Did Melissa Friday actually just walk out of the woods one day, a design unicorn with a wholly unique aesthetic touch and an uncompromising vision for space? Not quite. She actually started as a chef. Working under great people, she grew into one of those sous chefs who intuitively understood food and the flow of the kitchen without having ever been to culinary school. Realizing a next logical step would be opening her own restaurant, something didn’t feel right, her heart was in the design world, and it was time to follow it.
Between industrial design school, cooking, and back to commercial kitchens again, she started to see a synergy between the skillsets of managing a kitchen (designing the menu, sourcing the food, hiring the staff) and the prospect of overseeing a design project, soup-to-nuts (the perfect food idiom).
This took Melissa on a journey through the design world, from working with a commercial kitchen design company, building architectural models, to custom furniture fabrication. It was these experiences that contributed to sharpening her truly holistic vision of interior design. You don’t meet many designers who can build and engineer their ideas, but Melissa’s eclectic background empowers her to do that and more. Just like it takes a truly visionary chef to understand the entire flow of sourcing, preparing, cooking and serving food, it takes a special kind of designer to go beyond the typical job and instead turn walls and ceiling into a highly functional, experiential space.
But while Melissa’s timeline has all of the makings of a good epic, it’s that ineffable quality and her aesthetic eye that have made her a north star in Denver’s restaurant interior design scene. Her commitment to her clients’ deepest passions, her attention to detail, her desire to make dreams reality. To top it all off, Melissa’s history designing in a city that has gone through a significant facelift over the last two decades make her a truly unique asset. But enough waxing poetic – let’s mix up a few Manhattans and get some shit done.
Stephanie “Steph” Friday
Behind every great design firm, there’s a Steph Friday keeping contracts organized, taxes paid, and people happy… Kidding. If that was true, there’d be a lot more impressive design firms in the world.
The truth is, there’s only one, and she’s with Xan. But that wasn’t always the case. Steph was working at a graphic design firm for years before joining forces with Melissa. Back then, the days were starting to melt into each other, and even though she was slated to take over the company, she knew she wanted to shake things up. That’s when, from across the living room, Melissa chimed in: Why don’t you come work with me? A lightbulb clicked on (in her head, not in the couple’s living room). And so, Steph joined Melissa, taking over accounting, financial responsibilities, and so much more. As the client roster grew, Steph’s role in the business evolved and expanded – project photography (she just so happens to be a trained portrait photographer), client relations, website design, social media marketing…what doesn’t she do?
Steph’s vivaciousness is a core part of what keeps Xan chugging along. As snack provider and listener of woes, the team refers to her as the office mom. Her warmth also extends outside the office walls to the relationships she begins and fosters with all Xan clients. If you meet her once and you’ll probably want to add her to all of your future party rosters. Bonus: she always shows up with treats.
From the little girl designing Barbie houses out of banana boxes, to the quiet, 20-something young designer in vintage clothing with her hands folded at the table, to the power house designer who isn’t impressed with your second-rate cocktail bitters…Dana has traveled a great distance to meet with you here today (Michigan > New Orleans > Denver, to be exact).
Dana moved to Denver early enough to not be criticized for being a bandwagon transplant. In fact, it was the major gaps she saw in the late-aughts Denver design-scene that kept her here – there was opportunity galore.
After getting her design degree and realizing she didn’t want to a.) design houses for oil-rich Texans (sorry Texas) or b.) pick paint colors and furniture for suburban hotel lobbies, Dana cast her line to find the perfect home for her skillset and passion. As a service industry-veteran who had mourned her departure from the organized chaos of the restaurant world, Dana knew that designing restaurant spaces would be the perfect mashup role. During a meeting with Melissa and Steph, Dana realized she’d found her place: Xan. Proudly wearing the badge of “employee number three,” Dana knows how to breathe life into her 3D modeling and approaches projects with a refined curiosity that allows her to dream big without losing site of a project’s aim. Have a cocktail with her and she’ll tell you about her recent, awe-inspiring trip to the eco-city of Arcosanti, AZ!
Like every member of the Xan team, Regan’s employment roots go back to the restaurant industry. From serving at a wine bar to earning her hospitality degree, she knows her way around food service. After moving to Denver, she tended bar at a restaurant that appealed to her in a way that was beyond being just another service industry job. Coincidentally, it happened to be a place designed by Xan. Constructed from repurposed building materials and a back of house layout that had clearly been designed by someone with inside knowledge, Regan was smitten. It was like the person who designed the place knew that Regan was going to have a no-reservation, walk-in 25-top bachelorette party who all wanted drinks that weren’t on the menu. Curious, she tracked down the person who designed the place (it wasn’t hard…everyone knows Melissa Friday) and asked her out for drinks and questions. Lots of questions.
A couple years later, after wrapping up her studies in interior design, she reached back out to Melissa. The conversation went (something) like this:
Regan: “Remember me?” Melissa: “Yeah, you were the eager young person who bought me three old fashioneds and asked for trade secrets. Then you sent me a handmade card with cat on it, I think…?”
R: “That’s right. And I’ve mastered Sketchup since we last met. So, can I stage* for you?” M: “Yes. Let’s see what you’re made of!”
*Note for the uninitiated: A stage is a restaurant-industry term for doing a try-out session to determine if the fit is right for both the restaurant and the prospective employee. We can’t help it, we think in restaurants over here.
An organized creative (rare combination) who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. Her passion for helping create restaurant experiences is matched only by her love of murder mystery novels and kitties (possibly combined). Ask her about it sometime over a boat drink.