Monday, June 22, 2015

Design Refined: Chic Brenda Mickel — a Highly Admired Design Principal at The Wiseman Group in San Francisco — Is a Style-Setter to Watch

With her highly refined sense of classical design traditions, Brenda takes a subtle approach to color and textiles. A devotee of balanced interior architecture and tranquil décor, Brenda is creating graceful designs and captivating her clients. 

Brenda Mickel, design principal with The Wiseman Group

“Nature is my muse,” said Brenda Mickel. “I like to be inspired by the beauty that surrounds us in California. Nature’s colors are uplifting and always in harmony.”

The designer, a senior partner at San Francisco’s prestigious Wiseman Group after fourteen years with the firm, recently completed refined interiors using subtle green and taupe tones for a house by New York architect Peter Pennoyer in the Santa Lucia Preserve, near Carmel Valley.

“It’s a retreat, with wild boar and deer roaming the hills, so we planned the house as a quiet place for reflection and relaxation,” said Mickel, who leads a highly accomplished team and works closely with Paul Wiseman at The Wiseman Group. The firm, founded more than three decades ago, has its headquarters on Potrero Hill in San Francisco.

Plaster walls of the Santa Lucia residence are a pale lichen tone, a perfect background for a collection of gold-framed landscape paintings. The rooms, with natural textured linen upholstery, are tranquil and pared-down. Every detail is exquisitely edited.

Brenda Mickel and her team at The Wiseman Group designed quiet, soothing interiors for a new house near Carmel Valley, with natural linens in pale taupe with a dash of paprika-colored polished linen for pillows. 

For her varied projects, Mickel adds contrast and texture to rooms in a fresh way. For some neutral rooms she might add a dash of paprika or chartreuse, as a small ottoman, a tufted silk chair seat, a small antique carpet, or a ceramic lampbase.

One of her signatures are antique textiles such as eighteenth-century embroidered linen or Italian flame-stitch silk as accents in contemporary city interiors. She and her Wiseman Group team work with a top-notch roster of craftspeople around the world to create both high-tech and old-world effects including 3D printing, hand-appliqué, beading, as well as laser cut leather or stone.

Mickel, originally from the East Coat, is especially adept at creating ultra-custom designs for an array of clients.

She recently worked with a specialist embroiderer to create an ivory silk velvet headboard with silk stitching in celadon, gold, and pale blue in abstract patterns.

“We like to include one-of-a-kind custom designs that may become family heirlooms,” said Mickel who recently commissioned a silvered bronze fire-screen with graceful leaves and flowers in the Arts & Crafts style for a residence in Woodside.

“Handcrafted designs bring an essential level of beauty to any room,” she said.

Antiques Are a Counterpoint to Modern Art

“Antiques seem to be taking a back seat to more modern, contemporary furniture but there are beautifully made early 20th- century pieces that work with clean-lined contemporary furniture. And there is nothing more beautiful than an eighteenth-century neoclassical gilded console carved in architectural details and with a slab top of pale grey marble, juxtaposed with a vivid contemporary painting hanging above it,” she said.

House on San Francisco's Gold Coast

Mickel Is a Conscientious Green Devotee

“It would be remiss not to design with sustainable materials and to work with environmentally conscious companies,” said the designer. “At this point, it is very difficult to do a completely green house, but we try to source from environmentally friendly companies and encourage our clients to use these products.”

And one of her best concepts is that for rooms to look fresh, it is occasionally necessary to ‘clear your head’.

“The best advice I give is to edit and refine rooms,
 said Mickel. “Clear visual 'noise'. Clear out too much pattern. It is not required to rid yourself of special and meaningful things. Just put them away and rotate. They will all have a fresh point of view and so will your rooms.”

House on the Kohala Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii

Brenda’s Ten Best Tips:  “What I Know So Far”

· Travel is the best education and inspiration. My husband and I always take time to tour new art galleries, historic residences, new architecture, and international art shows. Design for us means lifelong learning.

· Books are a healthy addiction and the perfect accessories. I’m always adding to my design library—and especially like to collect classic design and architecture books—Jean-Michel Frank, Edwin Lutyens, Palladio, David Hicks, for example—for essential reference.

· Good lighting is essential and I combine recessed, table and floor lamps for even illumination. Proper lighting at the bedside that illuminates reading materials is essential. I like well-made swivel lamps, wall-mounted, and on dimmers.

· Design skills can be learned. True talent is innate and cannot be learned.

· Art is an essential addition to all rooms. Sculptures energize a room.

· Disregard trends and acquire and live with what you love.

· Rooms do not have to be beige. Color is interesting.

· The correct scale of furnishings is essential. Large furniture in a small room can give the space a grander sense. But at the same time, small furniture in a large room looks like flotsam and jetsam. Scale up!

· The most interesting rooms are an eclectic mix of styles that reflect the interests and passions and eccentricity of the owners.

· Engage the best workrooms. Cutting costs on quality does not save money, as often the job will have to be redone due to disappointing execution. Quality lasts. Quality is beauty. Fine well-made furniture will last many years.

At a horse ranch/ olive farm in Rancho Santa Fe, Brenda Mickel and her Wiseman Group team created interiors in muted tones with splashes of vivid color. The designer updated the fifties rooms with Spanish-inspired architecture and modern, clean lines which frame a museum-quality collection of contemporary art.

All images courtesy of The Wiseman Group, San Francisco. Used here exclusively with express permission.

To contact Brenda Mickel:

1 comment:

  1. Brenda is indeed an integral part of Paul's design group. I have so much admiration for Paul and Brenda shares many of his design philosophies! Thank you for the feature Diane and I highly recommend Inner Spaces by Paul Vincent Wiseman.

    The Arts by Karena