For this edition of Local Style, I spoke with furniture magnates Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams who recently celebrated the opening of their Signature Store in Cherry Creek as well as their company’s 25th Anniversary. A mainstay of the furniture industry, their line has populated the floors of mainstream retailers Crate & Barrel, Restoration Hardware, and Pottery Barn, but the opening of each Signature Store designates the availability of their product to these stores only: If you’re looking for a Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams sofa, you’ll have to visit their Denver showroom. Which is amazing, particularly the art they’re curated. Here are Mitchell and Bob in their own words-
Describe the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams style:
Mitchell: Since we started the company 25 years ago, we’ve designed furnishings that we’d want in our own homes. And our style has developed out of the special synergy between us: We’re truly lucky we like so many of the same things—and that a lot of other people have felt the same way about what we’ve created. We make classic pieces you’ll want to live with for a long time. We’re not fans of hard-edged modern; we prefer clean and simple lines combined with our top priority: comfort, in every sense of the word.
Bob: People have described our style as quintessentially American, and we like that. It has elements of our favorite design periods, like mid-century modern and the late 60s to early 70s. It’s also about creating rooms that are serene and calming, a place to recharge away from the busy outside world, where you can relax and entertain with ease. You can get a sense of our style in our books, The Comfortable Home, and our newest one, Who We Are, which shares not only our way of looking at design, but of entertaining, doing business, and helping others, too.
What are the biggest influences on your work?
Bob: Movies, fashion, music, pop culture, our travel. We draw inspiration from so many places—it might be a trip to the market or a far-off city. And we love looking at fashion and home magazines and websites.
Mitchell: We also like to look backwards, especially to the periods from the 1930s to the 1970s, and find pieces we can modernize for life today. For instance, for our upcoming Fall 2014 Collection, we’ve take the traditional secretary and made it current in style and function for the modern home office. And something else we do: think about not only how people live today, but how they’ll want to live in the future…the kind of houses they’ll choose and the types of furnishings they’ll want for them.
How do you see your brand working within the style landscape of Colorado?
Bob: If you like comfort and relaxed living, with a touch of elegance and style, there’s something for you. We’ve trained the Design Associates in our stores to help you find furnishings that fit the way you live, no matter where that is. Our store in Denver has more than 7,000 sq. ft. of room settings with many different looks, scaled for different size spaces. I think our style is especially suited to Colorado’s natural beauty—we like working with soft and subtle colors and clean lines that make a statement while letting a great view take center stage.
What piece(s) in your showroom are must-haves for every home?
Mitchell: If living comfortably without sacrificing style is your goal, here’s what I’d suggest: a truly comfortable sofa, of course; an upholstered bed (so great to lean against and read); and upholstered dining chairs (your guests will want to stay at the table for hours).
Bob: Good storage and display for my collections are also musts for me. I love a great-looking bar cabinet that helps keeps entertaining needs together, as well as a media console (I’m a big movie watcher) and bookcases that let me get creative with my collectibles. And I’d have to add dog beds: I have two French bulldogs, Lily and Violet, and our company makes dog beds in pretty much any fabric you’d like—you can get them to match your sofa.
What do you consider the best design trend of the last 10 years?
Mitchell: We’re not big on trends—our goal is always function and style that will last. However, being around someone as talented at arranging things and creating room settings as Bob has made me appreciate the eclectic look…although he’s a master at layering in accent colors, textures, and accessories so that even a room with matching pieces takes on its own unique character. And I do love the way our lines have gotten cleaner and our shapes more modern— even when the pieces are traditional in style…I’ve always been modern at heart.
In a home, which pieces are splurge-worthy and where can you take shortcuts?
Bob: Invest in a great dining table. it can truly be the heart of the house…the place everyone gathers around…and it can also be a great workspace. If you’re using something every day, and will be for a long time, it makes sense to invest. Also, the core pieces—your sofa, your bed, your dining chairs. Our way of putting a room together is to choose timeless over trendy for these pieces. Then you can always update by changing out accent pillows, rugs, lamps, and accessories.
Mitchell: Also, investing in fine-quality bed linens and towels—they’re a touch of luxury you can enjoy experiencing on a daily basis.
Fill in the blank: I wouldn’t be caught dead putting ___ in my home.
Mitchell: Unfortunately, I’m going to have to say a recliner. Yes, we’ve made some good- looking ones over the years, but to me a great plush armchair with an ottoman gives such great comfort and such great style.
What are your favorite eras/decades for furniture and/or design?
Bob: Currently our influences are coming from one of our favorite eras – the fun and freedom- loving late-1960s to early 1970s, with its special kind of modern that developed from new advances in technology. You find it in everything from the movies to the music and fashion of the times. But we’ll also always love mid-century modern and are very inspired by its design and architecture.
In your own homes, what are your most prized/favorite items?
Mitchell: We’re both collectors—from Outsider Art to iconic modern chairs to photographs–so our furnishings get mixed with vintage pieces and antiques, of course. And the clean and simple lines of our pieces make mixing easy to do. My husband, Tim, has added to my collections with interests of his own, as diverse as rare books and vintage cigarette lighters. Although now I’ve got a rare book of my own to contribute: I edited a book called CRISIS about growing up gay, and the actor Richard Chamberlain, my childhood crush, contributed a chapter. Last week I got to meet him in person, and he signed a copy of CRISIS for me—I’ll treasure it forever.
What are your other interests/hobbies?
Bob: From a very early age, my mom and aunt took me with them to antique shops and flea markets, and it stuck. I still love it and try to find time to look around in every city I’m in. Gardening is also a big passion for me. My husband Stephen and I have a beautiful garden at our home in North Carolina, and we just finished landscaping the terrace of our new condo in Washington, DC, which includes an herb garden and a miniature “lawn” of sedum planted amid the patio pavers.
Mitchell: I guess you could say my parents planted a passion in me at an early age for equality, and I’ve been working for it ever since. Several years ago, I co-founded a nonprofit called Faith in America, dedicated to educating people about how religion-based bigotry is used to justify discrimination against LGBT Americans (www.faithinamerica.com). As I see it, equality is an important part of our definition of comfort—it’s much more than the sit of a sofa; it’s how you feel in your own skin and how comfortable and free to be whom you truly are in this world.