By Janice Harris
Michelle Workman may call the beautiful city of Chattanooga, Tennessee her home, but this world-famous interior designer’s style screams “LA-aesthetic.” Her work is trendy and colorful, yet practical and lovely. Her designs, of course, speak for themselves. But designing for the likes of Jennifer Lopez and John Travolta is just another testament to Ms. Workman’s phenomenal taste. To say she’s in high-demand right now would be an understatement.
We met with Michelle at the Fall 2017 High Point Market where she was presenting her newest collection, Facet, under the French Heritage brand. In a special, one-on-one interview with our friend, interior designer Christopher Grubb, we were granted access to the inside scoop on one of the country’s most popular and sought-after designers.
From her beginnings in Southern California to her pet pig, here’s what you need to know about Michelle Workman.
Unlike many of her peers, Michelle Workman definitely doesn’t shy away from color. In fact, it’s one of the signature touches she adds to both the interior and product designs she creates.
Christopher Grubb immediately took note of Michelle’s use of color in her High Point showroom, including purple eggplant and other rich colors. When he asked whether she trends toward color, Michelle wasn’t hesitant in her response. “I think that I am color-forward,” she explains. “I don’t always have clients who are color-forward, but I definitely like punches of color.”
What’s obvious in her designs is the use of more classically bold tones like purple, red, and gold. It’s not overtly trendy and therefore, it verges more on traditional than contemporary.
Next to color, which is a definite inspiration and centerpiece to her designs, Michelle also uses the influence of her hometown of LA to shape her creations. “I’m from Hollywood and the architecture there lends to art deco. I use that thread and do modern interpretations of it in my work.”
Snapshots of art deco are found all over her work. “For me,” explains Michelle, “art deco is the ultimate transitional form. You can use it in any interior. Because it’s clean-lined, it works well with modern [style]. Because it has classic forms, you can put it in transitional spaces.” Michelle uses all this art deco to enliven interiors and products with a high-end, curated feeling.
“Facet,” Michelle’s new line with the French Heritage brand, is her latest foray in product design. Much of this collection was based on her love of art deco, but she also took some inspiration from nature. “I’m inspired by nature and then I go ahead and stylize those ideas.”
That natural influence plays a big role in the materials she chose for the line, including a variety of exotic, textured, and patterned woods like zebrawoods and burls.
“I really love zebrawoods because you can create a pattern with them, such as herringbone," she says. "And burl, it’s so classically art deco. It worked really well in this collection.”
Standouts from the French Heritage collaboration include the Hanky Panky slipper chairs and the Mai Tai entry console. Oh, and if you didn’t notice, everything in the collection is named after a cocktail. We wish she could have been there to name them all!
Out of her Tennessee office, Michelle Workman continues to compile desirable products and interiors. Plus, you don’t necessarily have to be a high-profile client to get her attention. Michelle works with a variety of clients from around the country.
In addition to everything else she has going on, Michelle also collaborated with Pyar and Co. on a trim line called “Queen’s Conquest.” “The collection started with handwork and beadwork inspired by the seafaring time during the age of Queen Isabella and Queen Elizabeth” and includes details that resemble jewels and mimic shipwreck designs. “Sometimes, it’s just a little detail that gives it all a great touch,” she says.
We want to extend a special thanks to Michelle Workman and Christopher Grubb.