“Our brand stands for COMFORT. From the comfort of the way a chair sits to how comforting it is to your eyes, the comfort of a good price, to making everyone comfortable with who they are as a person.”
~ Mitchell Gold, Co-Founder and Chairman Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams
LG: I heard your first product was a light fixture made from chicken wire. How was that your start to build the Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams empire?
MG: When Bob and I first lived together in our first home, he designed and made an incredible chicken wire chandelier for our dining room. In that room he also put in a large octagonal glass top table with a greenish patina’d metal base and fully upholstered dining chairs covered in a beautiful rose bouquet fabric. At the time, the room really looked very different than anything I’d seen. I realized immediately what talent Bob had, what a keen eye for new styling. Our company’s first products were actually fully upholstered dining chairs and eclectic dining tables. And yes, we hit a home run out of the gate with florals on the chairs as well as a rich collection of velvets, stripes and linens. We sold 5,000 dining chairs and 800 tables before we even started production.
LG: How do you define Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams…what does the brand stand for?
MG: First and foremost, COMFORT. We define comfort to mean many, many things. From the comfort of the way a chair sits to how comforting it is to your eyes, the comfort of a good price, to being part of change in our country and world to make everyone comfortable with who they are as a person. We have a particular interest in making sure every kid is protected and gets a fair opportunity at a good life. Perhaps our on site daycare center says it best for what we stand for. It was the first in the residential furniture industry, is education based and has a 5 star rating (highest possible) taking care of 65 brilliant, gorgeous kids ages 6 weeks to 5 years old, every work day. Nurturing children from their earliest years gives them the best opportunity for the future.
LG: What inspires you to create new designs – pop culture, travel abroad, other influencers?
MG: We travel everywhere and anywhere throughout the world. Even on vacations, we see things that influence us. Of course, when I’m on vacation, like recently in Scotland’s countryside while visiting a small village, I came upon an incredible home furnishings store and couldn’t resist looking in. I stayed in a beautiful country manor with sumptuous sofas that just might influence a future collection.
Pop culture has a big influence because these are the things people start to become familiar with. Years ago, Bob Williams spotted Tibetan fur collars women were wearing in a popular movie and next thing we knew we were showing Tibetan fur pillows and throws.
LG: Talk about what’s trending in your space.
MG: Lucky for us, there is a trend towards making homes super comfortable as well as inviting. This has been a guiding light for Bob and me over the years so we’ve been well equipped to maximize this trend. We pioneered our sense of American Modern with a huge emphasis on comfort in the mid 1990’s and it’s now hitting full force. So many consumers simply like the cleaner lines of modern as life becomes more complicated.
LG: Share with us your marketing channel and distribution strategy. What new market segments are you considering expanding into?
MG: Our most important marketing channel is our network of 30 retail stores located in premier shopping areas throughout America. People see our beautiful store fronts and windows whether they are shopping for home furnishings, for clothes or out for dinner. We pioneered having a web site in 1994 and today it’s the hub of our communications activities for consumers, potential employees and more. Our marketing has many touch points because in todays digital world there are many to use, as well as simply that many people also love looking at print vehicles.
We expanded into the office world a few years ago because we saw how offices were becoming more collaborative, needing more conversational areas than conference tables! And the C-suite folks wanted a more residential, homey and modern look vs. those stuffy or too sterile looks of yesterday.
LG: What furniture designs or fabrics are making a comeback?
MG: Mid-century modern, of course. Right now, people are really looking for serene environments, and creating their own sanctuary at home. We are doing this with a lot of natural elements, colors and texture–using a lot of natural materials such as teak, travertine, marble, onyx, and open grain wood that give a rich organic feel. We have some really key new pieces that set the vibe for a warm, welcoming home to entertain in.
LG: What was one of the biggest storms you’ve weathered over 30 years?
MG: We sold our company to a larger furniture manufacturer about 20 years ago. Shortly after we realized they were not as well managed as we thought. They were not strategic thinkers with competencies that would enable us to grow the way we envisioned. They got into financial trouble and luckily, after 4 years, we were able to buy the company back advantageously.
LG: When you’re escaping from the world of business…what might we find you doing?
MG: Watching mindless TV (from Seinfeld to Third Rock to Law & Order) to reading biographies to playing with our myriad of foster puppies and dogs.
Or counseling parents whose child has just come out, or someone who is struggling with their sexual orientation. Or, cooking. My husband has convinced me it relaxes me to cook every meal for him!