The Designers Who Move In, Remodel, and Leave Houses Transformed

Jersey Ice Cream Co. designs homes instead of serving up frosty treats, but there's something satisfyingly sweet about the way they renovate their lived-in homes.

Jersey Ice Cream Co - Tara and Percy

Photo: jerseyicecreamco.com

Meet Tara Mangini and Percy Bright, the brains, braun, and creative force behind a truly unique home remodeling company, Jersey Ice Cream Co. This duo’s impressive renovations are a sight to behold, but equally impressive is their design process. Consider them the method actors of home remodelers: They actually move into their remodels, and by living there, they ultimately discover what each house needs and how they should look. It means living in an active constructive site, but the results speak for themselves. They spoke to us about their company and being able to work at their dream jobs.

The reason we started doing what we do is…

When this whole thing got started, we were both in that murky mid-twenties stage where we thought “What am I going to do with my life?” We met while Percy was in the midst of renovating his house in Philadelphia. Almost simultaneously, we completely fell for each other, and started working together to design, furnish, and decorate his house. While looking for furniture, we talked about starting an Etsy shop, selling at flea markets, and hopefully one day expanding into design. At the time, Tara was waiting tables and the thought of any of that coming to fruition was beyond belief. The fact that 5 years later all of those dreams have come true, is just an utterly mind-blowing blessing.

Jersey Ice Cream Co - Breakfast Nook

Photo: jerseyicecreamco.com

Our renovation process could be described as…

An organic evolution. We get asked so often how we decided on a paint color or a wall finish or a piece of furniture. And the honest (and usually unhelpful) answer is that we let the project evolve and listened to our guts along the way. Sometimes an unexpected vintage find will totally change our initial thoughts for a space. Sometimes randomly moving a couch will give us a new perspective for a room layout. Living in the space gives us a real understanding for what is needed, and we let our inclinations guide us. I love that our final design feels like a discovery, a surprise, a solution—even to us.

The thing we love most about renovating houses is…

Truly, there are so many things we love about our job, but there are these little moments. Maybe it’s stepping back to really admire something we just finished, maybe it’s that feeling when something suddenly clicks and you realize everything will make sense if you move a doorway, or go with dark plaster instead of light. It could really be anything, but when it happens I feel completely overwhelmed with a feeling of “This is why we do this.” It doesn’t happen everyday, sometimes it doesn’t happen for months. But when we get that feeling we know we’re doing something right.

Jersey Ice Cream Co - Vintage Kitchen

Photo: jerseyicecreamco.com

Our first jobs were…

Renovating and designing Percy’s house in Philadelphia was our first job. It was the best kind of job because we were our own client and we had the freedom to do whatever we wanted. It really allowed us to develop confidence in our work and our style. From there we did a few small jobs, but our first real official “can you believe this is happening to us?!” job was the house at Shipley Corner. We had a little section on our website at the time about what our dream job would be. All we wanted was for someone to give us a budget, some keys to a house and the freedom to do whatever we wanted with it. When someone emailed to say that wanted to hire us to do just that, we totally lost our minds. It’s been non-stop since then.

Our main sources of inspiration are…

Though we look at blogs and Instagram and things like that for inspiration, I think more of our inspiration comes from the world around us. Details on old barns, the paint color of a restaurant, a scene from a movie. It can get really overwhelming scouring through Pinterest and ideas that seem fresh start to look repetitive and stale. I find the farther away I stay from a computer while we’re working, the better.

Jersey Ice Cream Co - Wood Paneled Room

Photo: jerseyicecreamco.com

The most challenging thing about our work is…

One main challenge is that we don’t really have a home base. We live where we work, so we have no actual apartment or house of our own. At times, it’s very freeing, but naturally there are moments when I wish we could go home to a place where we live, with our things, in a house that isn’t currently undergoing major construction. But it’s a choice. I’m sure one of these days we will get an apartment and pull our things out of storage and put dishes on shelves and clothes in dressers. And still, there is a part of me that thinks we’ll do that and discover we like being nomads more than we realized! So it’s a challenge, but also one of the things that keeps us from getting bored, so a mega bonus at the same time.

Jersey Ice Cream Co - Open Shelves

Photo: jerseyicecreamco.com

Our favorite part of the process is…

There is a lot of joy in the design process along the way, but nothing really beats the big client reveal. Usually we are running around frantically trying to make everything look perfect, and their knock on the door is like Christmas and getting an exam grade back combined. Our adrenaline is so high while they are walking through the house seeing everything for the first time. It’s a really exciting and really exhausting day.

Jersey Ice Cream Co - Exterior House

Photo: jerseyicecreamco.com

The story behind our name is…

We went up to the Brimfield Flea Market a few weeks into dating and stumbled across a booth with a bunch of old embossing stamps. I had never seen one before, but Percy explained how they worked, and I slipped a piece of paper in, stamped down, and there it was! Jersey Ice Cream Co! We joked that we would use that as the name of our business, and then, as all too often happens, that joke became real. We worried a bit about the confusion factor a few years ago, but stuck with it. I’m so glad we did.

Jersey Ice Cream Co - Bathroom

Photo: jerseyicecreamco.com

Our all-time favorite tools are…

Tara: My favorite has to be a paintbrush. There have been so many days, when I’m painting a porch, or a kitchen with the windows open, listening to music, maybe sipping on a late-afternoon cocktail when I think “I can’t believe I get paid to do this.”

Percy: I’d have to say my hammer. Not many days go by when I don’t use it for one reason or another, and you can’t go wrong with a classic, right?

Jersey Ice Cream Co - Rustic Dining Table

Photo: jerseyicecreamco.com

If you loved these pictures, find more—or set up a consultation—at Jersey Ice Cream Co.


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