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A Celebrity Designer’s Recipe for the Perfect Bed

The Expert Team
a bedroom with a canopy bed and curtains

Photo by John Bessler.

Mikel Welch’s path into design celebrity was anything but conventional.

He was working in a CB2 store in 2012 when an assistant for Emily Henderson’s TV show Secrets of a Stylist walked in to return 30 pillows: “I was like there’s no way these are all yours, you must help me get from behind his cash register,” he remembers, laughing. This triggered a cascade of TV gigs: first on The Steve Harvey Show as a set designer for the likes of Martha Stewart and Nate Berkus; then on Design Star as a contestant, and eventually as a cast member on the Trading Spaces reboot working alongside his former Design Star judge Vern Yip. “It was a full-circle moment.”

These days, Mikel has his own show, Murder House Flip on Roku, he’s the lead design expert on The Drew Barrymore Show, and has two more TV projects in the works (on top of multiple upcoming brand collaborations). And that’s only the half of it: His high-end clientele includes Ashley Graham and Sheree Whitfield from the Real Housewives of Atlanta. Still, he carves out a few hours each month for his Expert clients: “It's just like being on television, I have 30 minutes to wow this person and make them feel like their dollar was well spent, so I don't hold back. I just give them as much as I can.” Here, he lets us in on his process:

a room with a lot of books on the shelves
a backyard with a pool and lawn furniture

Photo by John Bessler.

Photo by Donna Dotan.

You're designing a room—where do you start and why?

I typically start with the most prominent piece that's going to be used the most. If it's a living room, it's the sofa. It's the bedroom, it's the bed. I begin with the key big-impact pieces and then work on the layers because I like to focus on what’s going to give me the most bang for my buck before anything else.

If your interiors were a fashion icon, who would they be?

Okay, don't laugh. It would be Eileen Fisher because she's clean, she's classic, and she's going to give you some type of flowy linen. More than likely, all of the colors are going to be neutral and the textures are going to be organic and Hamptons-like. She gives you a tailored refinement that's not too stuffy and I feel like that's me.

What questions do you ask a client to figure out their needs?

I do a little bit of homework with my clients before I meet them. I typically will ask them to give me three images—they don't have to be whole rooms, they can just be a photo of a chair or their favorite hotel. Oftentimes, my version of modern is completely different from theirs, but with visuals, I can really translate what they're saying and put that down on paper.

Name an architectural pet peeve that almost always needs fixing in any project—big or small.

Track lights, sweet Jesus. I guess it was a thing back in the ’80s or the ’70s and it just kills me. Ceiling fans too—I can't work with them. If a project really needs one, I have a couple of modern designs in my back pocket, but it means you're going to have to put lamps and sconces everywhere because I refuse to put a light on my ceiling fan, I just won’t do it.

What are you dying for a client to request?

My dream client request would be to outfit a hotel. It doesn't even need to be a swanky one, just give me an old motel and let me make it feel like Amangiri. I just would swank that thing out like it’s Schitt's Creek times twenty.

a living room filled with furniture and a fire place

Photo by John Bessler.

What hotel anywhere in the world to represents ultimate luxury to you?

The Viceroy in Los Cabos, Mexico. I just love the clean, refined look. It gives me old Calvin Klein Home ads vibes—just really monochromatic and clean. I'm also a big fan of the Palihouse in Santa Barbara. Each room is its own little Spanish casita and I love their happy hour setup with the honor system where you can just pour what you like.

Which trend needs to be retired?

I’m going to get in trouble for this one, but I'll say terrazzo. I like it for the moment but I think it's going to be dated again in five years, just like rose gold. And I hate saying this out loud because I love it, but I think the same is going to happen with fluted cabinetry. It's cute but I just don't see longevity.

Where to save / where to splurge?

If I have a small budget, the biggest dollars go towards the items you're going to touch the most and use daily, like a sofa or a bed. That's worth the splurge because the wear and tear when cutting corners isn't worth it. I save on rugs and accessories, just because there are so many online resources and vintage options out there.

What should you always buy vintage?

I'm a big fan of wooden vessels and vintage picture frames that I'll mix with modern prints. And I love old books because they naturally have a patina that you just can't get by walking into a store. When I have the budget, I'll do a vintage rug.

What's the one design rule you love to break?

Using books as accessories. And I don't care about the spine—I will rip covers off or turn them around so you can’t see what it is. Actually, I did an Instagram Reel and got into so much trouble but ironically, it got me the most likes. I had ripped all these covers off Dollar Store books and people got very opinionated.

What elements make up the perfect bed?

First, you have to be a snob for thread count—the highest possible. I love crisp cotton sheets, but for my duvet, I'm all about lush linen because it's designed to look frumpy so you don’t feel bad about it. For pillows, I want at least two standard ones, two more in the front, plus a long bolster or lumbar. Between five and six total is ideal. I recently had a client who only wanted vegan products so I learned how to shop for down alternatives, but give me a down fill all day. I just love a cozy bed that makes you just want to jump on top of it and never leave.

a man standing in front of a book shelf

Photo by John Bessler.


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