Growing up, Mitchell Bage, 40, had dreams of being an architect—a path he likely would have followed had he not launched a successful career as an analyst for a NASA aerospace-consulting firm when he was just 17 years old.
The Sante Fe, Texas, native decided to skip college and begin an internship that went full-time the following year. At that point, his true passions—art, architecture, and interior design—ended up on the back burner.
His husband, Luis Santiago, 39, dreamed of working in a museum or art gallery, as 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 working in a variety of oil and gas roles beginning in the mid-2000s.
But all of that is behind them now.
After meeting in 2013 and marrying 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 throughout most of his adult life (and throughout our relationship) he’s been involved in assisting colleagues, friends, and family in achieving their dreams of living in stunning homes,” Santiago says.
In the summer of 2018, the couple stumbled upon the home-staging industry and immediately knew it was something they would be great at doing. “I knew that I could use my business mindset and Mitchell’s talent to create a business that would truly allow us to flourish. We use our creativity and passion for real estate and interior design to add true value and create beautiful spaces on a regular basis,” Santiago continues.
MDC was specifically inspired by the couple’s passion for the French countryside aesthetic, “a mix of rustic elements and refined details that result in a show-stopping, simple, and elegant home. We pride ourselves on the ability to merge a more traditional style with a modern look by layering a mix of materials onto a classic foundation,” Santiago explains. “It truly brings us so much joy to be able to explore our creativity, show our talent and passions, and express ourselves in ways that we had never done before.”
The greatest thing about interior design, the couple says, is that there are truly no “rules” that must always be followed. “[An interior space] is a form of art. Therefore, it should create an emotion for the ones dwelling within it.”
Bage, as the co-owner and creative director, is the lead designer and face of the company. “He interacts directly with our clients and helps curate their spaces. He also plans and executes every single staging job so that each one is unique and has the most impact,” Santiago says.
As co-owner and managing director, Santiago handles finances, logistics planning, and marketing strategies. “Not to mention keeping our client database and company policies, contracts, and procedures up to date so that our operations keep running smoothly,” he adds.
Of course, getting Maison de Campagne to where it is now has been anything but an easy ride. Both Santiago and Bage were on entirely different career paths when they began their journey together. “[It’s very difficult to] create something that’s entirely ours and fully dependent on our blood, sweat and tears—and I mean that literally. We had steady, high-paying jobs and lived a comfortable life, so starting our own business, and the uncertainty behind that, was not an easy decision to make. There was much to lose if we had failed,” Santiago says.
Starting a new business comes with a steep learning curve, and most business founders experience their share of ups and downs, Santiago notes. “In the beginning, we both maintained full-time jobs and took on clients and projects during the evenings and on weekends, so there was quite a bit of sacrificing of our personal time and time with family. But everything worth having requires some sort of sacrifice, and we pushed through it.”
The couple admits that the experience took a toll on their relationship. “But we both knew that this was something special, and so much more rewarding than typical day jobs. As we got busier, Mitchell was able to leave his analyst work and focus on our company full-time, while I balanced both of my jobs a little longer,” Santiago says. “2020 was very challenging (for the obvious reasons), but at the same time [the pandemic] helped put things into perspective even more and solidified our resolve to push forward and stay on our chosen path.”
As for the future, their plan has always been to get more involved in philanthropy, and especially in LGBTQ initiatives, as Maison de Campagne becomes more successful. “We have just joined our local Chamber of Commerce and plan to focus more on networking, education, and being part of our community,” Santiago says. “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 more established.”
Queer causes are especially important to the couple because both come from very conservative backgrounds and were late to come out, Santiago emphasizes. “So it is important to us to be visible and proud of our accomplishments, and use our voice and platform to support the LGBTQ+ community.”
For more on Maison de Campagne, visit mdcfineliving.com.
This article appears in the July 2022 edition of OutSmart magazine.