Margaret Mitchell takes pride in the fact that her designs don’t have a signature look, but rather reflect the lives of the people who call it home. She’s rooted in practicality, believes in meaningful beauty and can transform a thrift shop find into a coveted conversation piece faster than you can say Jonathan Adler.
She’s a mom of three teenagers and a diehard Clemson fan who hosts big house parties, to-die-for tailgates and lots of family gatherings. She stays true to her core belief that we should embrace how we live and design around it — and she makes no bones about the fact that anyone can create beautiful design with a big budget, but the true challenge lies in mixing functionality with fine living. Meet the other Margaret Mitchell, our latest Interior Designer Crush.
How do you describe your approach to interior design?
My approach to design is very personal in the way people use their homes and live their lives. So I like to start with understanding how my clients want their home to feel – for me, great design is not just about aesthetics.
I once stayed in a house of a very famous designer with three families, and when I first arrived I FLIPPED because it was so perfect … but I quickly began feeling uncomfortable because although it looked great, the white linen couch was in jeopardy of becoming a canvas. It stressed me out with kids running around with drinks and food. We felt obligated to cover the couch with a sheet to make sure we didn’t mess it up. I take great pride in selecting the right fabrics for high-traffic surfaces so that homeowners don’t need to panic when a group of kids or muddy paws get on them.
What are your top three tips?
Well, my assistants call these my sermons, and I stand by this advice:
- Mix color tones. Keeping things warm AND cool is very forgiving and will stand the test of time. I sometimes joke that I spent the last 10 years pulling brown and gold out of people’s homes, and I’ll spend the next 10 years taking away gray and white — but if you blend them it will not be trendy and will never feel stale. Even with fabric, if it has black and white and gold and ivory and gray and brown, it works almost always.
- Mix old and new. Homes with all new furniture do not feel authentic at all. You have to add some old stuff to give the new stuff credibility and some new stuff to give the old stuff an edge.
- Build spaces around the way you live. Please do not look at a dining room you never use and think you will eat there if it looked a certain way. Instead, I like to take unused space and make it multifunctional. For instance, I added bookshelves to a dining area so it could also be used as a library/study.
What brings you joy?
I help my clients showcase what is unique about their family by using collections, photos or family history to add meaningful beauty. Every one of my clients’ homes shines with its own personality because we make decorating very personal. One of my client’s father was a scientist, and he collected bones throughout the course of his career. We used them to style shelves in the playroom where they were on display in a fun way for his grandchildren. Another client’s husband has several Ferraris and Porsches that he loves to take to the race track. I hired a professional photographer to take pictures of him driving as well as close-ups of the cars that were framed in unique ways. It was one of the best anniversary gifts he had ever received from his wife.
What’s the most difficult job you’ve ever done, and why was it so hard?
Recently, it was a full home makeover, and we moved the family out for three weeks. We did floors, interior and exterior paint, tile, countertops, new appliances, etc. It was a challenge coordinating all of the subs in that time frame, and the folks we work with are AMAZING! Truth be told, they opted to stay gone for 4 weeks, but I didn’t like the inconvenience for them one bit — even though their home makeover turned out beyond beautiful.
Give us an idea of how you can easily freshen up a room.
Make subtle seasonal touches. I start with a tray — wood, silver, plastic – and add layers of seasonal items, like a jar with sand in the summer, replaced with coffee beans in the winter. Also, fresh greens from the yard in vessels of different patina that vary from month to month are fabulous.
How do you tackle new trends?
I like to deliberately sprinkle them in. For example, antique brass is a trend right now, but also a classic. I just don’t overdo any one finish; I like the mix. I DO think trends are best for throw pillows, mirrors and accessories. I spend a lot of time removing trendy furniture (over-scaled pieces, bedroom sets, etc.) from clients’ homes, which makes me love antiques even more. They just never get old!
Name a project you are most proud of.
The most beautiful home I have ever worked on is a new construction project in Davidson, NC. The homeowner (and her 12-year-old daughter) have impeccable taste. Every decision was so thought out and so deliberate. The homeowner had lived in several metropolitan cities before moving to Davidson, and designing this home became a collaboration of everything they had loved and wanted from past homes and adding features that are so important to a large family. The stone and painted brick home encompasses a large custom kitchen with a secret door leading to the pantry, open living areas with views to an outdoor patio featuring a stone fireplace and a large rectangular resort-style saltwater pool, a large home office with a back door leading to the master suite, and a large upper bonus room with an adjacent bunk room for their teenage children.
When we designed the home we got down to the details of how the home would be lived in and decorated for the holidays. I LOVE that the home has outlets EXACTLY where the homeowners plug in their holiday decor, the hose bibs are exactly where they need them to wash their cars or rinse off the dogs outside, the teenagers have a place to park without blocking the garage doors, charging stations are in every nook and built-in window seat. I am also big on curb appeal and maximizing the angles of a lot. Having a corner lot, we made sure we designed the home to allow the backyard and pool to have privacy and entry points on all sides.
Is there a designer that you admire?
My grandmother and mother were hands down my most influential designers. Their houses were always changing. They always had collections. They did not have much, but it looked like a million bucks! I also had a wealthy aunt who renovated two houses in Charleston when I was growing up, and she traveled the world learning about antiques. Mark Hampton decorated her home. It was beyond anything I had ever seen before and even today … my kitchen is an ode to that beautiful HUGE kitchen on East Bay Street in Charleston.
All photos provided courtesy of Margaret Mitchell.
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