Design Awards 2010 - Rising Star



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Two years ago, Jimmy Angell stepped into the local design spotlight. The occasion was the 2008 Michigan Design Center Birmingham Show House, an undertaking that he says was more than a little intimidating.

In addition to being inherently high profile, the assignment was challenging. His task was to create a gentleman’s study that could double nicely as a guest room — all within a small space.

“I just started to sketch and brainstorm and it evolved,” Angell says. The results garnered respect.

This year, Angell steps into the spotlight again as the 2010 recipient of the Brian Killian Rising Star award.

Angell is a Detroit native, but his design awakening came while spending time away from his hometown. “When I graduated [from Eastern Michigan], I packed up my car and had $700 in my pocket and moved to Chicago,” Angell says. “I didn’t have a job, so I registered with a temp agency and got work at Perkins & Will,” an architecture and design firm.

He was working in the accounting department, but got to know the creative staffers. That exposure inspired him to begin taking classes at the Design Academy at the Merchandise Mart.

“In college, I was an OK student,” Angell says. “But I was getting straight A’s at the Design Academy. In the meantime, I was redoing my flat,” which earned compliments from friends. Suddenly, his career path became clear.

Angell returned to Michigan, studied design at Lawrence Tech, and worked at Scott Shuptrine Furniture, where he sketched renderings for sellers/designers. “I sort of sat in a corner and drew all day, which I loved,” he says.

He was hired as an assistant at Permutter-Freiwald and then, in 2005, founded James Douglas Interiors (his first and middle names) on Birmingham’s Cole Street.

Although he takes his cues from clients, he has developed a bit of a signature look. “I like clean lines and I like a neutral palette,” he says. “If I do a color, I like a muddy color. I don’t like clarity in color.”

He also eschews trends, but says he embraces the current popularity of natural woven fabrics. His own personal trend of the moment is collections. “I found these wonderful old canes and I’m hanging them horizontally,” he says. He also is collecting vintage industrial bobbin spools with Bakelite ends. He’s got a dozen, and says when he amasses about 50 he wants to display them on a wall, maybe with some sporting some uncharacteristically colorful yarn. 

Angell’s Faves

  • Go-to paint: Sherwin Williams Cotton White for trim, Sherwin Williams Kilim Beige for walls.
  • England: London for architecture, the countryside for décor. “There’s a simplicity that’s really refreshing: an amazing chair beside a little fireplace. It’s worn and it’s comfortable and it’s old — and there’s a beauty to it.”

Angell’s Advice

  • Mix it up — old/new, dull/shiny.
  • Have a plan, don’t impulse-buy.
  • Create art and points of interest through the use of unconventional objects; e.g., vintage spools, gears, and canes.
  • Embrace pattern and texture.


Rising Star

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