If there is such a thing as an interior design gene, Michele Gratch may have inherited it. Both her interior designer mother and aunt instilled in her a love of fabrics, furniture and wallpaper at an early age. Michele began her career by helping friends and family with their own spaces but now the Atlanta-based interior designer and owner of MBG Interiors has a wealth of clients — from young professionals to empty nesters. Today we’re excited to introduce you to Michele, our Interior Designer Crush!

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Michele Gratch has a degree from the University of Florida but she pursued a business career before switching to interior design. In fact, she started at her mother’s design firm in Chattanooga, TN. Although her mother died seven years ago, Michele uses her design tools as an homage. The designer now is the mother of two young children of her own!

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“This powder room is in a Grant Park Victorian house that I designed,” says Michele. “The homeowner wanted to honor the history and design from this era, so we chose wallpaper from Thibaut called ‘Palazzo’ in a black and white. We then lacquered the mirror in turquoise to add a pop of color.”

What would you consider your design style and how does color — particularly turquoise — play into your look?

My personal style is extremely eclectic and I am most definitely drawn to and known for using color and pattern in my designs. I love turquoise — I mean, what’s not to love?! It is easily one of the happiest colors around and it works beautifully with most of the colors on the color wheel. It’s hard to go wrong with it.

Where do you get your design inspiration?

I find inspiration everywhere, especially since we’ve become such an uber visual society. I love Instagram and am always perusing design magazines. I enjoy hearing other designers speak, since I’m often inspired by other people’s experiences. Nature inspires me tremendously — just look around … color and texture abound! I can’t tell you how many tree trunks I’ve studied and thought that that would make an amazing fabric or wall covering!

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“The beaded Currey & Company chandelier was the inspiration behind this room,” says the designer. “Then, once I found the Kravet fabric in an Ikat pattern for the window treatments, the design plan began to take shape.”

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Because this dining room is small, Michele used an oversized mirror to visually open up the space; she also chose Thibaut’s “Bankun Raffia” wallpaper to add texture to the walls.

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Michele selected a chaise by Fairfield for a client who is an avid reader. Accent colors include her beloved teal.

How do you begin a collaboration with a client?

Before my initial consult with a new client, I ask them to send me an inspiration folder from either Pinterest or Houzz. These pictures should speak to them in some way — whether it be color palette, style, a specific piece of furniture, etc., which helps me get an idea of their design aesthetic. When I meet with them for the first time, I ask a lot of questions about how they live currently and how they WANT to live.

Where are some of your favorite sources for design items in Atlanta?

I feel like I live at ADAC and several trade-only places like AmericasMart Atlanta and Spiffy Stuff. My go-to resource for lighting is either Currey & Company or Circa Lighting. I love to shop Peridot for last-minute items and Boxwoods if I need greenery. If I’m looking for artwork, I always head to Huff Harrington or Ferrari Fine Art. I also frequent HomeGoods — they can be a good resource for mirrors and accessories in a pinch. For vintage and one-of-a-kind finds, I like Peachtree Battle Antiques & Interiors and Scott Antique Market.

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Michele picked a Company C tweed-patterned turquoise rug as the jumping off point for this client, who loves color, then brought in punches of orange. “It’s a bright, happy space and greets everyone as they walk into the house,” she says.

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“Purple and turquoise are an unexpected color combination but they work well together,” says Michele. The client’s existing Pottery Barn quilt served as the starting point, then Michele layered in different shades of purple, turquoise and gray. Stroheim’s ‘Bombay’ quatrefoil fabric adds playfulness to the cornice boards, while Osborne & Little’s ‘Babur’ fabric covers two pillows on the window seat for a little sophistication.

Share with us one of your decorating secrets.

Your room can be completely empty but if you have a nice, quality rug and custom window treatments, it will feel finished. A rug always connects a space and gives it warmth and window treatments soften the look and feel of any room.

Who are your industry mentors and why?

I think Nina Campbell is brilliant — her designs are classic but with a global influence. I love everything that Mary McDonald does; she is the master of layering, scale and proportion. I also admire Celerie Kemble and the ladies of Massucco Warner Miller for their use of color and pattern.

RELATED: How to Decorate with COLOR!

How does Atlanta’s design scene differ from the rest of the country?

Southerners love to entertain and their homes are a reflection of that. I love the way Atlantans have this innate ability to know how to mix in their grandmother’s china, whether their style is traditional, transitional or even contemporary. This adds depth, character and a sense of history to any design.

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“This is from a renovation I did in Garden Hills; my client’s two girls share this bathroom,” says Michele. “We wanted to keep the 1930s Tudor true to its roots, so we went with black and white tile. My client had fallen in love with this schoolhouse sink and wanted to paint it a fun color, so I chose Benjamin Moore ‘Sunburst’ and the wallpaper is by Thibaut.”

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“This client is a busy bank executive and wanted her bedroom to feel like a refuge,” says Michele. “We used soft teals and browns and lots of textures to add warmth to the space. It’s now her favorite room in the house!”

What’s the biggest mistake homeowners make?

Buying furniture that is too big or small for their space. A huge sectional that completely overwhelms a room or a small club chair that’s lost in a large, open-concept room. Scale and proportion is difficult — and measuring is key. Sometimes, things work on paper and still don’t work as you imagined in the space. That’s when an experienced designer knows how to still make it work but in a completely different and even more interesting way.

Thank you to Michele Gratch for sharing what inspires her when designing a space. And a huge thank you to Jake Laughlin Photography for these fabulous images.

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