Designer Crush: Oxbow & Olin Design Studio


Michelle Koch may have started her professional career in business school, but she graduated from San Diego State University with a lot more than a degree. Following her longtime passion for interior design, Koch went back to school to earn another degree at the Interior Designers Institute in Newport Beach. Today she heads up Oxbow & Olin Design Studio which offers a full range of residential interior design and decorative services including space planning, furniture selection, remodels and completely new ground up design. Learn more in our Q+A below.

How did you get your start in design?

Design has always been something that I have gravitated towards since I was little. Like many other designers, my bedroom was my canvas. I would come up with a new space plan or color scheme monthly. Yes, I drove my parents crazy! I also dabbled in fashion design, sewing all my own dresses for events like prom, formal and birthdays. However, when it came time for college, I knew I wanted to pursue a degree in Business. I had a vision, from a young age, that I would be the CEO of my own company.  A Business degree was the building block I needed to set me up for success. After graduating and working in Sales & Marketing for a luxury lifestyle brand for a few years, my passion for interior design was still at the forefront of my mind. I decided to take the jump and go back to school to get a degree in Interior Design. It was the best decision I could have made! This completed my foundation to go into Interior Design, and after about 5 years of working in the industry, I was ready to launch my own firm. In 2018 Oxbow & Olin Design Studio was officially in business!

How did working in the fashion industry help influence and shape your approach to interiors?

Working for a luxury fashion brand was so exciting! I was exposed to the entire business starting from design inception to production to planning and finally sales and marketing. It really taught me the importance of looking at things holistically. A design project isn’t all fabrics and fun, just like a fashion brand isn’t just the cute bikini we see on the rack. There are many elements that come together during the process of creating a successful design project. While not as fun as furniture selection, budgeting, planning, construction documents, spec sheets, etc., are necessary in making the project run smoothly.

How do you define “California style”?

It’s all about the “C’s” with California style – casual, comfortable, communal, chic, collected, curated…I could go on and on. I think there is something inherently communal about the California way of life, and a well-designed home can really cater to that. Creating spaces that are functional yet chic is key in achieving the quintessential CA style. We want to our clients’ homes to feel like an extension of their awesome and unique personalities, so we find a slightly new take on California style each time. But one thing remains consistent throughout – it’s always California cool!

Where do you find inspiration?

Travel and nature are two of my most influential sources for inspiration. The more I expose myself to other cultures, experience their crafts, learn about their history, and explore the rhythms of their cities, the more inputs I have to create a diverse and unique output. I love traveling to new places and taking in the inspiration nature provides. The red of the sand in Southern Utah, the jade of the water in Thailand, the intricate pattern on tree bark in Argentina… nature has a multitude of inspiration if you take the time to look.

Which current design trends do you love? Any you’re ready to say goodbye to?

I have always been into black for interiors and exteriors, so I am very excited that people have come around to the idea of dark. Dark isn’t scary if you do it right! With that, I am ready to say goodbye to the monochromatic look. All tan and white is gorgeous, but a too little safe for me. I like a more daring design scheme that marries unexpected colors, prints and textures.

Describe your ideal Sunday from a.m. to p.m.

Sundays are usually pretty mellow for me. I would sleep in, catch up on my design magazines over breakfast, maybe ride bikes along the boardwalk in Newport or do a little shopping. I like to prep for the week by tidying up the house, getting chores done, and working out my to-do list for the week. Later in the day, I would practice some self-care with an at home facial, followed by a glass of wine and dinner at home.

Lightning round!

First celebrity crush?

Jonathan Taylor Thomas.

Top take-out dinner order?

Definitely sushi with a chilled bottle of champagne waiting at home.

Go-to karaoke song?

I am going to be honest, absolutely no one should have to hear me “sing” in public!

Dream vacation destination?

Morocco – the tiles, the textures, the textiles, the architecture! So much inspiration.

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