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A Cooked Studio Experience

People don’t buy products or services, they buy experiences.

Ever since Mel Cook founded Cooked Studio in 2017, this is an ethos she carries from the very start of every design journey. Mel is a passionate interior and exhibition designer and former project manager with an empathic and curious approach to building a concept. With over a decade’s experience in the design industry, Mel has worked on a wide range of projects in both the creative and corporate worlds, handling a variety of budgets ranging from SME to multi-million Rand accounts.

Mel has won several awards for her work in exhibitions. She has worked with brands including Deloitte, Investec, Microsoft, Adcock Ingram, FAW and BMW, and spends her extra time as the Cape Town’s co-chapter leader for Ladies, Wine and Design, a global movement geared toward championing women in the creative industry

An ethical, compassionate and dedicated design studio with a fondness for the peculiar, Cooked Studio aims to consistently exceed client expectations.

“At Cooked, our purpose is people. We believe in finding joy in all aspects of our work, are excited by challenge and are commited to nothing short of excellence, and to having fun along the way. Looking so forward to crafting magic with you.”

We chatted to the Cooked Studio team about their services, design decisions and latest inspiration. Here’s what they had to say…

We love your motto – People don’t buy products or services, they buy experiences. Please elaborate…

Have you ever taken the time to think about the decisions you make when it comes to buying – why do you choose one brand/ store? How do we choose where to eat, stay and travel? The answer is simple, it’s all about the experience. From the very beginning stage of designing a store, restaurant, bar, home or hotel we take a deep dive into identifying the decision making process of not just our clients but also their customers.

By being curious about their likes and dislikes, what they’ll order and who they’ll likely be with, we are able to paint a better picture of what brings them joy and how your business can be a catalyst in creating that unforgettable experience for them. How people engage in their environments, their curiosities, touchpoints and responses are ultimately what guide the experiences in the spaces we create for them – by being mindful of the target audience we ensure the best outcome for them, and can better help our clients increase their business revenue through carefully considered interior design.

What inspires you and drives your design decisions?

I love people, I love watching how they engage with their surroundings, I love seeing them interact with each other and mostly I’ve always been curious about what created a sense of connection for them. Design to me is never about the designer, but rather the people using the spaces I create for them so I love to play a little pretend of “who am I now” when conceptualizing any space – this of course requires in-depth research and I find I get the best information in a relaxed environment. I find huge joy in working with brands and figuring how to help my clients increase their revenue by creating spaces that inspire a connection to their customers. I believe firmly that design holds the power to create a sense of belonging and community.

When I take a brief from residential clients I like to find out who they are over a very relaxed chat over tea or wine, and for my commercial clients I like to sit with them and help them identify their customer personalities so we can put them at the forefront of every design journey.

In your opinion, what constitutes a good design and how do you combine beauty and function into the interiors that you create?

The most important part of any project is establishing a clear brief. I often have a brief-decoding session with my clients to determine our shared goals for the project, by asking them a series of in-depth questions on what a successful outcome would look like. We are then able to determine a shared vision for the project from the get-go. Good design is often about establishing a good, clear, goal-driven brief.

From there we are able to determine how the space needs to work. Functionality is the priority and the aesthetic follows to support it. A successful design to me is one that looks at the usability of a space from the perspective of all the people that need to use it, this may sound simple but when nothing feels like it’s missing from a practical standpoint (for example, there’s nothing that irritates me more than being in a hotel shower when there’s no shelf to put my shampoo on, or needing to plug my charger in but they’ve only installed a standard 3-point plug). I consider it good design. When you’re able to challenge your materials and do something completely unique with them while making sure the design is fully practical… I consider that GREAT design.

Once I know the functionality of the space I can then determine how it should feel and that’s where the beauty side of it comes in. It’s about creating a feeling of harmony, balance and connection to the brand or homeowner as the space effectively should reflect who they are.

Cubby Hole Concept

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently working on a concept for an exciting new gastrobar in Johannesburg, a design collab with Womag for Decorex, an Airbnb project in Cape Town and a couple of other fun things in the pipeline.


You have a vast portfolio. What are you most proud of?

Thank you! I’ve been super fortunate to have a variety of very different projects to keep me on my toes – which I love!

I recently just completed a Concept Cafe for Susu Bubble Tea in De Waterkant which was super fun to create. I love watching how people engage in this super playful space – playing on the oversize see-saw, hanging out on the banana swing photobooth and Instagramming/ making tik-tok videos in the colorful lounge has been a treat to witness. Check our @susububbleteaza on Instgram to see the action. This project was a dream project really – I had full independence to play with colour texture and pattern and the feedback has been wonderful.

A place you visited to unwind in Africa?

Mozambique and Zanzibar are two very special places I’ve been lucky enough to visit but there really is no other country as beautiful and diverse as South Africa. A huge part of my heart lives in Olifant’s North bordering the Kruger.

Your favourite restaurant?

Too many to name! I live in Cape Town and we’re totally spoilt for choice here but without a doubt, Potluck Club is waayyyy up on my list!

Need advice or interior design assistance? Contact Cooked Studio and let them assist you on this exciting journey.

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