Meet Melissa Hall.
Melissa is an interior designer and co-founder of Bona Vita Architecture. After working 17 years with Tom Salzer, a good friend and architect at a previous firm, they started Bona Vita Architecture in 2014. Melissa is one of few female firm owners in the male-dominated architecture industry and even fewer interior-designer owners of architecture firms.
Melissa is passionate about helping people learn to do what they do better and to have fun while doing it. She strives to lead an enjoyable culture in her office, inclusive of top-quality work product and a fun atmosphere. Every day the office is filled with laughter.
Outside of work, Melissa has enjoyed 22 years of marriage to Keith, which includes their blended family of three adult children, two grandchildren and a cat named Linda. Melissa has spent some of her free time in the last few years developing an app for interior designers to simplify the process of ordering material samples, which has been an educational and inspiring journey connecting her to countless women entrepreneurs and coaches who have empowered her to continue down this sometimes-uncomfortable road.
YWCA Asks: What does an “empowering woman” mean to you?
Melissa: I attended an event recently where the keynote speaker said, “Empowered women empower women”. That stuck with me. It prompted me to think of the many women in my life that have lifted me up, come along side me, and drug me along to help me get me where I am (a handful of them are previously honored POP stars!). I know those women received their empowerment from others and they had the courage, willingness, and vulnerability to pass it on. An empowered woman keeps on giving.
YWCA Asks: In what ways do you feel you empower other women?
Melissa: I am fortunate to work with several women in our office of nine. We now outnumber the men! Two of the female staff are newer to the interior design field so I have daily opportunities to teach, mentor, and encourage them. I also participate in a new initiative with International Interior Designers Association (IIDA), the Indiana Chapter, organizing a year-long program for designers, with three to five years of experience, to provide them the tools they need to advance in their careers. When I was asked to join the committee, I quickly ran it through my “passion filter” (thanks, Brenda Gerber-Vincent) and eagerly joined. This opportunity combined my love of design and helping others do what they do better. I look forward to interacting and sharing my experiences with the inaugural class in in 2022.
YWCA Asks: Would you share a tidbit of information or experience that may be helpful to other women?
Melissa: I always feel inspired when I hear woman in leadership roles mention that they were a teen mom. From the time I was 18 years old with a newborn, I was determined to beat the stereotypes—both in parenting and in my career. I was going to succeed! I don’t wear the challenges I faced as a badge, but when I hear others talk about their own similar experiences it makes me wonder if I should. Great connections happen when we are vulnerable. Connections help us grow.