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Every other year, the Brooklyn Heights Designer Showhouse offers a unique opportunity to visit a historic home in Brooklyn Heights that highlights the work of cutting-edge designers. Each designer is selected to add their own flavor to a specific room, bringing the historic elements of Brooklyn Heights into the modern styles of today.

Meet interior designer Mikel Welch, who came to fame for his work on TLC’s Trading Spaces and was chosen to design the lower level of this year’s Brooklyn brownstone. “My design style is one I call ‘primitive modern’,” Welch shares. “I like a collection of things that have character. So it’s a mix of super clean lines but then these bazaar or marketplace finds. It’s the best of both worlds.”

Designer Mikel Welch stands against a bookcase

Designer Mikel Welch

Designing and decorating the space

Welch heard about Room & Board through Showhouse Marketing Chairman, Tony Manning, who recommended that Welch check out the store in Chelsea. Upon his walk-through of the showroom, Welch knew he could transform the brownstone basement-like space into a cool, inviting space.

“I thought of the space as a place where you bring your real friends and family. No formal rooms. No stuffy dining rooms. Just a place where no one cares what bottle of wine it is and you can put your feet up.” – Designer Mikel Welch

Small space success

“The showhouse was the best project ever,” Welch recalls. But it didn’t come without its challenges. It was the first time Welch worked within a pre-war home, discovering that measurements are of the utmost importance. “The width of the top of the staircase was not the same as the bottom,” he laughs. “I’m glad Room & Board has a lot of slender furniture. Like the Slim console table behind the sofa, for instance, is only 12 inches deep. Things like that saved my design because I just didn’t have a ton of space to work with.”

Modern meets masculine

Even in all the trends of light, bright and airy, Welch says he’s someone who appreciates dark, moody spaces. Spaces that evoke an almost “you’re not supposed to be here” vibe, like a speakeasy. It’s those mysterious types of places Welch visits when he wants to relax or feel re-energized. (You can usually catch him at the Soho House in New York sipping an Old Cuban.) “I love London, too. It appeals to me the same way New York does – filled with places that look like Sherlock Holmes’ house,” he says.

Welch mentions he played with a lot of artwork and vintage pieces for over the mantel and throughout the space. “I had a lot of fun with art,” Welch says. “Because we’re in Brooklyn Heights, I got a print of one of the founding fathers of Brooklyn. And then as a counterpoint, I wanted something super graphic, but clean, so the artwork above the Kenwood storage piece is phenomenal.”

Creating a look you love

When creating any space, Welch recommends to not over-complicate it. “Choose pieces you love,” he says. “We spend so much time at work so the slim moments we get at home, it should be with things we can’t live without.”

Photos by John Bessler

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