October 4, 2012

Scott Mitchell

Alex Chats Design with Scott Mitchell

Guest Editor
Scott Mitchell Scott Mitchell

In an age of "celebrity" everything, I think it's pretty cool when you meet someone who tries to be under the radar.

It may or not be working in the case of the fabulous designer, architect, and landscape designer extraordinare SCOTT MITCHELL. Despite his every effort to the contrary, Scott's prodigious talent is putting him on everyone's radar and design A-lists. Scott's clients range from ... well, people you've heard of, but we don't mention here because neither does Scott. Suffice it to say some of the world's greatest tastemakers have brought Scott in to make their homes perfect.

Scott's resume is one of the most impressive around. Before starting Scott Mitchell Studio in 1999, Scott worked at Stephen Miller Siegel & Associates and with Preston T. Phillips, a former protégé of architect Paul Rudolph. Following his time in New York, Scott completed an internship in Norman Foster’s London office, and then moved back to the US to continue his studies at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc). Under the mentorship of architects Richard Meier and the late Charles Gwathmey, Scott has spent the past 20 years developing his practice.

I've been fortunate enough to get a peek at some of Scott's incredible projects. I'm most struck by his use of rich materials, light, texture and, in the cases of new construction, siting. Yet most interesting to me is that every one of Scott's projects speaks directly about the client more than the designer. That is a true talent.

I caught up with Scott last week at one of his incredible projects - an incredible seven year-in-the-making compound on six acres overlooking the ocean in Malibu. Over lunch at the Malibu Country Mart Scott chatted design, his own house (which I've been to ... I assure you he's being way too modest in its description), and simplicity.

  1. What’s the most transformative thing someone can do to a room?

    Subtract not add.

  2. What’s your personal residence like?

    Picture the Brady Bunch house. I'm like a cobbler whose own kids have no shoes. But I love it because it has the most important quality: Everyone feels welcomed.

  3. What’s your “go-to” paint color?

    I prefer not to use paint because materials should always be honestly expressed. However, I've been guilty of specifying Benjamin Moore OC-118 a few times.

  4. What’s a cool room accessory under $200?

    Go to a flea market and find an old container and then go to a nursery and buy one species of a succulent for it. Bring nature in.

  5. What’s on your iPod?

    Everything except hip-hop and heavy metal. Heavy on U2 and Erasure. But I've also got some weird classic rock and country.

  6. Although you’re well known for your interior architecture and design, you’re equally as brilliant at landscape architecture. What’s your advice for those of us wanting to spruce up our outside areas?

    Create lines, avoid organic forms, and let nature worry about looking like nature. When man comes into nature he establishes presence with rectangles and lines, he doesn't need to establish himself with kidney-shaped pools. We can't compete with God anyway.

  7. What's your favorite part of a project?

    Initial creative. Those pivotal moments late at night. Those moments in the field working with guys whose hands create the architecture. Installation at the end when excitement reaches a fever pitch.

  8. What's your least favorite part of a project?

    The postnatal depression when a project is over.

  9. Really?

    Yeah, it's a bit like when you get finished with final exams and head home for Christmas and you go from being overwhelmed to having nothing to do.

  10. Your clients are known to be, well, in the Upper 1%. How can we begin to achieve that fantastic Scott Mitchell style if we’re only in the Upper 2%, let’s say?

    Simplify. When in doubt throw it out. Strive to achieve peace and tranquility in your environment and don't worry about impressing your friends.



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