Photograph courtesy of Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams
Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams, founders of the North Carolina–based furniture line, were in town Thursday to celebrate their business’s twenty-fifth anniversary. We spoke with the duo just before a big party at their Atlanta store, as Legendary Event staff in black T-shirts hustled about setting up bars and appetizer spreads. You might remember the store’s early bashes, when RuPaul’s pal Lady Bunny spun tunes in the full-length glass windows fronting Peachtree Road. But a lot has happened since the glam local opening in early 2006. Many Buckhead dreams—not to mention furniture stores (remember Artefacto? Beverly Hall?)—have languished. But MGBW has survived. In fact, they’re opening a second location at Avalon in Alpharetta this fall. How did their moderately priced brand (with sofas starting under $2,000) manage to outlast the competition?
“We actually benefitted a little bit [from the recession]. All of a sudden, conspicuous consumption wasn’t so fashionable,” says Gold. “It was more fashionable to be really tuned into good value. We picked up a lot of interior designers who began shopping here with their customers.”
In fact, MGBW first succeeded by paying close attention to consumer demand. They were among the earliest to upholster chairs in relaxed fabrics like faded denim and khaki. Back in the nineties, they drove all over North Carolina looking for apparel laundries able to wash fifty-yard rolls of fabric. “The hand [feel] of our fabric has always been very important to us,” says Williams. At the time, adds Gold, “Comfort was something furniture makers didn’t even talk about. But all of our pieces had to pass the ‘tush test.’”
Their seasonal introductions have always had an uncanny ability to anticipate design trends. More than fifteen years ago, while the market was still awash in slipcovers and country chic, they produced their first midcentury modern collection—called the “S&M” for soft and modern—inspired by the work of Jean-Michel Frank in Paris. This was long before Mad Men inspired a host of vintage wannabes. Ironically, MGBW does now offer a curvaceous, Scandinavian-influenced armchair called “Draper.” For the record, MGBW was also among the first to bring back brass hardware.
So what’s next? In honor of their landmark anniversary, many of MGBW’s spring pieces have silver finishes or fabrics—with stunning textures like fluffy Tibetan wool (pictured above), velvet, or shearling. Metallic fabrics range from a shimmering cherry blossom print inspired by a vintage pattern to patent leather–shiny hair on hide (yup, silver cowskin). Do tightback seating and fur ottomans hint at a return to formality? Not according to Gold and Williams. In a MGBW world, children (and pets) will always be allowed to sit on the sofa.