Podcast, Ep. 92: designer Olivia Brock

Charleston designer Olivia Brock joins the show to talk about her firm Torrance Mitchell Design and her background in historic preservation. We cover it all — how she fell into interior design, tips on mixing the old and the new, and her go-to paint colors.

What You’ll Hear on This Episode:

  • Olivia never planned on being a designer, but rather a real estate developer that focused on adaptive reuse of historical buildings
  • How Olivia started as a paint color consultant 
  • The differences between normal housing and the sensitive nature of working with a historical home
  • Olivia’s house in Southern Living which she and her husband totally restored
  • Our partnership with Olivia on the Traditional Home Southern Style Now Showhouse, and the inspiration behind the guest room 
  • How to make old things look fresh and pairing antiques with a modern pieces
  • Why she sees historical buildings as people that want to tell you their story, and it is up to us to listen
  • We talk paint — testing swatches, favorite whites, and more
  • Brown furniture is making a comeback, baby!
  • Why patience, a great eye for antiques, and love for a home is truly necessary when embarking on a project
  • How curtains can really do a lot for a room, and what types Olivia recommends
The living room in Olivia's house featured in Southern Living with gray green walls and slipper chairs

Olivia’s living room inspired by a Rudyard Kipling novel and featured in Southern Living

Decorating Dilemmas:

Hi there!

My husband and I bought our house a couple years ago, and the formal living room has been on the decorating back burner for far too long. It’s now got my full attention – but where to start?! It’s the room that guests first see, so I’d like it to reflect our style (traditional / Southern but living in the Midwest). 

As you walk through the front door, there is a direct walkway to a hallway leading to the rest of the house. Thoughts on an attractive interior door mat- is there such a thing? Would a runner be better suited here, and if so, should it match the area rug? The sofa, chairs, and end table belonged to my grandmother, and I’d like to keep them. Any suggestions on fabrics to recover them, so they look like they belong in a 30-something’s house? I love a good mix of new and old. I’m also on the hunt for a large rug, coffee table, and matching lamps for the console. An artwork refresh wouldn’t hurt, either. I’m open to any other ideas you ladies have. The cute dog stays 🙂 

Thanks for all your help and the hours of entertainment and inspiration you provide!  


Olivia’s suggests skipping the interior doormat, as it gets confusing when there is both a doormat and a rug. Since the sofa is so heavy, we may want to put it in front of the single window with the two striped chairs, so you look directly at it when you walk in. You can reupholster it with something more modern, possibly something geometric. We want to also add two little skirted club chairs, some drapery to add softness and architectural interest, and pull the furniture in to move everything off the wall. We love the painting with the blue, and maybe that could be the color palette you run with – light blue and gray with an accent of green.

Show Notes:

Please send in your questions so we can answer them on our next episode! And of course, subscribe to the podcast in iTunes so you never miss an episode. You can always check back here to see new episodes, but if you subscribe, it’ll automatically download to your phone.

Happy Decorating!

Subscribe in iTunes | Stitcher | Google Play 

Caroline McDonald

Caroline lives for pairing together patterns, mixing furniture styles, and oogling over our newest furniture pieces. As you can imagine, her little 1920's craftsman is in a constant state of flux. Here on How to Decorate, it's her goal to help you turn your home into your own little slice of paradise.


  1. Reply


    June 20, 2019

    Super easy to live with! We have loved the flat finish and it has held up really well (so far) to our 2 big dogs and toddler 🙂 there’s a couple things with Rubio that are different as far as cleaning, but for us I think it was a better option than polyurethane. But it’s totally preference! I’ve just always loved the look of natural floors – and it definitely brightens up the space.

  2. Reply


    June 13, 2019

    Hi! Just started listening to the podcast and really enjoying listening during my drive into work! Live in Charlotte and we have a Ballard, but have never been! Will have to pop in 🙂 Just wanted to comment to whoever said they are refinishing their red oak floors to natural because we just did that and love it 🙂 Actually applied a product called rubio monocoat in smoke as the finish, to take away some of the pink in red oak, but otherwise looks very natural. We love it! Good luck!

    • Reply

      Caroline McDonald

      June 14, 2019

      Oh my gosh, Lois. Thank you for the comment. I was actually talking to my flooring guy about the Rubio! I’m super interested in it and considered it but may just go with a matte finish on top. Mostly just because once they sanded the flooring it’s actually white oak and so pretty. I’m glad you like it though. Is the natural/light floor easy to live with? This just makes me feel so much more confident about the choice!
      So glad you’re listening!