Let Power Couple Chris Mitchell and Pilar Guzmán Transform Your Home

As spring arrives, the authors of "Patina Modern" offer six interior design tips you can try out right now

March 21, 2023 7:12 am
Let Power Couple Chris Mitchell and Pilar Guzmán Transform Your Home
Excerpted from Patina Modern by Chris Mitchell & Pilar Guzman (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2022. Photos by multiple contributors.

As a society, we’ve become obsessed with other people’s homes and what’s inside them. Just consider the hours we spend browsing Zillow, scrolling impeccably-styled apartments on Instagram, and binging home-design shows on TV and celebrity tours on YouTube.

All of this is only natural. After all, people want to live in a space that inspires them, comforts them and speaks to who they are, just like these hyper-curated homes. But what happens when it’s time to graduate from commenting on other people’s design choices from the comfort of your couch and implement your own? The easiest way forward would be to hire an interior designer to help. If that’s not in the cards (for financial reasons, because you can’t find the right pro in your area, or because you’re a DIYer), it’s still possible to wind up with a home worthy of an Architectural Digest video. 

Enter Patina Modern: A Guide to Designing Warm, Timeless Interiors, written by New York City-based power couple Chris Mitchell and Pilar Guzmán

While Mitchell, the former publisher of Vanity FairThe New Yorker and GQ, and Guzmán, the former editor-in-chief of Condé Nast Traveler and Martha Stewart Living, are not professional interior designers, they nonetheless have a wealth of expertise to share. As Guzmán explains in the book’s forward, “We are self-taught, highly discerning design enthusiasts and collectors who have amassed, over the course of twenty years and six renovation and design projects, the hard-won wisdom.” Point being, if you’re going to design your space yourself, taking advice from these two is a logical place to start.

Chris Mitchell and Pilar Guzmán, authors of the new interior design book Patina Modern
Chris Mitchell and Pilar Guzmán have poured their design experience into the new book Patina Modern.
Andrea Chu

Patina Modern is not meant to live the normal life of a coffee table book — that is, left out for show and never looked at. It is a resource meant to be used, and then left out for show, and then picked up again to reference as needed, and so on. As such, the tome is just as practical as it is beautiful, striking a Goldilocksian balance with enough inside baseball for the design- and furniture-obsessed, as well as a wealth of actionable tips for everyone else. 

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“The goal of this book is to inspire you to identify the things you love, and to give you a few tools and guiding principles to help you put those pieces together into beautiful spaces,” Guzmán writes.

Those guiding principles are split into four overarching lessons which divide the book, as well as a concise, nine-part manifesto at the beginning which lays out the couple’s core design tenets — a cheat sheet of sorts to guide your design endeavors now and in the future — which can be applied to just about any space. (For example, the edict “Think Moods Not Schools” advocates for “creating a feeling, not rigidly adhering to labels like ‘eclectic’ or ‘mid-century.’”)

Home design inspiration from Chris Mitchell and Pilar Guzmán's book Patina Modern
Excerpted from Patina Modern. Copyright © 2022.
Excerpted from Patina Modern. Copyright © 2022.

While taking in these and the rest of Guzmán and Mitchell’s nuggets of wisdom, I found myself setting the book down every so often to walk around my house, assess its current state against what I was learning, and tweak or move things around. I also found myself picking up my phone and searching for things I saw and now wanted: like a marine scissor lamp, perspex lamp shade in tortoise and a vintage Pink Floyd poster like the one that hangs above the kitchen fireplace in the couple’s Brooklyn townhouse. Ultimately where I landed — and a word of caution to those who follow in my footsteps — is that I now want to redesign my whole house. 

But with a major overhaul not in the cards, I was curious to know what else one could do to start small and re-energize a single room easily, quickly and without breaking the bank. So I asked Chris and Pilar just that, and they came back with the following six, anyone-can-do-it ideas that’ll have you breathing new life into any space within a day. 

“We think the world divides pretty neatly into two camps — no, not over politics, but whether people either notice the spaces around them, or not. For the latter group, foreign to us, some people are oblivious to whether a room is pulled together or utterly haphazard. But sometimes the curse of not noticing is about the need to change it up. If you’re feeling a bit uninspired at home…here are our quick tips to enlivening your home without having to rethink it all.” — Chris and Pilar

1. Shop Your Closet

“‘Shop in your closet’ is a great lesson for us all — out-of-favor clothes that you get to fall in love with all over again. Well, the same applies to furniture and accessories. Lamps, bowls, vases, stools or occasional tables — what smaller pieces have been relegated to a corner or a forgotten room? Maybe they deserve a place of pride again, so shuffle things around and chances are you’ll make some older housewares feel new again.”

2. Rearrange and Rotate

“Rearranging art and coffee table books (which we think of as tabletop art) is perhaps the most important fix that we preach. We’re all guilty of painstakingly choosing, framing and hanging a photograph, painting or print, and then checking that task off our decorating list. But we find that even the strongest statement art tends to fade into the background after a while. So move it around! Our rule of thumb is to rotate your coffee table books every couple of months, and at least some of your wall-hung art every year.”

3. Embrace Hygge

“‘Hygge’ is the Scandinavian principle of relaxing time, and we say lean into it. Nothing warms up a space more than a comfy blanket on the back of the sofa, and various cashmere and wool pillows around the room.  We’re big fans of floor pillows as well — our fave one at home is made of sheepskin, and it just begs for people to plop down on the floor for it. Adding these new accessories can totally freshen a room, and they’ll give a cozy sense of the season no matter where you live.”

A living room as seen in Chris Mitchell and Pilar Guzmán's design book Patina Modern
Embrace the lamp.
Excerpted from Patina Modern. Copyright © 2022.

4. The Power of Scent

“One of the most overlooked senses of the decorating experience is smell. Not only does a scented candle give fresh energy to a room, but changing them out with the seasons can really spark a mood. We love candles in the colder months that evoke a wood fire, and scents of evergreens and leather. But some of our friends go the opposite direction, where they’ll counter program with full-summer beachy and floral smells.”

5. Lots of Lighting

“Lots of low lighting is the closest thing to a mantra as we have, and it’s because nothing can improve the feeling of a space more than good, low-wattage lamps. We design almost every room without overhead lights (best for operating rooms and grocery stores, in our opinion). Instead, we place up to a dozen lamps big and small in a single room. The effect is lantern-like: romantic, soothing and warm.”

6. Impactful Rugs

“Finally, if you’re willing to get a little more ambitious in refreshing a space, we think a new rug can go a very long way. Whether an antique piece (there are plenty of great auction sites where you can find reasonable deals on heirloom-quality Kazaks and Moroccans), or a contemporary design (we love the graphic wool rugs from Nordic Knots), there’s no better way to brighten a room. And as for the old: send it to a professional cleaner and trust that you’ll find another place for it later, or give it a proper send-off if its time has come.”

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