Inside design: Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams
Photography courtesy of Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams
STYLE AT HOME: Tell us how you met and joined forces.
Mitchel Gold We met at a bar in New York – [Bob] was adorable, wearing wire-rimmed glasses and a long Lacoste shirt with Madras Bermuda shorts – and we started dating. By summertime, all we could talk about was starting a business together. We bought property to start a vineyard and Christmas tree farm in Virginia, but about a month later I was promoted at my regular job and we moved to North Carolina. We started the furniture business after that.
SAH: Why did moving mean a different business model?
MG In 1989, we noticed people were staying in more, entertaining at home rather than going out, so we saw an opportunity in the dining niche. We envisioned a little business with 20 to 25 customers, working four days a week, but it took off right away. We sold thousands of chairs the first year!
Bob Williams And we’ve never worked four days a week!
SAH: We’ve heard a lot about the strength of your company culture...
MG It was selfish, really: We wanted to see smiling faces at work. When we first bought the factory, it wasn’t air–conditioned and we couldn’t believe how hot it was. That was typical of factories in the ’90s, but we thought it was ridiculous. We saved our money for a whole year and, in the spring, had air conditioning installed, and that was just the start. Now we have good coffee, a daycare centre, a college scholarship program and a health care program with a full-time nurse on-staff. Bob and I agree that if you respect your employees, they respect you back.
SAH: And in terms of style, how are you similar and how are you different?
MG We’re really not different! We argue about a lot of things but rarely about style. We both have this simple kind of easy, modern aesthetic. We bothlove 18th-century and Mid-Century Modern antiques.
BW We like to take traditional pieces and make them more current with colour and fabric, so they feel fresh but familiar at the same time.
SAH: What’s your earliest memory of decor?
MG My parents renovated our house when I was young. When it was done, my mother brought us into the living room and said, “You’ve seen it; now don’t come in here anymore.” I remember thinking how ridiculous that was. We never used the front door – always the side door – so I always wanted a living room that’s used. To this day, I still come in the front door of my house – even when the side door is more convenient.
BW My dad was in the air force when I was growing up, so we moved a lot. I was always amazed at how my mother used the same pieces in different houses to make it feel like home. That set the foundation for me in how to mix and reuse the pieces I have.
Lead image courtesy of Fanjoy Labrenz
Photography courtesy of Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams
SAH: You’ve written two books with the word “comfortable” in the title.
How does that fit with your company mandate?
MG I am not exaggerating when I tell you that no furniture company used the word “comfort” in 1989 – they only spoke about price and style. But it was an important issue. Comfort, for us, is not only about how a chair feels when you sit in it; it should also look comfortable, the price should be comfortable and the whole transaction should feel comfortable.
SAH: And to think all this stems from not being able to go into the living room when you were young!
MG Exactly! My family’s furniture wasn’t that comfortable growing up, and neither was Bob’s. In fact, his parents had a really scratchy sofa.
BW You couldn’t take a nap on it! It was a Brillo pad.
SAH: What are the key ingredients for a comfy home?
MG One of our mantras is “When a home has been furnished successfully, just walking in the door is like getting a hug.” It has to be inviting.
BW And it needs to be functional. It’s important for homeowners to decide how they want to use the room. Is it going to be a room where everybody watches TV? To lie down and relax? Or is this going to be a room where you are entertaining friends and family and want to encourage easy conversation?
SAH: What’s the most surprising thing in your homes?
BW The most surprising thing isn’t inside my home; it’s outside my home. And that’s the fact that I live in a big red-brick Georgian colonial, which is not what you’d expect. Of course, it’s filled with modern furniture and really shows how the two styles can come together.
MG I have an Adirondack kind of house. I think the thing that people make the most comments about is that they’re surprised that it’s not a bigger house, and that it’s so comfortable. When people visit, they’re a little intimidated at first... But when they walk in, they immediately feel this good energy.
SAH: How do you make your guests feel comfortable?
MG We’ve learned a lot over the years: to welcome people when they first come in the door, to make them feel at home right away, to tell them where the drinks are and to have music playing.
SAH: Do you have favourite entertaining music?
BW I have a mix of all my favourite songs, so it has no particular attitude – there’s country, a bit of rock ’n’ roll, some vintage songs and Top 40.
MG We had dinner at Bob and Steven’s [Steven Heavner is Bob’s partner] house on Monday night and they played a vast mix of things, but there’s a softness to it all. It’s not heavy metal.
SAH: What designers, architects and artists have influenced you?
MG Paul McCobb and Milo Baughman have beenbig for me.
BW Tommi Parzinger. He was German and became popular in the 1950s and ’60s for his accessories – metal wares that feel vintage and modern at the same time.
SAH: Where do you go or what do you do when you’re feeling uninspired?
MG Uninspired? Do we ever feel uninspired?
BW I’m a huge magazine fan, so any time I canget a chance to read through a magazine of any kind and find something that’s kind of inspiring, it takes about 10 minutes to get inspired again. Inspiration is everywhere!