So today I’m honored to interview someone who has brought style, class, comfort and affordability to homes around the world – Bob Williams, design partner of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. I had the privilege of meeting him recently at Nashville’s local Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams 5th anniversary party.
(That’s Bob 3rd from the left, with owners and staff at the party)
A mainstay of stylish and affordable furniture, Bob Williams’ furniture designs, sometimes created years ago, are now defining our living rooms.
Thus he has quietly set trends – and raised the barre. With emphasis onquietly. And now I know why. That quiet humbleness is Bob Williams to a T. A quiet genius, that is.
I’ve always loved furniture “with a good back” – great sculptural form. And I love to “mix it up” – casual, modern styles with dressier, classic forms. Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams has served up these opportunities on countless occasions. This season, I’m impressed with the resurgence of color in the collection. And even more eclectic mixes of modern and traditional styles – many of which, I’ve learned, were designed by Bob and his team years ago, and whose time has finally come. So on with the interview…..
Marcelle I’ve been very impressed with the explosion of color in your fall collection, and how it’s leading the resurgence of color in interior design. Can you tell me, what was your inspiration for your fall collection?
Bob We’ve done 46 seasons so far now. And every season we take a different approach. We decided to tell a strong black and white story – with “black” being everything from dark purples, to browns and leathers. And “white” being all the great neutrals. We really wanted the silhouettes and shapes to be the star. It’s a good place to start for anyone who’s a little bit intimidated by color. You can add a little color pop, a little of your own personality that way.
Marcelle And your expressive play on the wing back chair this season – I’m a fan of the Nadine chair – how do you do it? Where does it come from?
Bob We’re known for our occasional chairs. That’s how we got started. It’s like a piece of sculpture – it floats in the floor. The color punch shows off the sculptural form. People are a little intimidated by greatly saturated colors, but drawn to forms.
Marcelle I’m a big fan of your great sculptural forms. Where do they come from?
Bob We do a lot of research. We like classic forms, and then update with fabric, color. We’ll update the shapes, but more for comfort. For instance, Mitchell and I, over twenty years ago, fell in love with some Parisian flea market leather club chairs. But you know years ago, people were smaller. So we could take inspiration from the chairs’ forms, but updated to fit people today. That taught me early on about scale and proportion.
Bob Yes. Some pieces need to accommodate someone smaller, and some need to accommodate some one bigger.
Marcelle I’m always asking folks to sit in the furniture before they buy. That’s a real advantage to being able to bring them to this showroom here.
Bob When putting together a room, I encourage folks to have both sizes in it to suit everyone. The funny thing is, when you go in the room, it never fails – the big people are in the little chairs, and the little people are in the big chairs!
Marcelle No that’s really true! We were just talking about that before the interview. I like to do eclectic mixes, and was pulling together a slouchy, casual sofa – the Blackwell, with the Nadine wing chair – which has that sexy back that I love. And immediately all of us little women started jumping into the sofa corner, and curling up! Then the guys came over and sat in the chair!
Marcelle Okay, next question: You mentioned shopping for vintage furniture. Does that inspire you?
Bob Yes, I’ve got a lot of vintage pieces, not so many new pieces, because – well, the truth is, if there’s anything new I need, it becomes part of the next collection!
Marcelle That’s fascinating. Where do you go, if I may ask, to find vintage furniture?
Bob When I know I’m going to a city, I go online and look up the shops on 1st Dibs (vintage and antique furniture site). So I do my research ahead. You can find some really great vintage and antique stores that way.
Marcelle So what do you do to recharge, as a designer? Travel, perhaps – to places like Paris?
Bob Yes, I do like to travel. Also – I never could understand why some people buy cookbooks.
Marcelle (I’m thinking, ‘Where is he going with this?’)
Bob But then I realized – it’s like how I like to read magazines with floor plans. I read them, and I start imagining designing a house, from the floors, to the walls, to the ceiling. Then I have to put the furniture in it. Then create the color palette. Those become inspirations for the pieces we come up with.
But really that’s where the inspiration comes from. The inspiration comes from the vintage furniture, the house plans – and the needs that Mitchell and I have for our own homes and lives.
Marcelle Ah – I see! This is where your inspiration comes from! (Translation: Dude’s a genius……I could look at floor plans all day, and furniture would not just spring out of my mind…..!) I think I’ll check out 1st Dibs before I hit a big city next time I need a vintage furniture hit, but leave the furniture designing to you, Bob! Thank you so much, and thank you for your time!
Bob Thank you, Marcelle.
Nashville is blessed to have our very own Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams showroom, now for 5 years, where you can scoop the latest furniture trends, and discover what furniture fits for you. If you haven’t treated yourself to a trip there yet, they’re at:
The H.G. Hill Center
4015 Hillsboro Pike, Suite 101
Nashville, TN 37215
image 1 – via Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams’ Nashville party pics
image 2 – via CBS Sunday Morning show, screenshot
image 3-5 – via Marcelle’s iphone at Nashville’s Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams store