THE NEW NEUTRAL

M.S. LAWRENCE | PHOTOGRAPHY BY HOLGER OBENAUS

FeatureMitchellHillVer4-Image-1Since purple is the owner’s favorite color, the Mitchell Hill design team used it as a neutral throughout the home. A custom oval mirror, silk floral drapes and grass cloth backing on the bookcases are modern twists on classics.

For one couple, a piece of art sparked more than just conversation. It was the tinder that flamed a long and fruitful relationship.

So it often goes with design duo Michael Mitchell and Tyler Hill, the principals of Mitchell Hill Gallery and Interior Design Studio. In this case, that couple fell in love with a large work by artist Tom Potocki hanging in the window of the gallery, where the work of more than 30 local and regional artists is on display, along with custom furniture and lighting, and brands including Baker, Swaim and Made Goods. Mitchell delivered the impressive piece so the couple could see how it looked in their space.

“They loved it but ended up bringing it back because there were other things they needed more,” says Mitchell.

Hill adds: “Quite often that is the very same process we go through when curating art for our gallery. Michael will have an educated opinion for an art piece (he’s the art buff), and I will chime in with work that I foresee being used differently. It’s all about the meeting of the minds.”

And so the relationship began. First, Mitchell helped the Mount Pleasant pair update their foyer and family room. Although the couple and their blended families had lived in their traditional home and neighborhood for many years, now that their kids were in high school, they set their sights on a fresh and fun update.

FeatureMitchellHillVer4-Image-2The owners had an impressive collection of art and glass; the designers helped enhance it. Artwork by Debbie Martin presides over the console; a piece by Phil Durst is in the stairway.

After talking with Mitchell and frequenting the gallery over the years, they knew the Mitchell Hill design team was the right fit. “Michael takes a very practical and thoughtful approach,” says the wife. “For example, we have inside pets and children. He always takes that into account when suggesting fabrics or materials (for example, no animal skins for rugs because we have dogs; Sunbrella fabric on the sofa because it is durable and washable). Michael and Tyler have helped us create a home that is amazing to walk into but is, at the same time, our livable home.”

“They are a witty, smart, nice couple with a real appreciation for things and people, and they’re a lot of fun to work with,” says Mitchell. The trio bonded over their love of art. “They already had a good art collection; we helped nurture and enhance it with furnishings and fabrics.”

FeatureMitchellHillVer4-Image-3The custom sectional and ottoman are available at Mitchell Hill Gallery. The large and colorful Tom Potocki art was the beginning of the owners’ long affair with the design team.
FeatureMitchellHillVer4-Image-4The designers went for “wow” in the dining room with unexpected floral wallpaper on the ceiling and striped zebra fabric on the chairs. The painting over the buffet is by Jim Victor.

That was five years ago. “We’ve addressed one room at a time over these years, taking cues from them as to the pace and extent of each,” says Mitchell. Both husband and wife are working professionals as well as parents, so time was a factor. “Creating something is a process,” says the wife. “Michael went as fast or as slow as we wanted. He knows his clients, and honors them and who and where they are.”

The designers tackled the master bedroom and bathroom next. Since the wife loves purple, “that is the neutral that flows through the house,” says Mitchell. Using a chalky brown velvet with lavender undertones, he created a showstopping headboard. “Michael took one of my favorite small paintings I purchased years ago at an auction, and reframed and matted it for the master bedroom, and it looks amazing,” says the wife. “He helped us create a calm, restful master suite that’s also very interesting and colorful.”

In the dining room, Mitchell took the pair’s existing Queen Anne-style dining room set and recovered the chairs in a zebra print. “We made it theirs, put their touch on it, made it fun and funky,” he says.

“It’s never been about replacing our stuff for his stuff,” says the wife. “We worked around a rug I had for years until I was ready to move it upstairs.” The new rug and on-trend chandelier up the sass, and the wallpapered ceiling take it to almost irreverent glam. “The ceiling just transforms the room,” says the wife.

FeatureMitchellHillVer4-Image-5Roman shades in purple and white ikat add a punch of the owner’s favorite color. The cabinets are finished in a dove gray.
FeatureMitchellHillVer4-Image-6Mitchell Hill used color yet still created a serene and peaceful bedroom with custom linens, touches of velvet, and neutral yet lush draperies and rug. The art over the settee is by Emily Brown.

“Every time I tell you I’m nervous about it, you do it anyway, and I love it,” the husband told Mitchell. In the kitchen, a mosaic of tiles that suggest tiny stars in a black sky meet their match in purple ikat-patterned Roman shades and space-age barstools.

“Often people think we come in and redo an entire house, every room,” says Hill. “But most clients take it in layers. Sometimes one layer is window treatments for an entire house. Sometimes we work on just one or two rooms. We don’t want the client to move faster than they’re comfortable moving. We’re here and ready when they are.”

“We put a lot of energy and work into our home,” says the wife. “We got the basic stuff done, and both Michael and Tyler helped us pull it together and finish it in a way that, as daring and creative as I can be on my own with a can of paint, I could not have done without them. Not once have I ever walked into the house and thought, ‘This is not ours.’”

And what about that Potocki artwork that started the whole affair? Their love for it never waned, and they eventually brought it home for good. It’s now the focal point of the living room and a favorite in their new collection.

M.S. Lawrence is a Charleston-based writer. Email: mslawrence@bellsouth.net.