Design Expert Mikel Welch on Following His Passion + 5 Easy Ways to Update Your Home

An impressive pad doesn’t always require lots of cash or hours of toil and sweat. Designer extraordinaire Mikel Welch offers a few simple tweaks to take your home from drab to fab in a matter of minutes.

You may have seen him creating stylish spaces on the Steve Harvey show, or remember him as one of the final four contestants from HGTV‘s Design Star Season 7. But whether or not his name rings a bell, Mikel Welch has stacked some serious credentials in the design and television industry. And when Drake penned his conspicuous line, “Started from the bottom, now we’re here,” he must have had Welch in mind. The Morehouse College alum has gone from offering free services on Craigslist to crafting rooms for some of the most notable names in present time including first lady Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Joan Rivers, Halle Berry and Tyler Perry to name a few.

Welch credits his passion and drive as being key factors in reaching the success he’s experienced. 

“It all began [with] me just hustling really, really hard, and wanting something so much that I was willing to sleep on floors and sleep in a 400-square-foot apartment with mice and roaches in order to make it work,” explains Welch.

The Michigan native delved into interior design after dabbling in marketing and sales during his early post-graduation years in Atlanta. It took him no time to realize his intended path.

“I couldn’t sit at a desk to save my life,” he says. “On my lunch break I would find myself walking in Crate & Barrel and Pottery Barn, and it was like an Oprah ‘aha’ moment.”

The epiphany resulted in Welch taking a job at a local furniture store and starting his first design company. But ambition wouldn’t allow him to settle for long, and in a quest for bigger and better opportunities, the bow tie aficionado ventured to New York on a wing and a prayer, and with just $500 to his name.

“It was the hardest thing I ever did in my life,” he says. “When you get to New York you get a rude awakening, and you see life isn’t as easy as Sex and the City makes it seem.”

While in New York Welch became an apprentice and worked in retail to make ends meet. But once again, high aspirations took control and led him to Los Angeles where his commitment to seeing his dreams come to fruition intensified.

“When I got to L.A. my goal was to get three business cards per day,” he says. “If I didn’t get three business cards, I was not going home.”

The plan worked. In his first week there, Welch landed a gig with Teen Vogue setting up pop-up shops and later picked up a job with HGTV as a design assistant.

Before long he found himself back in New York where he joined the production team as a set designer for the Style Network‘s  reality series Jerseylicious. Being part of the show was a career highlight, but his big break ultimately came when he snagged a coveted spot on Design Star, competing for a chance to host his own show on HGTV. Although he didn’t win, Welch says the experience changed the trajectory of his career.

Today he heads his own interior design firm, holds court as the resident design expert on the Steve Harvey show, and has been featured in popular media outlets like The Talk on CBS, Essence Magazine, The Huffington Post, and Modern Luxury Interiors.

Watch Mikel in action below!

Welch has come a long way from his days of placing “work for free” ads on Craigslist. He believes his climb to the top, while not yet complete, is a prototype for attaining triumph even through the most difficult times.

“When I was in New York I was on food stamps and it was one of the hardest things ever,” he says. “I used to sit in Wendy’s and I would wait for people to drop their receipt paper because on the back you could dial a 1-800 number and [complete] a customer survey [for] a free hamburger. That’s literally how I ate for a whole year. I would eat Wendy’s hamburgers and I would splurge at night on a dollar slice of pizza. I really want people to know they have to follow their passions. So many people are stuck on jobs that they hate. And if you’re always working for somebody else, you’re only making their vision come true, you’re never following your own dreams. I just can’t live like that. I’d rather be broke.”

Despite all he’s accomplished, Welch says his crowning moment is still in the making. And as you can imagine, the go-getter isn’t resting until that day comes.

“I’ve had a lot of great things happen, but until I see my face at Macy’s and Target, I have to keep going.”

Follow Mikel:

by Deon Newsom

*** See Mikel at the 2015 Ford Neighborhood Awards Weekend this August ***

(read more on the next pages for Mikel’s top five ways to update your home)

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