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Mitchell Gold, Bob Williams celebrate 25 years of furniture

Think way back to 1989. While you were perfecting a side ponytail and lip synching to the Bangles in your bedroom mirror, Mitchell Gold and Bob Williams were tweaking the way that America looked at dining room furniture. On the design side, Williams was creating less formal tables with glass tops and metallic or stone bases. Gold, meanwhile, was handling the business side. Twenty-five years later, their company, Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, sells furnishings for every room and enjoys annual sales of $100 million. Even if you haven’t been in one of their 20 stores, you may have seen their furniture at Starbucks, the W Hotels, or even on “The Good Wife.” We sat down with the pair last week while they were in Boston celebrating the company’s 25th anniversary.

Q. I know about your furniture, but I don’t know how the two of you met.

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Williams (turning to Gold): You answer that.

Gold: We met at a bar in New York and we fell in like pretty quickly. A few months later we were talking about starting some kind of business and the original business we talked about was a Christmas tree farm. I was working for a furniture company at the time, so we stayed with furniture.

Q. Bob, when you first started thinking about the kind of furniture you wanted to design, what was your inspiration?

Williams: Really my biggest inspiration is to design for myself and whatever kind of design style I’m feeling at the moment. One of my biggest inspirations is always the home that I live in or sometimes the imaginary home that I want to be living in.

Q. When you were growing up, what were your surroundings like? Is this reminiscent of the furniture that you had in your home?

‘We look for inspiration from older pieces, and then we try to give them an updated twist.’

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Williams: Not necessarily. My mom was a little bit different in her style, a little more American colonial. But I grew up going to antique stores and flea markets with my grandparents as well as my parents. That whole vintage collecting bug has always been there and I can’t go to a town without stopping in some antique store and picking up something.

Q. I think that’s one of the reasons why people are drawn to your furniture. It tugs on their midcentury heartstrings.

Gold: It’s not like it’s from the “Mad Men” set. It’s much more mixed and eclectic.

Williams: That’s one of the things that we do. We look for inspiration from older pieces, and then we try to give them an updated twist. Whether it’s the fabrics, the colors, or a little bit of the function.

Q. The two of you have been heavily involved in donating to civil rights charities. You even took out a full page advertisement in The New York Times calling on Pope Francis to help homeless LGBT youth. What prompted the corporate altruism?

Gold: It started after we made a little bit of money. We wanted to be role models. We didn’t really have any gay role models growing up. Helping gay youth has been a big part of our efforts, but there are a lot of other causes as well: homeless shelters, cancer, juvenile diabetes, and animal shelters.

Q. And did your efforts to contribute to gay causes stem from issues that the two of you faced growing up?

Gold: I’m a little older than Bob, so for me in the 1960s [being gay] was even more complicated because it was considered a mental disorder. Bob had had his own difficulties, as a lot of kids do. I think our primary motivator is that we don’t want other kids to go through a difficult time.

Q. When I think about your furniture, I often daydream wistfully that I could afford it. So let’s say you’re me, and you can’t afford it. Do you have any advice on how I can decorate on a slightly more bargain scale?

Gold: You have to follow the store. We have two incredible sales a year — a clearance on floor samples. So different income levels are able to buy in different ways. If you know the rhythm of the store and follow the clearance sales, you can find pieces.

Williams: You don’t have to decorate all at once. Our collection is an evolution and you can buy as you can afford it.

Christopher Muther can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at chris_muther.
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