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Mitchell Channon on Artistry, Intelligence, and Innovation

Award-winning Chicago designer Mitchell Channon is on a mission to create spaces that are one-of-a-kind reflections of his clients' unique personalities and lifestyles. Each project reflects an artist’s eye toward color and materials, as well as a expert sense of space and form. In this interview we learned more about what inspires him, how he gets to know his clients so well, and which Chicago sources are his go-to's. If you love what you see be sure to watch the video at the end of the post to get a behind-the-scenes look at Mitchell's process!

How do you get to know your clients?

In addition to wanting to know why clients chose a particular home, I ask them open-ended questions about how they live. Sometimes I explore their cultural or travel interests, their work and hobbies, their taste in fashion and in art, as well as their antiques and family heirlooms. I may also ask clients to write down five adjectives that describe how they want the home to feel, and I'll use those to dig deeper into what they really want.

What is your favorite place to visit?

Any place new is exciting to me and enriches what I do. Learning about history and other ways of living expands my worldview and helps me to grasp another person’s idea of home. Western Europe still holds sway, especially France and Italy, with their perfect blend of scenic beauty, architecture, fashion, history, and cuisine. I love cities and the built environment, but I also love small towns like those in Tuscany, the Amalfi Coast, or Cinque Terre. That’s where I see the built environment and natural beauty combine to create a delight for the eye, not to mention great new color schemes!

What are a few of your top Chicago sources?

For upholstery, one of my favorites is A. Rudin, for their quality and the ability to customize. For fabrics, I love Romo and also Pollack, which is represented at Donghia. For textured wallcoverings, Maya Romanoff as well as Phillip Jeffries, represented at Holly Hunt. For fabulous patterned wall coverings, I love Cole and Sons, represented at Lee Jofa.

Which artists inspire you?

Mondrian inspires my more modern work with his sense of composition and color blocking. The partnership between Giacometti and the designers of his era, like Jean Michel Frank, inspires my sense of layering and contrast. Kandinsky inspires me with his use of color and his fantastical imagination.

What's one big business lesson you've learned?

Our firm is only as good as our resources and the relationships we have with them. Partnering with quality craftspeople is what makes the difference between a brilliant outcome and one that is just so-so. Our work is complete only when we’ve worked through every last detail with the fabricator.

What does your perfect Sunday look like?

In good weather it’s brunch with my husband and friends, perhaps in a new neighborhood, followed by a walk or bike ride along the lakefront. Dinner is a casual get-together and perhaps a movie at home. Pretty cozy!

What are you looking forward to most this summer in Chicago?

Millennium Park, Millennium Park, Millennium Park! I can’t imagine what I did for fun in Chicago before that place existed. The combination of the Pritzker Pavilion, the South Michigan Avenue streetscape, good music, and a picnic with friends is just a perfect experience.

Can you tell us a little bit more about your signature style?

When I saw that your website asked for a “signature style,” I thought of how we tailor our work to our clients and therefore don’t have a particular “look.” We can work in various styles and genres, but at the core, every solution requires artistry, intelligence, and innovation. We maximize comfort and functionality by finding intelligent solutions to tough design challenges. Imaginatively creating something totally unique yet in keeping with the needs of our clients requires us to be creative and innovative, so we’re not afraid to think outside the box. Artistry is finding just the right balance between continuity and contrast, excitement and calm. The best compliment we receive from our clients is that no one object is their favorite. Rather, the space as a whole is what they love, informed by the relationship between all elements of the design.

What is your favorite thing about your own home?

There are two aspects that I love. The first relates to its setting, and the second relates to its architecture. Our home is a condo set on the lakefront with a wonderful view of lake, beach, park and sky. These inspired a great color palette. Crisp cloud-like whites and earthy browns with touches of chartreuse serve as an envelope for rich jewel tones like magenta, emerald, teal, and deep plum, all of which accentuate the brilliance of that beautiful aquamarine lake. Also, we’re in a 60’s high rise that includes a sunken living room. That distinct feature inspired a design scheme combining elements of 1940’s Jean Michel Frank with the optimistic sleekness of a 60’s romantic comedy. I sometimes refer to its swankiness as “Rock Hudson/Doris Day meets Armani.” Fun, but all in great style!

Intrigued? Learn more about Mitchell here, and find his additional videos on his website.


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