Anyone who knows Mikel Welch will find it charmingly appropriate to hear how he found his apartment: "Believe it or not, I found it on Craigslist," Welch says. The designer, who is currently hosting the buzzed about Murder House Flip on Quibi, actually got his start through the website: When he decided to switch careers to design, he began posting Craigslist listings. Now, years after Steve Harvey hired him and he found success on Trading Spaces, Murder House Flip, and more (including landing on House Beautiful's Next Wave list) Welch hardly needs to head to the site to land gigs. But, he's still a devoted scourer of listings, many of which have resulted in some of the most unique pieces in his apartment, which he has transformed from a blah space into a layered oasis that blends a serene palette with rich textures, references to travel, and, of course, a whole lot of DIY.
"My favorite place to go is the Hamptons," says Welch. "I wanted my space to have a Sag Harbor cottage feel because you know we all have these crazy lives and I just wanted to come back home to something that felt like vacation."
So, the design challenge: Bring Sag Harbor to Queens. "That was the jumping-off point," says Welch. "How do I get my hands on the cottage in a New York City apartment?"
"I like to call myself the king of layers," laughs Welch. While the phrase "layered interior" might call to mind much more maximalist spaces than Welch's breezy home, the designer is adept at incorporating more subtle, textural elements that add warmth and interest without visual crowding.
This is also a way to incorporate elements from travel, which Welch loves. "I think for me, creating that collected look is all about telling a story," he says. And often that can mean a healthy mix: In the entry, the designer paired a horse statue found at Pier 1 with African beads and vintage books and ceramics.
"The place was completely just white walls, and then it had this really awkwardly-positioned cutout in the middle of the living room," laughs Welch. To avoid making structural changes, he found a solution that added character and improved the shape: Creating sliding barn doors to conceal the top corner of the triangle. He worked with a builder to make the doors out of discounted lumber.
Welch refers to his design style as "primitive modern," a term that, for him, means blending the sleek simplicity of modernism with softer elements. "I want the modern, but I don't want my place to be a cold, sterile box, so I have to pair it with things like, on my sofa, a beautiful slipcover in linen."
The centerpiece in the dining room is a Chinese coconut fiber raincoat, which Welch bought on (gasp!) eBay ("I stepped away from Craigslist for that one," he quips). "It was one of those iconic pieces that I just loved as soon as I saw it," says the designer. Plus, it's good proof that paintings aren't the only kind of art you can hang on a wall—an idea echoed in the strings of antique African currency next to the window.
On the other side of the room is a painting by Amy Donaldson which, though it appears to be a more traditional style of art, is the result of a unique process of mixing paint, sand, and crustacean shells to stain a canvas.
Welch's dining table came from—you guessed it!—Craigslist. "I was able to talk them down because it was beat up a bit with scratches, but I liked that look," says Welch. Shaker-style chairs from World Market add interesting shape.
Another of Welch's favorite DIYs is this bench, a versatile piece he'll move from the dining area (when hosting large dinner parties) to the living area (when lounging alone). For Welch, the key to a good DIY is ensuring it can look like something that wasn't handmade. "It's about that balance," he says. "I want something unique, but you know, I don't want hot glue marks."
To achieve this, Welch often enlists the help of professionals to help him carry out his projects—but still at a fraction of the cost of high-end bespoke items. In this case, he measured and had made a simple bench, then worked with his upholstery shop to design a cushioned top, which they manufactured to his specifications.
Don't have your own "upholstery guy?" That's ok, says Welch: "I'm a designer so I have my upholstery shop, but for the average reader, you can just go to your dry cleaner and have them make something," he advises.
"That was my $100 hack," says Welch of the luxe-looking canopy bed he created with some simple piping and curtains. "The rods came from Bed Bath & Beyond and I just put them in the ceiling and attached curtains to create the canopy." It—plus the array of soft-colored pillows—adds coziness to the bed and provides a softness within the white-walled room.
Cozy, stylish, and thoughtfully-handmade—it's all the best parts of Welch's apartment.
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