It’s been 30 years since Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams launched their landmark first furniture collection—and the pair who run the company that bears their name, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, continue to release stylish home pieces. To honor their three decades, they’ve created Les Petite Seats Collection, a line of six chairs, joined forces with the Tyler Clementi Foundation (which aims to prevent bullying, harassment and humiliation) for a fundraiser, and are paying homage to their past with a look at their work over the years. Mitchell Gold, co-founder and chairman, answers a few questions about this signature anniversary.
What was the inspiration behind launching the company?
Bob and I always wanted to have a business together. We were originally going to start either a combination vineyard/Christmas tree farm or a furniture company. Since neither of us knew much about wine, we decided to go with furniture, which I was working in at the time. Sure glad we made that choice, because here we are, 30 years and 30+ retail stores later!
Why were your early designs such a game-changer in the industry?
We were disruptors from the beginning, way before the word was fashionable. I knew from the great response to the first products Bob designed—upholstered dining chairs that he put in bold prints—we were on to something. We followed that up with sofas slipcovered in soft-washed denims and khakis, the same fabrics as your weekend clothes, and distressed leather chairs, which made them so easy and comfortable to live with. We had to buy fashion fabrics to make it work, but when we believed in something we took the risk and kept at it until we got it right. And we also decided early on to only create furnishings we’d want in our own homes. We had something special in the way we were doing business—a great synergy between Bob and me—and it got us noticed. We’ve stayed true to that vision all these years, and—with a lot of help from our amazing MG+BW family—it has put our furnishings in homes across the country and beyond.
Any funny memories over the years that remind you of how far you’ve come?
Well, there’s the story about one of the first pieces Bob designed—a chair that was beautiful, but couldn’t fit through a doorway. But you’ll have to ask him about that. Something many people may not know or remember is that our first office was a trailer located in a cow pasture!
Why is being conscious about the environment a key element for the company?
Back in 1989, when we were starting the company, I was in NYC, reading The New York Times, and there was a front-page article on how the furniture industry was one of the biggest polluters of the environment. I called Bob from a pay phone (no cell phones back then), and said we have to do better. We were the first in the industry to beta-test a foam that was eco-friendly. It cost a little more, but we knew it was the right thing to do. And we’ve run our business like that ever since.
Over the past three decades, some of your ads have been described as provocative or groundbreaking, including one in 2000 that featured a child with two dads—something that wasn’t often seen at the time. Why has this been important to you?
Bob and I have always been advocates for the LGBTQ community, and we wanted to lead by example. You are right, this ad was groundbreaking at the time because other brands in general were not showing two dads in advertising. This was an important ad for us and the LGBTQ community. We got many calls to our customer care lines with mostly praise, and only a few negative comments. We’re glad to be part of something that helped pave the way to acceptance.
Tell us a bit about your new collection.
Our new 30th Anniversary Les Petite Seats Collection features six sculptural accent chairs inspired by Italian design. Though small in size, they offer the comfort of our larger chairs. We love adding a pair to a living room conversation area so more people can join in. They’re also great for a reading nook in a bedroom, extra seating in a home office, and as a seat at a vanity or in a dressing area. And their size makes them great additions in a summer home. We especially like how you can customize them—for instance, with two different fabrics, inside and out.
What’s coming up next for the brand?
Spring 2019 just hit stores and it’s filled with fabulous colors and patterns. We’re already deep into finalizing our fall collection, and although Bob won’t let me give anything away, I can say that we have some amazing partnerships coming up that are going to give us even more ways to continue our mission of making the world a more comfortable place—for everyone.