Tyler Hill in his Hasell Street kitchen where he tested ideas that led to the new design line. | Photos by Ruta Smith

Charleston designer Tyler Hill’s advice for anyone looking to reimagine the space in which they live is to be yourself.

“You have to feel good in your clothes and in your home,” said the 39-year-old Austin, Texas, native who arrived in Charleston in 2010 to study design at the Art Institute of Charleston. “Learn to edit and be open to mixing styles. Keep it classy—but not pretentious. Sophisticated—but relaxed and unassuming.”

Hill is a partner in Mitchell Hill, a full-service design center that offers contemporary art, furniture, lighting and design consultation. Captivating, bright art explodes off walls to dance with comfortable modern furniture interspersed with antiques.

He describes the store’s design style as “traditional with an edge with a joyful, hip vibe. The Charleston market is traditional but is becoming more contemporary.”

As Mitchell Hill grew from a gallery started with partner Michael Mitchell into a showroom with furniture, lighting and a design studio, Hill has seen the business broaden.

“We’re always trying to mix it up and change it around,” he said. “We’re trying to bring in more antiques because it’s so important to have the old and new.”

Walking into the pages of a magazine
It’s not a coincidence to feel like you are entering the pages of a design magazine when you step into Hill’s and Mitchell’s Hasell Street single house. It was, in fact, the setting in 2016 for a redesign project by several designers for Traditional Home magazine, which no longer is in circulation.

Since the magazine feature, they’ve redesigned most of the home by blending comfortable with contemporary and traditional. 

Visitors enter a bright foyer painted navy with white trim and a modern lantern chandelier designed by Hill. A front sitting room features large pieces of modern art on chartreuse walls that are flanked by a traditional dark chest and couch. Nearby is the mounted head of an animal, perhaps an ibex or some kind of gazelle. In the dining room is a haunting but cool portrait that looks, at first glance, like it comes from Victorian England. But, a closer look shows it is a surreal riff on the genre that includes different views of the same figure, allowing a viewer to see three eyes and three noses.

Hill’s favorite room is in the back of the house where a huge window brings in light and a view of a small yard. 

“We call it the kitchen house” because even though it now is connected to the main house, it once was separate when Charleston kitchens were apart from living quarters. 

“I like the light,” Hill said. “I always like the rear of houses better. You don’t hear the carriages going by.”

Perhaps the most innovative room is a reimagined, sleek dark green kitchen, which has a black stone island, custom panels and an amazing ceiling where brushed steel, mesh screens, aged brass and mirrors create a dramatic sense of space. 

“We wanted everything to feel like the inside of a cabinet — kind of like a cubby-hole,” Hill said.

The look and feel of the materials led to something even bigger — a new design line of lighting and furniture that is called “Transparent.”

A new chapter
In the works for months, the first collection of Hill’s Transparent line will debut in the next few months, first to designers in Charleston and then in New York, Atlanta, Washington, Los Angeles, Miami and Hill’s native Texas. 

He said he got a taste for integrated lighting design back in 2016 — about the time that he created his home’s kitchen — when he had to design 50 lighting fixtures in about six months for a project. 

“I thought I was going to go crazy. It was mostly Art Deco — with metal, glass and gold leaf.”

But, he turned out to love the process. 

The debut Transparent collection will incorporate the black and bronze metals, glass and alabaster, often in grids. It will include chandeliers, pendant lighting, mirrors, sconces and some furniture. While a trend these days is to use LED lighting, Hill says he prefers the warmth of traditional lighting in some of the designs.

“It’s adding something different to the marketplace with fresh concepts with different ways of presenting lighting in ways that you can hide the bulbs,” he said.

Getting the collection manufactured has been challenging throughout the pandemic because the fixtures are being custom-produced in Italy. 

“I thought it was going to be a part-time job, but it’s turned out to be full-time,” Hill said. “It is definitely what I was born to do.”

He envisions a second collection to be an extension of the first, while the third Transparent line likely will be an homage to designs from the 1930s and ‘40s. 

The months ahead

Hill is looking forward to promoting the collection with visits to designer showrooms around the country. 

Travel, he says, is the means through which he gets inspired — whether it’s returning to his family’s home in Austin or the open spaces of the nearby family ranch in Dripping Springs, or with trips across the country.

“I’m the kind of person who believes you have one life to live, and I think you have to explore it,” Hill said. “I’m very mobile.”

And, he’s looking forward to more from the new collection.

“I can’t shut my mind off,” he said. “I get inspired by something, and it takes over my brain. I think it is that way for a lot of creatives — and constantly trying to top what you just did.”