Design Eye Training : 103

Design Eye Training : 103 -
design : mikel welch

Many of you asked for more of these posts this year, and your wish is my command! The Design Eye Training series is really fun for me, too. This was one of my favorite exercises in design school and something I still love doing to improve my interior skills. This month I wanted to analyze a space from one of my favorite designers, Mikel Welch. I love following Mikel because he’s an incredibly talented designer who uses texture and color so beautifully, but also because he a kind, genuine, and fun person to follow. Be sure to join him on IG if you’re not already! He also has some pretty great blog posts. One of my favorite rooms he has designed is his Atlanta studio apartment living area. Click through to admire, analyze, and talk about the third space in the series with me. Luckily, Mikel has a lot of beautiful photographs of this one, so we’re really able to dive deep into this room.





Design Eye Training : 103 -
design : mikel welch

I’m going to share what this series is all about (it has been awhile)… keep it simple, make observations, and try to spot intentional design moments. We’ll be analyzing the images throughout this post, I’ll ask some guided questions, and share my own thoughts on the room. By discussing and breaking down well designed spaces in greater detail, you’ll begin to train your “design eye”, build upon the design fundamentals, and can apply some of these things to your own home, if you wish. I also feel like this series can really help you hone in on your personal aesthetic, determining what you like and dislike. Ready? Let’s do it! Give yourself a couple minutes to jot down your thoughts. What are you observing in the images? Is there anything specific that stands out to you? What do you think works well? What would you change? Can you imagine how this room functions? Does it feel like a cohesive space? Why?

Design Eye Training : 103 -
design : mikel welch

Here is the quick list of design-related things I noticed, jotted down, and loved in this room…

  1. The timeless color palette (navy, off white, black, and gray) mixed with plenty of neutral organic elements.
  2. How existing architectural elements were painted to blend seamlessly (the windows, built-ins, & fireplace painted the same color as the walls for cohesion).
  3. The installation of single hinged arm sconces as gallery lights- to emphasize works of art and textiles… genius!
  4. Excellent floor planning and use of a small space. The seating area is functional, to scale, and the traffic paths are well thought out.
  5. This space has a great modern meets traditional balance, in terms of furniture and decor. The opposing styles really balance one another.
  6. Embracing organic and textural elements: hardwood flooring, woven materials, soft linen window treatments, aged brick, stacked wood, incorporation of leather and wool textiles, etc.
  7. The millwork is beautifully done in this space… it’s not too large or too much, and fits the scale of the room nicely.
  8. The kitchenette is small, but mighty- I like how Mikel tiled around the duct work in the left corner. It makes it blend and look less noticeable. I also like the removal of the microwave space, which was turned into open shelving with some sort of grass cloth backing. Nice touch!
  9. I really enjoy the subtle use of pattern in this space… the chevron backsplash tile, the running bond bricks, and the subtle stripes in the area rug.
Design Eye Training : 103 -
design : mikel welch

I also wanted to share some notable styling moments that stood out to me, because Mikel is impeccable at styling!

  1. The intro image is just PERFECT… the beautiful soft, textural fern arrangement (gahhh!!) with the large scale art and modern credenza- again with the offset hinged arm sconce… so stunning and balanced!
  2. The art placement above the antique chair makes for a really nice vignette and fills the negative space below the odd angled built-in… another great styling move that provides symmetry.
  3. There are lots of repeated shapes within the furniture and decor… circular elements (wall art, sculptural necklaces, tables, bowls, baskets, etc). These repeated shapes feel intentional and help the space feel cohesive.
  4. I love the use of plants, greenery, and branches. I enjoy seeing living elements and touches of greenery throughout the space.
  5. The deconstructed books are definitely a planned design move- I personally love the look and textural & color consistency, if you’re trying to fill shelf space. I also took note of the balanced shelf styling- if you look at the quadrants, you can see how everything is nice and symmetrical.
  6. The layered artwork is another big win for me in this room! Did you notice all of the frames are the same- despite the different content? They all have a thin, modern, wood frame- another cohesive element.

That’s pretty much all I could fit into 2-3 minutes before my timer went off. Did you notice lots of similar things? Maybe there is something you took note of that I missed?

Design Eye Training : 103 -
design : mikel welch

Wasn’t that fun?! I feel like it was an inspiring start to the morning. I really enjoy these posts! I’d love to hear some of your favorite designers- maybe we can admire one of their spaces in the next post of the series. I tried to find a room with more images and a variety of angles this time around. I’m hoping for a productive, peaceful, and positive day. Have a happy Wednesday, friends!

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  1. Good morning! What a great space! I first noted the lovely palette and all of the organic materials. That gray/navy on all the walls and millwork in a matte finish creates a gorgeous backdrop. I love it with both the orange-y cognac tones and the hits of black. The layered artwork and variety of meaningful, decorative objects really adds interest. I definitely get hits of colonial (is that the right word?) with the portrait, the ladder back chair and the brick fireplace. That is nicely balanced with the streamlined, modern black and white of the lamps, coffee table, and console. I also noted the floor planning; the space seems to have a comfortable flow. The windows with the simple linen shades let in lovely light, but I did wonder about other sources of illumination. I don’t see overhead fixtures, and I can’t quite figure out what’s happening with the ceiling where it meets the window walls. Overall, a handsome, sophisticated design. Thanks for today’s lesson! Wednesday, here we come!💜

    1. I loved this one as well! Mikel is an awesome designer and a fun follow, but I think you’re already following him on IG. I also liked the meaningful, layered artwork and the plants were a big hit for me. That fern is bananas!! I definitely get the colonial aesthetic as well- your design eye is spot on. If you’d like a job blogging with me, you’re hired! The ceiling kind of has me stumped. I’m wondering if the ceiling is a reverse tray ceiling that allows for ductwork in the unit above (since it’s an apartment)… I feel like there has to be a functional reason and it isn’t an architectural design move? I’m not sure. Thanks for the amazing notes- this was a fun one! xox

  2. I love this series- so fun! Reminds me a little of the hidden objects games from Highlights magazine when I was a kid. What a beautiful space. Like Peggi, I was wondering about what was going on with the ceiling in the corner?? Hope you’re feeling better!

    1. Yess!! I forgot about those. It really is a fun game. I’m wondering if the ceiling is a reverse tray ceiling that allows for ductwork in the unit above (since it’s an apartment)… I feel like there has to be a functional reason and it isn’t an architectural design move. I’m also intrigued! I’m back to feeling like myself :) thank you!! xox

  3. Oh wow! This space is so gorgeous, it exudes such warmth, and coziness and it puts me in such a great mood. I envision having a glass of wine or cup of tea while sitting by the fire and reading an interesting book or having a game of Scrabble ☺️ I agree with all of your observations Sarah and also noticed all the furniture is not heavy weighing the room down, as well as all the high contrast white elements in the room keep it from being too dark. The white Ceiling, sofa, rug, lamps, window treatments, artwork keep it light against such a moody, textural space. It’s also a beautiful balance of masculine versus feminine details too, plus modern versus rustic. I also really love the floor plan and furniture layout, it’s a small space but yet has everything.
    This is totally the vibe I would like to create at our cottage. This room definitely will give me inspiration for days as I ponder and plan. I hope you are feeling better today friend! Love this post 😍 Sarah, have a fabulous day!

    1. Me too, Colleen! Mikel is such a talented designer. I love his work! Your vision for an evening spent in this space sounds ideal and dreamy! Sign me up. I also like that he used lighter furniture since the walls are so dark. It doesn’t feel heavy or out of balance at all. It really is a small space with a smart layout that has everything. If I had a cabin, this would be my vibe, too :) You and I are always into the blue hues! I’m back to 100 over here :) Thanks for asking and for the wonderful design chat! xox

  4. Ahhhhh! I LOVE Mikel Welch! His spaces are always stopping me mid scroll. Right off the bat I’m drawn to the organic elements.The credenza vignette boasts the beautiful wood grain detail, the wooden bowl, and the wood colors in the abstract hanging above. I too love the swing arm sconces above the artwork in this space, and bonus that they are all the same. In the kitchenette I’m immediately drawn to the wood stacked in what would otherwise be an awkward space, the brick of the fireplace, and the wood within it. All those textures reach out to me. Apparently I love very organic earthy textures (and he does them so well). I love the large scale textile on the wall in the bookcase vignette, the artwork in front of the books. What stands out to me most is the intentional pops of yellow tones-the few lemons in the lime bowl, the yellow tones in the spines of the books that are showing. All of these for me provide a subtle pop of color contrast against the navy, that evokes neutrality. The textures are very balanced for me. I notice that most of the white elements or lighter elements in the space are all very smooth textures, while the darker toned styling elements are more of a course texture, similar to wood bark. His use of greenery is impeccable. That’s perhaps my favorite element of his design style. I love following along on IG to see his creative use of plant life throughout his spaces. It truly is his own brand of art, and it forces me to look at negative space differently. The only thing I wish was different is the cover plates in the kitchenette. I do t love that they stand out against the beautiful tile. I wish they blended in more, but that’s just personal preference. I’m so excited you picked him, because he is on of my favorite designers. Such amazing inspiration this morning! I love these posts, but I’m drawing blanks in terms of other designers to suggest. I think because I follow so many-it’s difficult to narrow down lol. I trust your judgement!

    1. He is the best!! This space is jammed with so many good organic elements- he does that really well. The matching sconces are super cool installed in that way. I never would’ve thought to do that! The textile on the wall is his signature piece. I listened to an interview and he said that he always tries to incorporate that… which is so special. I didn’t even notice the yellow until you pointed it out- genius color combination! I think we might have to admire and analyze a Kelly Wearstler space soon. She seems like an icon we shouldn’t miss :) Thanks for playing along!! xo

  5. My notes: color of cabinets, walls, trim in beautiful blue-moody, masculine. Backsplash in herringbone pattern-subtle. Seating-cozy, like leather, fabric mix, add ottoman for feet while reading? Lighting-interesting sconce light, marble lamps (heart eyes). Cocktail/Bar/Library-would love for my husband.
    Enjoyed this post Sarah. It was what I needed today while painters paint inside our home. Yesterday’s post was so good as well. Hope you are feeling better. Have a good Wednesday!

    1. Your notes are all spot on, Danna! I also loved the lamps and the entire cocktail / bar / library vibe. That’s a place I could really snuggle up with a good book and drink. How is painting going? I hope things are going well as you prepare your house for market! Let me know if you need anything :) xox

  6. oops, left off that while I understand the reason for the designer to deconstruct books for symmetry in color. I truly dislike this method (makes me sad for all books). Prefer for books to be turned backwards with pages facing.

    1. I’ll have to double check on this, but I *think* they might even make “stying” books that look like this… that aren’t real books. I remember seeing a lot of this look at Hight Point Market when I went last, but I know- if you’re into reading and books… it’s definitely more of a stylistic look, as opposed to functional. Thanks for weighing in, Danna! ;)

  7. Melissa D. says:

    I love this series – I vote a big YES PLEASE to more like this! I also love the fact that this one gives us so many photos and views of the space. Now, on to the work…

    The first thing I noticed on the intro was that beautiful wooden credenza and the vivid pop from the fern arrangement. Just stunning! His use of plants and greenery throughout the space is spot-on. Secondly I noticed the moody blue color that wraps the walls, trim, and built-ins into one cohesive space. The whole room feels masculine and cozy all in one. The chevron backsplash tile is perfect without overwhelming the space. I love the little open shelf for barware! The sconces are an interesting choice, and those lamps are beautifu! The kitchen area seems to be lacking in the lighting department though, unless maybe there’s some under-cabinet lights that we don’t see? The space definitely has a modern traditional vibe that I’m digging and every subtle detail just adds to the stunning nature of this space. The bookcase design is beautiful, but I struggle with designs that use deconstructed books or even those that turn all books pages out. I understand the textural element, but it just hurts my bookworm heart!

    1. You got it, Melissa! I was lucky Mikel had nicely documented this space… it was so much more fun admiring multiple images of the same room. I’ll try to hunt for more like this for our next one. The fern arrangement was my favorite too- WOW! It’s so incredible. Masculine and cozy are great adjectives to describe this space. I love the entire aesthetic. It’s possible there are under cabinet lights. The books aren’t for everyone- I swapped mine for the holiday season, but am about to restyle them facing in the correct direction again. It’s definitely a personal preference for styling purposes :) Amazing observations! xo

  8. I did notice some of the things you point out but missed some important others like how the art over the antique chair cleaned up the symmetry and lines. And I totally missed the lighting. I also learned a lot from you by your separating design from styling details. Those 2 things are often muddled for me and prevents me from interpreting a feel I see into my own spaces. It helped to see it the way you put it. I’m probably more into styling than design anyway at my age since we have nailed our furniture choices. One question you asked was what, if anything, would you change..I would have a wood paneled front on the beverage fridge, the products on display feel busy to me. Again probably my age. And the knobs on the upper cabinets over the microwave cut out I would be unable to reach so would have put them at the bottom like the other doors. Great post, thanks.

    1. Great point, Pamela! Styling and design are definitely two different things, in my opinion. I guess it’s also like interior design and interior decorating are different jobs. I think styling and decorating as the things you are able to easily swap out- accessories, art, furniture, etc… whereas, design includes more of the architectural elements, paint color, material choices (flooring, tile, etc)… even larger furniture pieces. I also love and appreciate a paneled beverage fridge. So glad you enjoyed this post :)

  9. Candice B says:

    I’m just coming across this series. With a newly built home, I’m trying to hone in on a style that will feel timeless and comfortable, and extremely functional. Oftentimes I feel I see things designed for design sake (you mention filling shelves in this post) what features might a person gravitate to in the event that they want less spaces that “collect dust” but don’t want the space to feel stark or empty? I am by no means a minimalist. I have one other question that comes up often. I tend to gravitate towards larger more solid pieces (plush sofas, chunky tables, etc) in this post I can see the designer intentionally used “lighter” pieces like the coffee and side table to balance the smaller space and heavier details as another commenter mentioned, and I can see how it all becomes cohesive in the space, but on its own I don’t love the tables. How does one pick the right piece for a space even if it isn’t something they necessarily love on its own? As an example, is there another coffee table you would choose in this space to fit the design and balance that has a lightness to it? (When all I’d want to shop for is a big chunky wood table, haha) I often struggle with scale in my spaces. Mostly because the average person isn’t decorating a 4500 sq ft home with 11’ ceilings. I find this to be the least accessible part of design on social media, as it can be hard to translate what a person sees into a smaller space.
    I find myself coming back to your page again and again as I save pins on Pinterest!