As one of Hollywood’s most sought-after interior designers, Michelle Workman possesses a client roster that includes such esteemed individuals as Jennifer Lopez, John Travolta & Kelly Preston, Kirstie Alley, Leah Remini and more. Workman also owns a home-furnishings and accessories store called The Red House Interiors. Her store is a design destination for those with even the most discerning interior tastes, resides on the La Cienega boulevard and is a member of the esteemed La Cienega Design Quarter. We took a moment to chat with the very opinionated Michelle about her love of design:
Haya Zoubi: How long have you been an interior designer?
Michelle Workman: I did a year in Atlanta after school and then quit because I couldn’t understand why people would pay me for my opinion and then do the exact opposite. I moved back to LA and a few years later decided to have a go at it again and now it’s been 11 years.
Q: What are some of the common decorating mistakes made by homeowners?
A: Not having a clear view of what they want in their home, it becomes a conglomeration of things they like without communicating who they are as a person. Or the polar opposite happens; they go to Crate & Barrel or Pottery Barn and get the cleanest most bland and boring look possible. Also they don’t show a sense of humor when they decorate – you have to be a little insouciant and irreverent!
Q: How would you describe your personal style, including your preferred color themes?
A: I love grey as my neutral with eye-popping colors, but I guess my personal faves are pink and green. There is just something so very preppy and old money about pink and green, and then on top of that you want to eat it – Jolly Ranchers! Style-wise I love the Federal period mixed with dashes of Modern and again bright colors with grey as the neutral. I also droooool over good Chinoiserie!
Q: Do you prefer keeping with trends or staying with the classics?
A: I love to “stay” classic but throw in modern shapes and shiny objects to glamorize the classic look. I also love to bring in natural forms, like birds and branches – I’m kind of a nut for birds.
Q: In your opinion, what era in history had the best interior design?
A: Well, Marie Antoinette was a genius (pink and green!) softening and refining what was Rococo, yet keeping some of the ornateness from the previous reign, she introduced a casualness that had not been seen before. More recently I think the 1930’s and 1940’s were a period of innovation (Dorothy Draper, William Haines, Sister Parish & Billy Baldwin) as far as mixing up styles and periods to create something old and new, very “unboring”! Lastly, Ancient Greece didn’t necessarily have the best overall design (a little sparse) but had the best motifs, which we still use in decoration today.
Q: Name some regions or countries in the world that have your favorite stye of interior design:
A: France would have to be at the top of the list, no other country has the whole package the way they do in France, they bring order to nature – and I think that is the epitome of Interior Design. However, I really like the United States East Coast as well, they are the arbiters of good taste, very cultured. Like all good Americans; conservative yet innovative. Oooh.. Palm Beach in the 1960’s was FANeffinTASTIC!
Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants decorate their home but have champagne taste with a beer budget?
A: Spend your money on select pieces that will last forever, all the upholstered pieces should be of good quality as well as the Casegoods. My husband and I had an entirely empty living room the first 6 months we lived together until we had saved up enough for the sofa I wanted. Ten years later we still have that sofa. It has been re-upholstered 3 times and is still totally comfortable and looks great. Get frivolous on the accessories, rugs, and art. As an example Ikea has really cheap frames that are just glass and a piece of Masonite with clips holding them together – these look great as a large vignette of a variety of paintings or artwork. You can get cheap shag carpeting that is cut into a rug with a super thick pad (looks and feels LUSH!) you don’t even have to bind the edges! Hit garage sales for great finds in accessories, art and books. Also look for well built pieces of furniture that have a nice shape and repaint them or just strip them raw. Also, get creative – some of my best design ideas came when I didn’t have the budget to get the “right” item but had to come up with something inexpensive and different.
Q: I have always wondered this about interior designers: Does an interior designer undertake any of the labor in a design project or do they just conceive the design ideas and manage others who do the grunt work?
A: Mostly it is done by others, but personally I have painted, upholstered, sanded, hung curtains, fixed little problems with Bondo and lots of other things. I can’t stand to be idle while work is going on or if I have to wait for something to be done and I’m on a deadline, sometimes I’ll just go ahead and do it myself.
Q: Is there a decor trend that you hope to never see again?
A: Overblown Italian. In the 80’s and 90’s there was this penchant for rich reds, browns, gold and tassels – BLECH! I also can’t stand what people term “Mediterranean”… very nouveau riche.
Q: What’s your favorite shop (in the world) for cool furnishings:
A: Mine!!! The Red House Interiors. Other than that I don’t have one shop that has sort of everything I need, there are many that I love though for what they offer, most are in the La Cienega Design Quarter.