Design Tools: David Mitchell's 5 Must-Haves

The local designer shares the elements he uses to achieve looks that reflect his clients’ tastes, rather than his own.

By: Laura Wainman

Take a look at several David Mitchell-designed rooms, and you might be hard-pressed to find similarities. The spaces are all clean, comfortable, and well edited, but beyond that the styles are incredibly varied. And that's exactly what Mitchell wants to achieve.

"The days of a designer with a signature look are over," he says.

Mitchell prides himself on not inserting his own tastes into a client's home and prefers drawing on their personalities to create tailor-made spaces. He's come a long way since his days of rearranging his parents' living room furniture to his liking, which he says led eventually to his career in design.

With a degree from Virginia Commonwealth University and more than 20 years in Washington under his belt, he has become intimately familiar with the design preferences of our fair city. And he's even built an arsenal of tools he relies on in each project to achieve his signature "non-signature" style.


Photograph by John Healey.

"Color adds depth and interest, and really brings personality to a room. We live in a city of beige, but I've found that people who live in a house with color are happier, which is why I love working with color in my designs. We use ethereal colors to create serene spaces. I actually had a client tell me I had ruined her social life because now all she wants to do is stay in her home."


Photograph by Gordon Beall.

"There is nothing worse than a house without something on the walls, but so many people are intimidated by artwork. We love to show our clients how to incorporate art into their home and how it can be individualized to their tastes."


Photograph by John Healey.

"It's not unusual in Washington to find that clients want a room to be completed. They're busy people and don't have time to find the finishing accessories. And I'm the guy who likes a project to be completed, so I love finding those last little accents that complete a look."

Handmade Objects

Photograph by John Healey.

"One of the things I want when working with clients is to ensure that their home winds up reflecting their tastes, not mine. Handmade items can bring that sense of individuality to a room."

McLain Weisland's "Estate" Mirror

"This is my go-to mirror, and it is perfect. It can look great in either a traditional or a modern interior, which is why it's one of the few things I'll actually repeat in spaces. It's very architectural, so it spices up a home that may be lacking architecturally and gives it that instant 'wow'. It measures 42 inches, which I think is the perfect size; it makes it suitable for a powder room, over the fireplace, or in your dining room. I just ordered it for my own house."