A: “I went to North Carolina Wilmington to play volleyball and I graduated and started working inside sales for Inland Seafood. That’s when I started to develop my love for food. I would call up chefs in Myrtle Beach and Raleigh and ask them: “What seafood do you need for tomorrow?” I learned all about cuts of beef and fish.”

Q: How did your sales job impact your current foodie status?

A: “I am not just someone who likes to eat, but I really respect chefs and what they do. Walking in the back doors of restaurant as a 23 year old to talk to chefs was really intimidating.”

Q: What brought you to CLT?

A: “I moved to Charlotte late last September and since I was always guiding people where to go to eat in Wilmington, I started my Charlotte page Oct. 1 last year. I love photography, which I picked it up from my mom who is a photographer. I noticed the post with me in them were more engaging them the post of food, so I developed this brand.”

Q:  So why do you do what you do?

A: “Whenever I travel somewhere, I do hours of research on where to eat and I thought that if people could have one outlet in Charlotte that they really trust and know I am going to send them to the right spot — how much is that worth? It’s priceless.”

Q: What do you think of the CLT food scene?

A: “The Charlotte foodie scene is on the rise to becoming one of the best in the US — in my opinion. With the amount of young, energetic and HUNGRY people moving to Charlotte every day, the restaurants and chefs are going to be stepping up their game and getting more and more innovative.”

Q: What was your take on Optimist Hall’s El Thrifty?

A:El Thrifty is the definition of trendy. It’s a modern Mexican-inspired cantina where you can get handcrafted cocktails in a social environment plus my favorite part — GAMES! The vibe is extremely aesthetic every aspect is Instagram worthy!”

Q: How important do you think the design of a restaurant is?

A: “Honestly, for a restaurant to succeed and to get people to come back consistency is everything. That means that with so many people moving to Charlotte, restaurant owners really need to hone in on the vibe. The vibe is really important. Food is important but if you are not in an atmosphere that’s engaging you won’t come back. The energy makes a difference. At Barcelona, you go in an feel like you are in another city — and they remember my drink order form last time and remember that I love the croquettes, those things bring me back.”

Q: What restaurant would you say has the best design in CLT?

A:Barcelona Wine Bar! The vibe is my favorite vibe in Charlotte, I just love it! You feel like you are somewhere else, like you are in a big city. It’s the best spot to get drinks with girlfriends and is not only really aesthetic but has an old-world feel to it.  I’m obsessed with their Truffle Bikini! It is so simple and delicious. They make mini decadent grilled cheese cut into triangles like a bikini top and stuff them with Jamón Serrano, Mahon cheese and the perfect amount of truffle!”

Q: What’s your go-to fast food eatery in Charlotte with spot-on design?

A: “I consistently recommend YAFO Kitchen for fast casual Mediterranean.  I interviewed the chef recently and he told me the spices in their house-made spice blend come straight from Israel! My favorite item to order is the build-your-own grain bowl with hummus, cucumber tomato salad, beets, feta, purple cabbage slaw and topped with Shawarma Chicken!”

Q: What’s your best date-night suggestion?

A: “Date night must be spent at one of the signature Bruce Moffett Restaurants. Hands down, they’re some of the best restaurants the Queen City has to offer. Good Food on Montford is one of my favorites! Small plates for sharing, exceptional service and an intimate romantic vibe!”

Q: What’s the best good vibe, pup-friendly spot?

A:Flower Child! They are California based and know exactly what they are doing! Located in the heart of the city, they have an amazing patio — and it’s pup-friendly! I always order the strawberry fields salad, add salmon. But, their macaroni and cheese is ridiculous. Make sure to try it.”

Q: What’s your go-to for an extravagant design experience?

A: “I don’t think you can beat the vibe at La Belle Helene. It is an experience and I really enjoyed dining there. They just changed up their menu — putting out some fresh fall options! My go-to is their Hanger Steak and Frites.”

Q: Favorite sushi spot?

A:O-Ku Sushi is probably the best sushi in CLT. They have an option for the chef to create custom dishes for you that are not on the menu. For my birthday last weekend, they created this grilled Hamachi belly (yellowtail belly) topped with toasted pine nuts drizzled with daikon yuzu floating in a truffle ponzu sauce. It was insane. Nowhere else in Charlotte can compare to their seafood, it is top quality! And, from 5 to 7 p.m. on Monday’s and Wednesday’s, they serve half-priced sushi rolls!”

Q: What’s your favorite weekend patio design?

A:Kid Cashew is such a fun restaurant — that patio is a really great design! I love brunch there and they have $3 mimosas! The food is all simple and fresh. My go-to is their lamb burger! It’s one of my favorite burgers in Charlotte. I pick Kid Cashew for their freshness of food and price point — and, they welcome pups on their patio, too!”

Find out more on CLT’s food scene on Instagram at @wheretoeatcharlotte.

Let's Get Minimized: a Q&A

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We’re minimalists at heart over here and relish a good project where we help our clients peruse through what furniture to keep in a space — and what to pass on — so they truly LOVE their homes. We want their spaces to not just be beautiful but livable, and for them to display their most beloved items that tell stories about their lives. 

But let’s be honest, some projects we’ve come across involve a major decluttering — and that’s when we call in a local experts like Minimized so our design process can follow. We’ve followed Matlin Pessarra and her team and we loved talking to her this week, getting the inside scoop and tricks for not just decluttering a space, but creating a lifestyle of daily purging. Matlin is light-hearted and fun — she even laughed as she confided in us that naturally, she is a stacker — and has self-taught everything she knows about organization. 

Q: What first got you into organizing, a pretty niche line of work?

A: “I am originally from near Raleigh and have moved around a bit. I taught elementary school for four years and really loved it, but found myself becoming obsessed with organizing my classroom. I remember doing a lot of research — one of the reasons I love what I do so much is I am so interested in the psychology behind organization. If kids are going to learn, they need to feel comfortable and the classroom has to feel like home. Other teachers started asking for help on their classrooms and it just turned into helping people.”

Q: Is organization in your DNA?

A: “I am not naturally organized. I am naturally a minimalist, so I don’t have a lot of things which makes it easier to keep tidy —  but I am a stacker like no other. It has just been a process of realizing for myself that I need to stop that habit and create new habits. A reason I love working with clients is that I can relate to them so much. I understand that sometimes it is not natural and I love talking to people about incorporating new habits so you are not having to do a new clean out every month.”

Q: Do you find that your clients similar in their disorganization or the same?

A: “I have these four organizing personalities and all my clients fit into one of them. I call myself a stacker — a piler. Then there are shoppers, who are just people who buy too many things. Then there are the shovers —- their homes are so beautiful but if you open a cabinet or a closet something might fall on you. And then there are the solvers, the people who try to make solutions and have all these organizing supplies but they don’t have the system set up correctly.”

Q: What’s the biggest tidying habit you suggest incorporating into daily life?

A: “If there was one overall tip, I would say create a drop zone in almost every space to put those things when you realize you no longer need them. In the closet, next to your hamper, have another basket so when you try things on in the morning and think, “Why do I even own this?” instead of hanging it back up — you put it there. Get into that habit of setting things aside instead of putting them back. So you don’t have to do a huge purge, instead it’s something you are doing daily. With playrooms, I suggest working with kids and explaining to them that when they are done with a toy, they can put it in this basket over here and then it will go to another kid. Parents say that no way, their kids won’t do that but kids always do it! And then it takes work off the parents.”

Q: What projects are you hired most frequently to tackle?

A: “We definitely see a variety but our most popular spots are closets, pantries and play rooms. It’s pretty much any spaces that are behind closed doors where people tend to shove and not want anyone to into them.”

Q: What do you see as the greatest need in the minimalism/organization?

A: “The greatest need people have is realizing how to change their habits in order to get their homes where they need to be. A lot of people are not used to going through and purging and donating so they tend to get really overwhelmed and get to a point where they don’t even know where to start. I have to talk to clients about how once we come in we can help declutter but you have to keep up with it. Getting people to set up those cycling systems to have somewhere to put things to donate or set things aside is really important.”

Q: What’s your take on Marie Kondo style of organization?

A: “I love Marie Kondo! I’m glad it’s got people’s attention onto the power of decluttering. I get the whole sparking joy thing, but I have joked with so many clients about it — paper towels and batteries do not spark joy for me but we need them. Her whole style is a little extreme but I appreciate parts of it. I love that she talks about organizing by category instead of by room. Like if they want to organize their hardware or manuals —- she suggests one that she has one place for it all. Not one stack in your kitchen and another in your laundry room. And of course her folding! I just love that when I look in my drawers now I can see everything from there. It stops things from piling up and getting stuck in the corners.”

Q: What’s the biggest mistake you see that people make when trying to purge?

A: “One big one is focusing more on the supplies than the actual decluttering. Almost every one of my clients already has bins — a lot of people’s clutter is storage products. They are just creating more clutter.


Q: What’s a misconception about minimalism/organizing?

A: “One of the misconceptions I find a lot with clients who hire me is that as soon as I get there, they have an idea of a new system put in! They always jump to supplies or shelving or more cabinets — which will create more storage — but one of the things that people don’t realize is that they have to deal with the clutter first. If you go in and put in more bins you are just containing the clutter — you are really not organizing.”

Q: Your tagline is, "You don't have to do it all." I love that, can you elaborate? 

A: “The reason I stuck with you don’t have to do it all is that especially when I started the most popular question I got was: “Well, can’t people do that themselves?” Our time is worth money and energy and if you are not organizing every day and you don’t know the right process, you might spend weeks on one area where you could call people in and have it don in three hours. I am all about focusing on those things that are important to you!”

Q: What’s your organization process?

A: “The process that we follow can be different depending on the clients, sometimes we come in when they have just moved or are about to move or have been there for awhile. We have a three-step process that starts with minimizing, then organization and then styling. Minimizing is decluttering. We try to take every single thing out of the space, remove everything and begin to categorize and purge as needed. This step is the most time consuming, it totally depends on the client. As for organizing this is really space planning and we try to use products and space people already have! For styling, we will recommend some different products once we have gone through and purged and see what they have.”

Q: Which part of the process makes you come alive?

A: “Definitely the styling because I am seeing it coming all together! Almost every single time they say to me, “Are you scared? Are you overwhelmed by my spaces?” — but I love it! When I walk into an area that people may seem as messy I see the potential of what it could be and sometimes when we are going through the process you almost forget what is looked like so I love having the before and after!


Q: Do you have a go-to organizational item?
A:
“Something I use in almost every project is some sort of turn table. The Container Store has so many different types — plastic ones, bamboo ones, acrylic ones, but they are so helpful for so many different things. For example, for corner shelves or for under the sink — they are great so you are not having to dig through and things getting stuck in the back.”

Q: We often design playrooms -- what are your tips on keeping playrooms organized?

A: “I have a lot of thoughts on playrooms especially as a former teacher but something I talk to clients about a lot is how limited kids attention spans are. If you give them a bunch of options they are going to try to use every single option. You don’t have to have every single thing out and available. I suggest putting things up and away even if kids can see it but cant reach it but then they are asking for it and you are seeing what they are asking for and playing with.”

Q: Should every house have a junk drawer?

A: “Every one is going to have something that feels like a junk drawer. For example, I live in a small one bedroom apartment and in my kitchen I have some extra gum and lighters and candles and spare keys in a drawer — but they are not just tossed and shoved in. I don’t add to it — they all have their space. I think you can have a “junk space” without it feeling junky.”

Find out more on Instagram at @getminimized or visit Minimized.