What’s interesting about interior design is it all starts with an empty room. As the vision comes to life you add a pillow here and put a sofa over there and before you know it you have created a masterpiece. However, it takes incredible talent to create a space that evokes emotions of wonder and awe. That talent is typically reserved for the creative and detailed oriented interior designer. It is the interior designer that knows how to take a space that was once empty to an oasis of luxury.
As an admirer of magnificent spaces, it was a no brainer to chat with Chicago’s very own Mitchell Channon. Mitchell has designed immaculate spaces all across Chicago ranging from Winnetka to River North. However, the Mitchell Channon experience is quite exclusive since Mitchell’s design expertise typically graces residential properties. With each design being one of a kind, clients can count on Mitchell to design a space that is truly unique.
His own home is another marvel to wonder as it overlooks the beach and lets in such vibrant beams of light. The pops of color throughout makes it seem as if one were transported to a tropical paradise.
With Spring Cleaning right around the corner, let’s consider changing our spaces with some helpful tips from Mitchell. Without further ado, let’s enter the luxurious world of Mitchell Channon.
TCL: Hi Mitchell! Give us a little background on what sparked your interest in interior design
MC: I can’t remember not having an interest in interior design. My grandparents had a beautiful home that I remember being in as a small child, and I can still describe every detail! Being so visually oriented drew me to fine art, which became my undergraduate major. I wanted to transfer to a design school but my parents insisted I complete a liberal arts education first. I’m so glad they did, as that’s where I learned to think critically and see design in the larger context of culture and history.
Of course, like most Chicagoans who are born and bred here, I have a distinct design and architectural sensibility. Chicagoans have strong opinions about what works and what doesn’t. I think that gave me some insight into the relationship between interior design and architecture, especially growing up in the shadow of such greats as Sullivan, Wright and Mies van der Rohe! Getting a Masters in Architecture gave me skills and perspectives I needed to excel in interior design.
TCL: When designing a room, what would you say are the most important factors to keep in mind?
MC: Interior design is about creating spaces that communicate emotion, so I always like to know what a client wants to feel when they walk into a particular room. Do you want to feel calm or excited? Amused or intrigued? Lively or restful? All else flows from this. I also want to know how the room will be used, who will use it and when, the quality of natural light, the exterior views, and the interior and exterior architecture of the space.
TCL: What would you say is your signature style that is evident throughout your client spaces?
MC: I really don’t have a signature style because every space is a one-off bespoke design that represents the client’s personality. That’s why, If you look at my portfolio, you’ll see a broad range of styles. If there is any common thread, it’s that I don’t do clutter. My designs are fairly edited yet always expressive, functional but always poetic.
TCL: Is there one home or property in particular that you are most proud of designing?
MC: All of them, of course, but I’m always most excited by the homes I’m currently designing because I’m engaged in the challenge and learning so much. For example, I’m working on a project now in which the floor plan called for an unusually shaped rug. I reached out to Angela Adams and we designed a terrific elliptical piece that works beautifully. That kind of creativity thrills me!
TCL: What are the most common interior design faux pas you have witnessed?
MC: Artwork that’s hung too high and area rugs that are too small for the space. I think these are obvious errors, but you’d be surprised how often I encounter them, among others.
TCL: What tips would you give to those who are looking to decorate their space but have no idea where to begin?
MC: Start by asking yourself the feelings you want your home or room to evoke. Write down five adjectives that describe those feelings. Don’t describe the style, like “art deco” or “mid-century modern,” but words like “calm,” “ exciting,” “intriguing,” “amusing,” “nurturing,” “intimate,” or just plain “Wow!”, Don’t spend too much time thinking about it; just write what immediately comes to mind. Then ask yourself what each word translates to in terms of style, furnishings and materials and let it flow.
Some folks can do the DIY thing pretty well, but even the best ones can make costly mistakes like installing incorrect or insufficient lighting, choosing fabrics that wear too quickly, or selecting furnishings that are out-of-scale to each other. That’s where professional interior designers can save you money and heartache.
If you do hire an interior designer, be as open and communicative as possible about everything, including budget. You should expect the designer to do the same and to synthesize your wishes and needs into a true work of art. I often say that I’m as good a designer as my clients allow me to be, which means that I’ve earned their trust in my ability to translate their wishes into something they’ll love.
MC: People are taking more risks these days, so bold is back, whether it’s bold and bright colors, large-scale wall coverings like the “Hexagon” from Cole and Sons, or over-scale pendant fixtures in places other than the dining room. We just installed the Crystal Halo Chandelier from Restoration Hardware in a living room and it’s stunning!
I also like the use of warm and cool metals together, like mixing a polished brass light fixture with a raw steel table.
Lastly, I think the idea of celebrating a big flat-screen TV is “out” and concealing them is “in.” Sometimes they’re behind a folding screen, placed within a cabinet, or hiding in plain sight against a black wallcovering. Regardless, losing the big black rectangle on the wall restores conversation to a room, doesn’t it?
TCL: What are some key pieces that every room should have (what completes a room)?
MC: Every room needs some pattern to give personality to a space. Even if your taste runs to solid tones and textures, a patterned accent adds interest. A great place to incorporate pattern is on throw pillows, which can add fun and whimsy. I just used some in a current project from Madeline Weinrib’s Ikat Collection that are ideal!
It’s also important to tell a little bit of your story in each room. Art bought on vacation, family heirlooms, or a series of personal photographs make the place yours.
TCL: When hiring Mitchell Channon, what are some things a client can expect when working with you?
MC: Full communication, attention to detail, superb project management and sensitivity to budget all come to mind, but I also think you get a learning experience that’s fulfilling and fun. The process will be as satisfying as the outcome!
TCL: What’s your number one rule that you abide by for successful decorating?
MC: Every space needs continuity and contrast. Continuity adds harmony; contrast adds excitement. Too much continuity is boring; too much contrast is chaotic. The owner’s personality and the room’s mood and function determine the right proportion.
TCL: In honor of spring cleaning coming up, what tips would you give to de-clutter your space?
MC: Here’s one of my favorites. Take everything off the surfaces of your coffee and sofa tables. Leave it that way for a week and then, with a fresh eye, put out only the things you love. Then add a vase of colorful tulips to give the whole room a spring lift.
TCL: When designing, what types of things inspire you when you begin your design process?
MC: I’m inspired by my clients’ personalities and the relationship I form with them of course. Things like what my clients wear, where they travel, what they’re passionate about, how they entertain, art and heirlooms, and the reasons they chose their home can all be great seeds of inspiration. I can also find inspiration in the setting, the neighborhood, the view and the architecture.
TCL: Are there any spaces in Chicago (other than ones you’ve designed) that exhibit an impeccable quality? And why should we go and check it out?
There are so many! For classic international style in a Mies van der Rohe building, the ground floor lobby at the Langham Hotel is perfectly appointed and well worth a visit. I also love the fun, plush aesthetic at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel. And there’s a little “small plate” Italian restaurant in Andersonville called Bar Ombra that has a hip, contemporary take on “rustic Italian.” Their cozy booths feel like small houses. Sweet!
Thanks Mitchell for taking the time to share your interior design story. If you want to learn more about Mitchell and hire him for your own interior decorating needs head to MitchellChannonDesign.com