Our story begins with multilevel marketing. About four years ago, one of designer Mike Mousel’s clients hosted a clothing party at her house. A guest fell in love with the clothes—and the house. She loved how warm and inviting the interiors were and asked for the name of the person responsible. The lucky lady left with contact information for Mike Mousel Design.
“She and her husband had moved into this house in University Park. He is an up-and-coming plastic surgeon, and they had been living in a condo in Uptown,” Mousel explains. “They needed some prominence in their lives.” The couple was pretty much starting from scratch, and Mousel says the entire house was powder blue. “They had a dining room table and chairs, a microfiber sectional sofa, and a mirror. That was what I inherited,” he says with a laugh.
His clients had their hearts set on a traditional look for the house. Mousel wasn’t so sure that was the way to go. “This woman is beautiful—she’s gorgeous,” he says. “I told her, ‘You are anything but old and traditional.’”
So he began inching them toward a bolder, more eclectic look for their home. He started small, introducing them to some bold rug selections. “I went to Interior Resources and pulled the patchwork rug for the family room, the Moroccan Berber that’s now in the study, and a pieced color cowhide.” His clients responded to the cowhide immediately, and he was on his way.
The first-floor transformation took around seven months—and Mousel says he heard, “Now, Mike, don’t get me too modern,” from time to time. But clients and designer did learn to trust each other. “What ultimately sold them was taking them over to my house,” he says. He also made them happy by reworking their existing pieces. He converted the Restoration Hardware dining table into a sofa table in the formal living room. He painted the mirror orange and moved it to the breakfast nook. He added tons of pillows—in fabrics by Ralph Lauren, Kravet, and Bergamo—to enhance the sectional. And then he went shopping.
He brought in antique furniture, artwork, pottery, fireplace screens, and lamps—creating interesting vignettes in each room. In order to stave off sticker shock, he says, communication was key. “I told them, ‘We don’t have to spend the most money here, but we can buy furniture that’s good quality. If we put good fabric on it, the sofa is going to last 20 years.’ That was part of the educational process,” he says.
Mousel even went for extra credit and gave life to a room that wasn’t on the original agenda: the study. “That was the room where the doctor’s old stuff went. All his medical books were in there,” Mousel says. “His wife said that she didn’t even want to look in that room. They weren’t even going to bother doing it.”
The bright blue space is one of the rooms that makes him the most proud—although he pretty much loves the whole house and he thinks his clients appreciated the journey. “He’s a plastic surgeon, and there’s a true art form to what he does. A client might start with a single process and you build from there,” Mousel says. “He works with a canvas, and essentially, that’s what I do, too. It’s an evolution.”