"Furnishing your home is a big deal," said Mitchell Gold, chairman and co-founder of the lifestyle home furnishings brand Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams.
Chicagoans will now have another option as the company opens its first Signature Store in Illinois in Lincoln Park this summer. (Some items are currently available in Chicago at Bloomingdale's, Jayson Home and Garden and Michaelian & Kohlberg.)
The 10,000-plus-square-foot, two-story business will be across the street from the new Apple store. Gold said it's a perfect location, as Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams shares a similar customer base with the technology brand that's "into design and performance."
The store will offer couches, chairs, dining sets, storage units like dressers and entertainment centers, rugs, lighting, pillows, mirrors, wall art and more. They'll also feature fine-art photography by Tipper Gore (the two got a look at her work while designing the interior of her and Al's home).
"Everything in our store is organized to give customers a good shopping experience," said Gold. Furniture will be set up in room vignettes across limestone tiled floor, ceiling-to-floor windows giving an open feel and adding natural light.
Coffee and other beverages will be served and the music will be changed at different times of day to set the right mood. The store will also be dog-friendly. Gold said he and Williams are all about making people comfortable and ensuring that they won't feel "rushed or harried."
Gold and Williams describe their furniture as "soft and modern." They take inspiration from a range of places. "It could be a flea market in Hickory (N.C.), a vacation in St. Barts or a safari in Africa," said Gold. Designs are traditional yet "distinctly modern," drawing from styles from the 1950s through the '80s.
"Bob and I want things that are really going to be around for a long time," said Gold, adding that they only design furniture that they'd want in their own homes.
Customers can choose from several in-stock fabric options for upholstered items, or custom-design their own looks with 350 fabrics and 50 leathers. They can also bring in their own material to use.
Gold and Williams have published two home decorating books, Let's Get Comfortable in 2007 and The Comfortable Home in 2009, both filled with tips, tricks and ideas they've put together through the years.
Gold started the company in 1989 with Williams, who was president of design and his partner. Headquartered in Taylorsville, N.C., the company has grown to almost 600 employees with retail stores across the country and in Puerto Rico, Mexico and Canada.
Their furniture has been featured in numerous home decorating magazines, is used in several hotels, such as the W, and won design awards.
Gold saw an article about the furniture industry being one of the worst environmental offenders when starting up the company, and "we decided we were going to do things in an environmentally responsible way."
They found a foam manufacturer that produces no CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons, organic compounds that deplete the ozone layer); use wood from trees that grow back quickly; and make sure their factory is eco-friendly. Gold now serves on the board of the Sustainable Furnishings Council, helping to monitor other furniture producers.
Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams is committed to equality in the workplace and has a 100 percent rating with the Human Rights Campaign. They try to get involved in every community where their stores are, and hold a lot of non-profit events, especially for the LGBT community.
"LGBT consumers really have to consider what stores they're supporting," said Gold. He added that many large retailers support political candidates that push anti-LGBT legislation.
Gold also edited the book Crisis, published in 2008, a collection of 40 stories about growing up gay in the U.S., including those of Williams and himself.
Gold and Williams think that their store will be a great fit for Chicago, noting the mix of classic and modern in the architecture that matches their aesthetic. "Chicago is a city of great taste," Gold said.
The Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams Signature store will be located at 1555 N. Halsted. The planned opening is for mid-August and a grand opening charity benefit will be held in September.