Limitless possibilities: The ever-changing palette of designer Sheilah Michaels

When it comes to color, designer Sheilah Michaels said she “has a penchant for golds, olives, and browns.”  Photo: Rammelkamp Foto When it comes to color, designer Sheilah Michaels said she “has a penchant for golds, olives, and browns.” Photo: Rammelkamp Foto

Sheilah Michaels credits her father, a builder who made her a toolbox when she was 4 years old and often took her to job sites, with planting the design seed early. Over the years, Michaels’ passion never wavered, and she’s spent more than 20 years working as an interior designer, buyer, and visual merchandising manager. This month we asked Michaels to answer a few questions, and here’s what she had to say about “menswear” fabrics, the benefits of good lighting, and the dangers of cheap windows.

Have you ever had a change of heart about an object or style? Oh golly, I’m still trying to evict all my country French fabrics from a France fling several years back.

Does your home look like the one you grew up in? Not in physical appearance, but the essence of country life, antiques, books piled everywhere, and collectibles is ever-present.

What is your first design memory? From about 6 years of age, I knew I would study architecture. My father was a builder and he always took me along to job sites where I collected wallpaper samples, blueprints, pieces of trim, you name it.

What’s your favorite room in your house? In the winter, it’s my reading chair by the fireplace, in the summer it’s my reading chair on the porch. Your most treasured possession? Two very spoiled felines and my Mac laptop.

What do you wish you couldn’t live without? Design magazines. Thank goodness for recycling.

What are your preferred materials or textures? I love what we call “menswear” fabrics: herringbone and corduroy, wool, tartans, tweeds (think Ralph Lauren) and rustic, weathered bronze and iron metals.

Go-to colors? In my professional work, I never use the same palette. With so many colors to choose from, why limit yourself to just a few? At home, I have a penchant for golds, olives, and browns.

Favorite designer? Axel Vervoordt, Suzanne Kasler, Kit Kemp. Stylist: Hans Blomquist.

Best design-related word? Patina

What’s a design rule you like to break? Not that I’m trailblazing here, but I love painting trim and walls the same color and I stack books on wood chairs all over the house.

Does a room need a view? Not if you have a good designer who can create a focal point.

Is there anything you’re afraid to DIY? Fear is generally not in my vocabulary. My father made me my first tool box when I was 4. He used my mother’s broom handle for my toolbox handle. Tools aside, you probably won’t catch this cowgirl up on a roof anytime soon.

Name some things that can really transform a room. Good lighting, a great paint color, interesting textiles.

What should a homeowner never scrimp on? Original artwork and custom window treatments. And when renovating or building, buy the best and most interesting windows that you can afford. Cheap windows instantly kill exterior and interior design schemes.

Is there a design blog, website, TV show, or magazine that you look at all the time? Albemarle home.blogspot.com is a written by a very talented designer (a little self-promotion!). Other blogs I like are Houzz, Belgium Pearls, and FindingHome. As for magazines, I read everything, especially since I don’t own a television.

Antique or modern? Always, always a mix! I have an abstract art collection that I enjoy mixing with country pieces and antiques.

City or country? Country for living, city for exploring and shopping.

If you could live in one historical figure’s house, whose would it be? Ernest Hemingway’s Finca Vigia in Cuba (that’s an architectural statement, not a political one).

On what film set would you like to live? In the movie Laurel Canyon, Frances McDormand’s character Jane’s house.

If you were reborn as a piece of furniture or an object, what would it be? An English farmhouse table with a 200-year-old patina.

Want to know more? Visit Sheilah Michaels Design Studio at sheilahmichaels@aol.com or call 964-7628 to get in touch.

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