Coastal Creativity – OutSmart Magazine
gWhile rowing, Mitchell Bage, 40, dreamed of being an architect – a path he likely would have taken if he hadn’t launched a successful career as an analyst for a NASA aerospace consulting firm then that he was only 17 years old.
The Sante Fe, Texas native decided to skip college and start a full-time internship the following year. At that time, his true passions – art, architecture and interior design – fell on the back burner.
Her husband, Luis Santiago, 39, dreamed of working in a museum or art gallery because he loved history and the humanities. Born and raised in Ponce, Puerto Rico, he ended up earning a degree in chemical engineering from the University of Puerto Rico and held various positions in the oil and gas industry beginning in the mid-2000s.
But all of that is now behind them.
After meeting in 2013 and getting married in 2016, the Galveston couple’s new life and love is Maison de Campagne (MDC), their design and real estate business on the island.
“Mitchell has an innate talent and incredible taste, and for most of his adult life (and throughout our relationship) he has helped colleagues, friends and family achieve their dreams of living in beautiful houses,” says Santiago.
In the summer of 2018, the couple stumbled upon the home staging industry and immediately knew it was something they would do just fine. “I knew I could use my entrepreneurial spirit and Mitchell’s talent to create a business that would really allow us to thrive. We use our creativity and passion for real estate and interior design to add real value and consistently create beautiful spaces,” continues Santiago.
MDC was specifically inspired by the couple’s passion for the aesthetic of the French countryside, “a blend of rustic elements and refined details that result in a stunning home that is simple and elegant. We pride ourselves on being able to fuse a more traditional style with a modern look by layering a mix of materials on top of a classic base,” says Santiago. “It really brings us so much joy to be able to explore our creativity, show off our talent and passions, and express ourselves in a way that we don’t. had never done before.”
The best thing about home decorating, the couple says, is that there really aren’t any “rules” that always have to be followed. “[An interior space] is an art form. Therefore, it should create an emotion for those who inhabit it.
Bage, as co-owner and creative director, is the lead designer and face of the company. “He interacts directly with our clients and helps organize their spaces. He also plans and executes each staging job so that each one is unique and has the most impact,” Santiago says.
As co-owner and general manager, Santiago handles finance, logistics planning and marketing strategies. “Not to mention updating our customer database and company policies, contracts and procedures to keep our operations running smoothly,” he adds.
Of course, getting Maison de Campagne to where it is now was anything but easy. Santiago and Bage were on totally different career paths when they started their journey together. “[It’s very difficult to] to create something that is entirely ours and entirely dependent on our blood, sweat and tears – and I mean that literally. We had stable, well-paying jobs and lived a comfortable life, so starting our own business, and the uncertainty behind it, was not an easy decision to make. There was a lot to lose if we failed,” Santiago said.
Starting a new business comes with a steep learning curve, and most business founders experience their share of ups and downs, Santiago notes. “At first, we both kept full-time jobs and took on clients and projects on evenings and weekends, which required us to sacrifice a little of our personal time and our time spent with family. But anything worth having requires some kind of sacrifice, and we managed to do that.
The couple admit the experience had an impact on their relationship. “But we both knew it was something special and so much more rewarding than typical day jobs. As we got busier, Mitchell was able to quit his job as an analyst and focus on our business full-time, while I balanced my two jobs for a bit longer,” says Santiago. “2020 has been very difficult (for obvious reasons), but at the same time [the pandemic] helped put things into even more perspective and strengthened our resolve to move forward and stay on the path we have chosen.
As for the future, their plan has always been to become more involved in philanthropy, and in particular LGBTQ initiatives, as Country House gains more success. “We just joined our local Chamber of Commerce and plan to focus more on networking, education and belonging to our community,” says Santiago. “We support our LGBTQ community in the arts and work with other LGBTQ-owned businesses and business owners on the island. We look forward to doing more as our business becomes established. »
Queer causes are particularly important to the couple because both come from very conservative backgrounds and have been slow to come out, Santiago points out. “So it’s important for us to be visible and proud of our accomplishments, and to use our voice and our platform to support the LGBTQ+ community.”
To learn more about Country House, visit mdcfineliving.com.
This article appears in the July 2022 issue of OutSmart magazine.