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An Interview with Mikel Welch

If there’s one person who has truly made a name for themselves within the design world, it’s Mikel Welch. Not only has he established his namesake design studio, Mikel Welch Designs, but he’s managed an ever-growing television career with appearances on HGTV, Bravo, TLC, and NBC, to name a few. I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Mikel back in 2019 at the Las Vegas Market, where we spoke on the same industry panel. From the moment he walked in, Mikel went out of his way to redesign the stage, make sure everyone felt comfortable, and quickly proved himself to be one of the most charming, humble, and kindest people I’ve ever met.

Here at Team IDCO, we’ve thoroughly binge-watched Mikel’s latest show, Quibi’s Murder House Flip, and we’re always excited to see what he’s up to next. With a schedule that’s busier than ever, we’re so grateful for a chance to catch up with Mikel right here on the blog.

 

Image via Mikel Welch

 

An Interview with Mikel Welch

 

 

Tell us how you got your start in the interior design industry, and how Mikel Welch Designs was born?

I got started in the design industry by offering free interior design on Craigslist. I would design one free room as long as people would pay for the furniture, and that’s how I initially built a book. From there, I ended up moving to New York. I thought I was going to be like Carrie Bradshaw, but it didn’t happen. I ended up having to go work at The Container Store where I met my mentor, who introduced me to designer show houses and the high-end world of interior design.

I was later working at CB2, and there was a set decorator who came into the store with like eight assistants. They were grabbing pillows and vases, and I was thinking, “Oh my gosh, what do you do for a living and help me get out from behind this cash register.” I ended up trying to stay in contact with the set decorator, and he had even promised me a job. I moved to LA, and when I got there, the guy never picked up the phone, but it was okay. While I was working at the CB2 store in Los Angeles, Orlando Soria came in, and he was shopping for Emily Henderson’s new show. I asked if I could just work for free. People are typically willing to let you try things, as long as you don’t have to pay them, so that was always my gimmick. I ended up getting that job and worked with Emily for two months.

Then I moved back to New York because I got a paid job working as a set designer and decorator working on the Style Network. From there, I auditioned for HGTV Design Star and came in 4th place on the show. Steve Harvey and his team saw me on Design Star and asked if I could come to Chicago to redesign his office and work on the TV set. Steve Harvey introduced me to one of the cast members of the Real Housewives of Atlanta, and I ended up designing her basement on the show. That’s kind of what propelled everything for me.

 

Interior Design: Mikel Welch | Photography: John Bessler

 

How would you describe your signature style? How do you tailor + adapt that to different clients and home styles?

My signature style is “primitive modern.” The easiest way to describe it is to take Fred Flintstone and drop him in the present day. I like things that are organic and rustic with primitive characteristics — something that’s going to have a little patina to it. Then I like to pair those vintage-rustic things with pieces that are modern, so I kind of get the best of both worlds.

I feel like adapting as an interior designer is something that I have a challenge with. It’s interesting because you’ve actually spoken on the art of saying no and letting the right projects come in. I love the primitive modern aesthetic; however, most of my clients don’t want old stuff or anything vintage. They want newer items, so I typically work with clients who prefer more of a Mitchell Gold aesthetic — very clean lines and modern, and things with a kind of regal-ness to them. I do take on those clients, but I am trying to be a little more discerning and find projects that work well with what I want to do.

 

Website Templates for Interior Designers | IDCO Studio

 

Interior Design: Mikel Welch

 

Do you have a favorite project thus far? Tell us about it!

My favorite project thus far has been the remodel of B2 Harlem — a restaurant that I helped reopen in 2016. In Harlem, they are having an issue where gentrification is really kicking out a lot of mom and pop businesses who’ve been there for years. I partnered with the owner of B2 Harlem, who’s a friend of mine, and this project was really important because I got to change the design, but most importantly, I was helping someone who didn’t just want a pretty restaurant. Her business was failing, and it was going to fail if she didn’t change her business model. I came in and helped her redesign the place, and it was a beautiful makeover.

Interior Design: Mikel Welch | Photography: John Bessler

 

We’d love to hear what it’s been like to step in front of the camera on HGTV, Bravo and TLC, just to name a few! Does designing on television shift how you approach your work?

Designing on television can be hard. Not everyone is going to love what you do, and some people are going to love it and hate it. It’s a lot of pressure. What I do like about television design is that you don’t have to deal with the picky client. You’re typically dealing with someone who’s getting a free makeover, so they really aren’t going to complain about anything. I also don’t have to stick to any style in particular. But, if a certain brand sponsors a makeover, I can only use those products. That’s when design on television becomes difficult because you don’t have the flexibility to shop whenever you want.

The fun part of television design is that you’re typically working with a deserving family. You’re going to get people who are genuinely excited. I love designing on television, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. To be able to use your gift and share it with the world… it’s fun, and I try to take it in because I know it doesn’t last forever.

 

Interior Design: Mikel Welch

 

From where do you draw your design inspiration?

I’m one of those people who likes to draw design inspiration from travel. I’m always trying to take people to a destination, and I try to bring elements of people’s favorite places home.

 

Interior Design: Mikel Welch

 

What are your favorite Instagram accounts to follow?

@theidentitecollective

@studiomcgee

@amberinteriors

@jakearnold

@em_henderson

@bpatrickflynn

@darrylcarterdesign

@micheleboyd

When you aren’t working, what would we find you doing?

When I’m not working you can find me at The Soho House. 

Interior Design: Mikel Welch | Photography: Marcel Page

 

Tell us a favorite recent trend. How about a timeless one?

My favorite current trend would have to be the color black. I’m loving how we’re seeing a lot of black in neutral designs. I’m a fan of black finishes, and not just on hardware, so this trend is kind of great. For timeless, it’s the use of greenery. Whether it’s an olive tree or seeded eucalyptus, I’m loving greenery as an accent for people who love to stay in neutrals.

You’ve had so many exciting projects as of late — what’s next on the horizon?!

I’m in the process of something big, but I can’t confirm it yet. I’ll just say that I’ll have something very big coming soon, and you might just see my face on a TV screen a little sooner than you think.

 

 


 

For more industry interviews, check out these posts:

 

IDCO Studio is a full-service creative studio for interior designers and boutique lifestyle brands. Offering bespoke branding, web design and social media content creation, we help brands built around beautiful living elevate their digital presence to represent the physical spaces they design. Our recently launched limited-release website templates are the perfect way for interior designers to get a luxury website on a budget. These templates allow designers to maintain control of their content. Want to work together? Shoot us an inquiry here.

 

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