In case you didn’t already know these lovely folks, let us introduce you to Tara Mangini and Percy Bright, the duo (and very good looking couple) behind the Brooklyn-based Jersey Ice Cream Co. It’s hard not to do a double take when you come across @jerseyicecreamco while scrolling through your IG feed, because their designs are that good. Every time. They aren’t afraid of moody moments, subtle yet effective patterns, and of course, plaster walls.
We’ve been following Tara and Percy for years, and if you aren’t already, do yourself a favor and hit the follow button. We recently got the chance to get to know them, and they have a real good, inspiring story that we think a lot of you may find relatable. They had an untraditional path to getting to where they are now (hint: they didn’t study interior design), they have an untraditional approach to designing (hint: they ditch computers), and they have an untraditional approach to getting the job done (hint: they work on-site for the entire project). We stop there, because it’s worth hearing what Tara has to say. Take a seat with Tara and Percy, will ya?!
Your entrepreneurial journey is so inspiring. You two have truly built this from the ground up. Walk us through how it all started.
As I’ll get into a bit below, when we met, Percy was fixing up a house he had just bought and we both had a fair amount of free time on hands. We both had a love for vintage furniture and flea markets, and that really gave us the seed to take our first trip to Brimfield and consider how we could make a business out of our shared interests. We started dabbling in reselling vintage furniture, but quickly realized we wanted way more control over where these pieces were ending up, which lead us to designing full spaces. We used Percy’s house as our first project, and lost our minds when DesignSponge agreed to post it and talked about us like were actual designers. It really just all took off from there.
Did you ever think you’d end up as designers? Did you go to school for it?
It’s definitely not something I saw coming, but feel so grateful I ended up here. I studied advertising and photography at school, and Percy was a Greek and Latin major. We both spent some time working in advertising right out of school, but when we met, Percy had been recently unemployed and I was waiting tables. We both knew we wanted to be doing something more fulfilling, but weren’t exactly sure what that meant. I was constantly waiting for that moment of “This is it!” in love and in my career. It didn’t hit like lighting, but my world definitely took a major shift when we met.
What were some of the biggest roadblocks you came across when you were first started?
Early on, the biggest struggle was just wanting to work in a big way and not being able to. We were getting small jobs, but were dying to take on a house in it’s entirely and really let loose. Not the biggest problem to have, but we were so excited when we finally got a project we could really just bite into.
Your creative process is a rather intimate one. You live in, or very near, to each space that you work on. Why did you choose this design process and why was it important to you?
It’s a process that started entirely out of necessity and became such an important part of how we work. Our first big client job was on a house upstate, and because we were essentially broke, getting rid of our apartment and living there while we worked was something we did without much thought. It wasn’t until we did our first job in a more traditional way that we realized living on site and being able to feel out the design was not only a much more enjoyable way to work, but also led to the best outcome.
You don’t use computer mock-ups and floor plans. How does this approach fit your design process? Do prospective clients find this surprising?
This untraditional approach fits us perfectly, but clearly it’s not for everyone. Personally, I work well with restrictions, so I like that this creates limits to the work we take on and the types of clients who want to work with us. We’ve also had to cave and do our fair share of computer work over the past few years, something we are hoping to phase out entirely as soon as possible.
How did you get into plaster finishes, and can we buy them online? We are obviously obsessed!
Percy trained with the company who plasters the Anthropologie stores back when we were first dating, and it’s a skill he’s honed enough to be able to do himself at this point. You can’t buy them online, but you can hire us to come plaster your house! It’s worth every penny.
In your opinion, what makes a Jersey Ice Cream Co. house, a Jersey Ice Cream Co. house?
There’s a feeling you get when you walk in the door that is so much more than what comes across in photos. I think that’s what really makes it a Jersey Ice Cream Co. house.
What’s the best piece of advice someone has given you, either professionally or personally?
“If it isn’t feeding you creatively, it’s not worth it.” It’s hard to always put this into practice, but it’s a good goal.
What are five things you can’t live without right now?
Windows open, nice days for running, black cherry Schwepps, our friends, each other.
What’s next from Jersey Ice Cream Co.?
The more freedom we get with our work the more freedom we want, and at this point we are looking to phase our client work entirely and spend more time fixing up houses that we’ve bought to either rent or resell. We are hoping to have time to experiment more with old materials like plaster and tempera, and really focus more on craft.