Running my fingertips over Mela + Roam's luxurious linens, the softness is what I imagine clouds would feel like—light and fluffy. As my eyes wander over metal bowls and colorful tassels, I feel as if I've embarked on a journey around the world in 80 seconds.
Mela + Roam's Rice Military storefront is marked by a sign for Jardin de France, which sells upscale plants and patio furnishings. Entering is like walking through The Secret Garden. There are beautiful sculptures and plants everywhere, nearly making you forget about the cars whizzing by on Durham. Mela + Roam is nestled in the space just upstairs.
Mela is a Hindi term for a gathering or a fair, and owner Courtney Barton paired it with Roam as the name of her line because at the time she didn't have a brick-and-mortar space. After directing me up the stairs, Barton greeted me with open arms, a big smile and lots of energy. She has traveled the world, and through Mela + Roam, she is sharing beautiful items that she’s found for the rest of us.
The Louisiana native explained that Mela + Roam came into being roughly six years ago. She and her husband were living abroad in Kuala Lumpur, where she had the opportunity to travel regularly. She eventually made her way to India and fell in love with the country. “It reminded me of a little slice of Louisiana in the east because everything is centered on celebration, colors, family and food. That was what my eyes were opened to upon my initial visit there,” Barton says.
She amassed many souvenirs to bring home with her from her travels, stocking up on one item in particular, the dohar blanket. After returning home stateside in 2011 with her husband when she was eight months pregnant, she was eager to see how Southern women would take to the light and airy blankets that she had used on her own bed in Malaysia for three years. Jumping at an opportunity to sell her Indian wares at a local pop-up market, on Barton's first weekend of sales she started with 100 dohar blankets and left with only three—suffice to say the dohars were a big hit with Houstonians.
In her new retail digs, which Barton debuted this part spring, she makes the most use out of a small space. The corrugated metal ceiling is low, but small windows allow just the right amount of natural light and the occasional fresh breeze in on an otherwise hot and humid day. I wandered around the shop, just taking everything in. There are Turkish pestemal towels woven of 100-percent Aegean cotton and hammam bowls made by metal artisans in Turkey. Colorful camel tassels handmade from pom-poms and seashells from the beaches of Goa, not to mention jewelry, books and other exotic home goods.
Then there's the Dohar blanket, which Barton says is still the star of her business. Dohar simply means layers—three of them, to be precise, each made from mulmul cotton, one of India's most sought-after and luxurious textiles. It is light and breathable—perfect to take with you on a journey to the other side of the world, or just to curl up under on a hot summer night in Houston.
Mela + Roam is located at 4819 Blossom Street, melaandroam.com.