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We hear ... we hear
Posted: 12:18 AM, October 11, 2011
That Town & Country editor Jay Fielden will host a private dinner for October cover couple David Lauren and Lauren Bush tonight at Crown ... THAT Mark Cuban’s HDNet has given the go-ahead for a third season of “Naughty but Nice With Rob Shuter,” moving to Thursdays at 8 p.m. starting this week ... THAT designers including Matthew Patrick Smyth will unveil their own unique spins on the Savoir Bed at the Savoir showroom in SoHo tonight.
We hear … we hear
Wall Street Journal
JULY 23, 2011
Have You Had Some Work Done?
Introducing 'the refresh': Minimally invasive décor tweaks that give interiors a major lift
By William L. Hamilton
People think what decorators do is a kind of home-based bowling strike: you knock down all the pins, and set them up again—with different pins.
But the best decorators—the ones with repeat clients—will tell you that after the big job is done, they get called back in over the years to refresh it and fine-tune it. The "refresh" is decorating lite: no big budget, no big headache, but big effect. There was nothing wrong in the first place. The refresh is just, fresher. Decorators say they have more fun with the refresh, and it shows in the work. The client is pleased with them, or they wouldn't have called back. The budget might be modest but it's not being shared with architects or contractors.
Decorators say it's largely a question of getting people to look at what they have and as Benjamin Dhong, a designer in San Francisco, put it, "fall in love all over again." Elissa Cullman, in New York, called it "fluffing." Eric Cohler called it "nuance." Kara Mann in Chicago called it "Zsa-Zsa-ing," after Ms. Gabor, who was strong on surprise. Ms. Mann, returning to a shocking orange dining room she created, refreshed it by wallpapering the ceiling.
In speaking with designers across the country, a primer began to emerge. Yes, you're dealing with arrangement, color, light, furnishings, paint, fabric, etc.—the ABCs of decorating—but at a sophisticated, secondary level.
Edit. "Take everything out of the room, then assess," said Amy Lau, a New York designer, on the theory that you do your best thinking about getting dressed when you're naked. "You accumulate tons of stuff. Take it all out, then layer it back in, and clean it up."
Brad Ford explained, "I go in and get rid of stuff: clutter-editing. Your eye doesn't know where to land. People can't believe the difference, without having spent any money." And clear corners. "If the corners are clear, your eye says, 'I can see the room.'"
Matthew Patrick Smyth put it this way: "Purge. Things from trips, gifts, what the kids bring home. You lose perspective. 'Do I need this in my life?' The answer is 'No.' Look at the place cold, as though you were showing up for a party. Think 'thrift shop.'"
"Keep an eye on everything," Mr. Smyth continued. "We're not looking at our bedding, our dusty lampshades, the six-year-old sisal rug, towels, what's faded or uncleanable. You can only wash something so many times."
Look at yourself. "Peoples' lives change," Ms. Cullman said. "They become more formal, less formal." If you entertain more now, concentrate on the public spaces, like the living and dining rooms, how they look and work. If you spend more time with the family, concentrate on the family room, the kitchen and bedrooms.
"Decide how you want the room to feel," decorator Elizabeth Martin suggested. And prioritize decisions accordingly. "Identify why you like what you like," Ms. Lau said. "Is it color, memory, texture?"
Buy a few beautiful new vases: they tend to "date" quickly, said Mr. Smyth. And spend a portion of the money you saved by not replacing the sofa on a budget for fresh flowers, advised decorator Daniel Pafford. "Living things make an enormous difference," he said.
Repurpose a room. "Create another 'task' place, like a small table for a meal in a bedroom, or a desk in a living room," Markham Roberts, a New York decorator, said. "Adding a different-type piece of furniture to a room changes the way you use it."
Create unpredictable relationships. "Move things from room to room; what gives pieces their energy is their relation to each other," said Mr. Dhong, who moved a grand dining room sideboard into a hallway, where it was "out of context, and younger-looking. You looked at it." Mr. Dhong uses chests of drawers as bedside tables, which create convenient surfaces for lamps and stacks of books.
Organize, and organize richly. "Hermès makes great straw trays, where things can be organized," said Stan Topol, an Atlanta decorator. "Make the functional beautiful. You need to do it anyway, so buy a great thing, instead of an ordinary thing, that organizes your life." Mr. Ford observed, "It's important to contain things. Big baskets in a family room or playroom, to throw everything in. Beautiful woven baskets, with lids, create texture too."
Identify the 'dealmakers' in a room. Ms. Cullman and her senior designer, Tracey Pruzan, advised focusing on the signature pieces, and letting them dictate what happens next, because "it's hard to know what to change" when you start, said Ms. Pruzan. It might be a favorite piece, an expensive one you don't want to replace, an inherited item or the biggest thing in the room—but it's staying.
"Make it the focus," advised Amanda Nisbet, a New York designer, who wrestled with two red sofas a client wouldn't give up. She put them in the middle of the room, where they looked brave, not embarrassed, she said.
Make a built-in bookcase stand out as though it were an important piece of furniture by painting it and distinguishing it from the wall, said interior designer Grant K. Gibson, in San Francisco.
Reverse historical direction. Switch out a traditional coffee table for a radical period piece (steel and glass '70s-era, say) to punch some of the stuffing out of the upholstered pieces that surround it, suggested Mr. Gibson. Or replace it with small moveable tables that can be pulled up to seats, said Mr. Topol, who also pleads for tighter seating arrangements, so that people can actually hear each other.
Sara Story, a New York designer, was called back into a Crosby Street apartment, where she replaced a traditional dining room chandelier, above a traditional dining table, with a contemporary glass pendant.
"It totally changed the room," she said. Similarly, Ms. Story replaced a Jonathan Adler rug in the contemporary living room with a traditional Tibetan silk rug, making that space in the loft-like apartment "an elegant room," she said.
Make the small stuff big. Because it was refreshment and not renovation, Ms. Story devoted an inordinate part of the budget to details, like throw pillows. She commissioned a handwoven fabric from a design atelier in Bogota, Colombia, through Cristina Grajales, a gallery in New York, making the pillows "objects of luxury" rather than accents.
Do some big stuff on the quiet. Aurélien Gallet, in New York, will adjust a sofa's shape, when the piece is taken apart to reupholster, making it deeper or higher for the client's comfort. Mr. Topol, in Atlanta, will repitch dining chairs, adding to the fill in the back so that the chair "sits" more perfectly when used.
Paint. "Color is the cheapest thing you can do," Mario Buatta said. "Color changes the point of view of a room." He once talked a client out of replacing all her furniture. "The walls went from yellow to dark green and the furniture came to life again."
"Paint the ceiling instead of the walls," Mr. Smyth said. "That's what the light's bouncing off of. The trim too—it gets beat up, with vacuums, fingerprints. Give the trim and the doors a coat of paint and everything looks fresh. I've lived with the same glazed red for the last 20 years, but I play with the trim."
Ms. Ridder left a pink bedroom un-repainted, but painted a tailoring trim in a chocolate brown at the walls' edges, to sharpen the room's angles.
The sad truth. "You pass the five or the six year mark, and you get that phone call," said Jeffrey Alan Marks in Santa Monica. Mr. Marks is currently one of the Bravo Network's "Million Dollar Decorators." "Things wear out."
"Eighty percent of clients want to replace things with a new version of what they had," he said. "I try to talk them out of it. That's the true art of decorating."
Mr. Gallet was planning to reupholster a piece in a new fabric when the client told him, "I love this pattern," he recalled—referring to the fabric that was already there. The decorator reordered the old pattern in blue, not red.
Everyone was happy.
Have you had Some Work Done?
Dialog With Pauletta Pascarella
May 21st, 2011 by Author
Mention Matthew Patrick Smyth in conversation and everyone will remark
about his warm, genteel, and generous nature. Expert at the interweaving of European and American traditions, Michael
Patrick Smyth’s rooms hold art, architecture and design as the sacred trinity. Another threesome, which intrigues Matthew, is his homes in Paris, Connecticut and New York City, seen in several of the photos below.
I first became enamored by Matthew Patrick Smyth’s work, when I saw his dining room at the Hampton Designer Show house at Villa Maria, in Watermill, NY. See Heather Clawson’s photos and story of his current room, at the 2011 Kips Bay Show House here.
I have run into, the always sharply dressed Matthew, in the streets of Paris
and have broken bread with him, but I really got to know him through reading his terrific new book, Living Traditions: Interiors by Matthew Patrick Smyth, by Monacelli Press. With a wonderfully honest introduction, the book with principal photography by John Gruen, reads like a short story. In the book, he says, “Much of interior design is about saying yes while saying no-or, more accurately, narrowing down the options.” This curatorial approach is why Matthew Patrick Smyth is the lexicon of design grace.
Enjoy The Good Company of Matthew Patrick Smyth.
D: Biggest thrill in your life?
MPS: When I got my first apartment in NYC. It was a six floor walk-up studio, for $200 a month. I was thrilled!
D: Critical moment in a designer’s life?
MPS: When you realize you have made the right career move.
D: If you were not an Interior Designer, what profession would you like to explore?
MPS: I would be a grade school art teacher. Perhaps, I will someday.
D: What can someone do to grab your attention?
MPS: Show me a sincere smile.
D: What design lesson did you learn the hard way?
MPS: Measure and re-measure.
D: What does Design mean to you?
MPS: That which makes life, both functional and beautiful.
D: What is your idea of the perfect weekend?
MPS: Thursday night flight to Paris.
D: What is your signature look or signature quality of your life and work?
MPS: Thought out and appropriate for the client and space.
D: What is your working studio like?
MPS: It can range from being terribly neat to a terrible mess and back again. I prefer the neat end but….
D: What makes you feel most empowered?
MPS: My car parked downstairs and ready to go.
D: What methodology do you use to begin your work?
MPS: First things first. It’s easy for me to get distracted, so I have to work at it.
D: Where did your creative journey begin?
MPS: When I transferred schools in third grade, we were given a coloring exercise. When the nun collected them, she held mine up and asked who did it. I thought I was in trouble! However, to her, it was the best. This moment started my new identity of being able to draw and color. I always drew, but up to that point, I had assumed everyone did.
D: Who are your current Design Icons?
MPS: David Easton and believe it or not… Philippe Starck.
D: Words to live by?
MPS: Whatever floats your boat!
D: Favorite charity?
MPS: Kips Bay Boys and Girls Club.
Photographs used by permission, copyright © Matthew Patrick Smyth.
In Good Company:
Matthew Patrick Smyth
New York Magazine
By Wendy Goodman
Published Apr 27, 2011
A new design book called Living Traditions: Interiors by Matthew Patrick Smyth ($50, The Monacelli Press) finally launched last week, and I have to say, it was a long time coming. Ever since Matthew started his practice, in 1987, he has been urged by his friends and clients like Gloria Vanderbilt to do a book of his own designs. But Matthew is that rare bird in the design business: a true gentleman with virtually no ego. His work is elegant and understated, and he always leaves enough room for his client’s tastes to shine through, as exemplified in the décor of this family’s living room, which had to hold its own in the midst of a bold Yin Jin painting.
Photo: John Gruen
Here is Matthew’s own family room in the Colonial-era country house he shares with his partner, writer Jean Vallier, in Connecticut. I love that he left the original beamed ceiling alone, while adding a simple new stone surround by local stonemason, Andy Savage, to the fireplace. Where else would you want to curl up on a Sunday afternoon?
Photo: John Gruen
Matthew designs homes to be lived in, and he’s not afraid of a little tasteful clutter. This bedside table in his bedroom in Connecticut is filled with small, meaningful possessions. I like that he used the seat underneath as an impromptu bookshelf.
Photo: John Gruen
Part of the fun and creativity of good design is taking something and reinterpreting it in a different scale or with different materials. Matthew commissioned the sheet-steel mirror in this living room after he saw a much smaller version of it in a Greenwich Village shop.
Photo: John Gruen
Beekman Place has always been a staid bastion of formality on Manhattan’s East Side, but for this neighborhood client, Matthew smashed expectations to create his own fresh palette of stipple-glazed walls. The 1940s Algerian lanterns are a great mix of the modern and traditional.
Photo: John Gruen
Sometime less is more—especially if the less in question is a James Mont table and chairs beside an original James Dean photomosaic by Robert Silvers. Perfection.
Photo: John Gruen
Matthew created some surprising juxtapositions in this Connecticut farmhouse, positioning a graphic Carroll Dunham painting next to a strong-lined piano next to a beautifully patterned ottoman.
Photo: John Gruen
The cover of Matthew’s first book.
Photo: John Gruen
The Under-the-Radar A-Lister
Matthew Patrick Smyth Like the rooms he designs for his city and country clients, Matthew Patrick Smyth is easy-going, tailored and unpretentious. The interior designer, who divides his time between homes in Manhattan, Paris, and Sharon, CT, has built an enviable career by combining his good taste and sense of appropriateness with a genuine concern for his clients’ needs and happiness. In his new book, Living Traditions: Interiors by Matthew Patrick Smyth (Monacelli Press; $50), he details his decorating rules in carefully chosen words and lush photographs by John Gruen (who lives in Lakeville, CT.) “I’ve never doubted that rules exist for a reason,” he writes. “In design, they are essential and must be taught. Right and wrong do exist in matters of planning, scale, proportion, the proper height relationship of chairs to tables.”
One of his favorite rules is One Mirror Per Room. “What I love about it is that it directs my thinking: it tells me to stop and weigh all the options from every angle before making a decision,” he says. “Of course you can have more than just one mirror in a room. Practically speaking, though, it’s imperative to consider what the first mirror will do before even contemplating adding a second. Then it’s critical to analyze what effect that second—or third, fourth or fifth—will have. Will it reflect something it shouldn’t? Will it create visual chaos? Will it add more light?”
Smyth became a household name in northwestern Connecticut when he oversaw the renovation and redecoration of The White Hart (“Salisbury’s White Hart Inn Gets a Makeover”, RI April 14, 2010). When it abruptly closed last fall amidst much finger-pointing (“Say It Ain’t So!” RI, November 2, 2010), nobody blamed him for the inn’s downfall. Indeed, the owners, Roxanne and Scott Bok, found no fault with his work. “I’m working on a project with them right now,” says Smyth, and the farmhouse he renovated for them (“A Cinderella House Makes Its Debut for Charity” RI, September 4, 2008) is featured in his book.
Smyth has had a house (see below) in Sharon for eight years. “I used to spend weekends on the other side of the Hudson, but then I came to Connecticut to work with Carol and Richard Kalikow and fell in love with the area,” he says. “I love living here and have made so many friends here because of parties at Dan Dwyer’s,” he says, referring to the sociable owner of Salisbury’s Johnnycake Books, who will be hosting a book signing for Smyth on April 30 from 5 - 7 p.m.
What makes Smyth’s book especially enchanting is his honesty, explaining how a tuxedo model at an upstate New York mall became a globetrotting decorator with clients in places like the Hamptons and Palm Beach. Although he originally envisioned the Sharon house as a retreat, he keeps getting jobs that keep him busy on weekends. He says it is so much less frustrating to work on a house than an apartment. “It’s especially easier for the tradesmen,” he notes. “They can work past five o’clock if they want . They don’t have to wait for service elevators. They don’t have to worry about parking tickets!”
He explains that creating a coffee table book about your work has become a right of passage for top tier decorators. “It used to be the Kips Bay Show House,” says Smyth, who will be participating in the prestigous show house that raises funds for after-school programs for underprivileged children in New York City. “But now all the clients expect to see a book. It’s important to be on the shelf with your peers.” With Living Traditions, he’s now officially part of the interior design canon.
A room off the kitchen in Smyth’s Sharon house boasts original beams and a fireplace with a new stone surround.
Many of the pieces in Smyth’s living room are leftovers from Kips Bay Show Houses.
Smyth turned his upstairs landing into a light-filled reading room.
At Home with Interior Designer
Matthew Patrick Smyth
Matthew Patrick Smyth
Matthew Patrick Smyth in his cozy workspace which overlooks East 72nd Street.
Matthew Smyth lives an enviably split existence between New York and Paris, where he shares an apartment with his French partner of 23 years. Not surprisingly his home has some wonderful Clignancourt finds from the flea market, and, for someone who admits to a kind of restlessness, the apartment is lived in and warm, filled with the pleasing objects of someone with an immediate eye for what is going to work. You spend a lot of time in Paris, where you have an apartment. What do you see in terms of design differences and aesthetics between there and here? (And how’s your French?)
My French gets worse every year. Everybody speaks English now, even the cab drivers. [With regard to] my clients and my work, I always tell them if they are going to go shopping that they are not going to get a deal. You can’t think about the money but you have more of a selection. You’re not subject to what the antique dealer here has decided to bring in.
What do you think of the way Europeans often let things become worn or even battered?
You know when you think about the architecture they’re surrounded with, it’s all sort of a little worn, whereas we live in a very crisp, new society, especially in New York, where it’s more about building for the future.
Do you think that is also a reflection of new money versus history?
New money isn’t what ‘new money’ used to be. There’s a lot of younger people with money, more so than in the past. It’s such a fast moving world they live in and it’s how they make their money now. Wall Street is much speedier place than it used to be. They want creature comforts but I don’t think they emotionally get attached to things the way that we do. It’s very transient now. Marriages break up, people flip houses faster and I’m not sure there is that emotional attachment to the home, at least not as strong as it used to be. They want what they get at a W hotel…the sheets and bedding and so on.
Does that mean we’ve gone back to the days at the turn of last century when living in hotels was the ultimate in glamour?
Exactly. And you know when you live in New York it’s not a bad thing. Could I live in a hotel in New York? Maybe. It lends itself to floating in and out. You’re busy. Maid service every day would be great for me.
If you had to choose one life, between Paris and here, where would you choose?
Forever? Go into exile? Let me think. I think here [New York]. You know it’s home and it works. Paris is fun to float in and out but it’s a tough city to do business. It’s a slower process and I’m not sure I can slow down that much.
Are you restless?
Yeah, I like to keep moving. I’m going to Paris on Friday night, then to London on Tuesday and back to New York by Thursday.
But you do seem close to your family.
My family is originally from Ireland. I’m the eldest of five. My father died when I was 17. [My siblings and I] just bought a restaurant together in Gloversville, NY. My brother is a chef. It’s just a little local restaurant. I don’t want to make it look chi-chi, I don’t want anyone to be intimidated; people have been going to it for 30 or 40 years. I don’t want to put them off.
Did you ever consider any other career than this one?
I thought I was going to be a photographer because I didn’t know I could be a decorator. In Florida, NY [where I grew up] there were no decorators! I didn’t know it existed until I met a couple of guys who were doing it. At 22 I had to make a decision. I was freaking out and it was really down to the money. Photography equipment was so expensive to invest in. It was a fifty-fifty thing. It was a funny thing. I found myself one day watching Dick Cavitt and he was interviewing Katherine Hepburn talking about being a famous actress and she said that if you narrowed things down you could have anything you want, but you have to narrow it down. If you don’t you’re never going to get anything. And I thought okay, I’ve got to do that. And then I really stayed focused.
A grand elevation of the Paris Opera hanging in the front hall was purchased in the 1960s at a Paris flea market.
What do you think of the current craze for mid-century design?
I just can’t believe all this furniture was being made during the war. When you think that all this French furniture was made in the forties – I mean Paris was under siege during the forties. I do like some of it but I think it is being over-used. That will settle down, like everything does.
What do you do if someone comes to you with a tiny one-bedroom apartment as a potential project?
It’s based on ‘Are they fun? Are they nice? Will the apartment look like something when it’s done?’ I just did a studio, like this little Holly Golightly apartment. And we recently took a young Russian girl who came into the office. She has a $25,000 dollar budget, which she is very proud of and she pulled out photographs of some of my work from four, five, six years ago. So she’s been focused on me since she’s been in school and I’m going to be her decorator someday. At this point I’m just giving her advice, telling where to go. I think she has the potential to be a good client as years go by.
A view of the master bedroom. The painting above the table was part of a series done by Frederic M. Grant for the 1928 Chicago World’s Fair. The sunburst mirror hanging above the bed was Matthew’s first purchase when he moved to Manhattan.
How do you go about recruiting your own new hires?
I’m interviewing now and it’s just mind-boggling what’s out there. You know interior design is very tedious and they don’t know it. The schools should warn them a little more. There’s a lot of paperwork and it’s boring. They think they’re going to picking out fabrics. They all want $47 000 to start – I love that. One said ‘I need to get $45 000 starting Monday,’ and I asked why? She said ‘Because I’m graduating Friday.’ I said ‘And what’s going to happen over the weekend?’
Do you ever go camping?
Hmmm…um … I went to a wedding in Spain a couple of years ago and I had to sleep in a cave…the first night was okay but the second night ...
Above, left: This 1996 abstract nude drawing by Bruce Edelstein was originally a loan from the Denise Cade gallery for the 1998 Kips Bay Showhouse. Matthew was so taken with it that he later went back to buy it for his entrance hall. Above, right: The small abstract print leaning against the gilded mirror from Paris was a gift from the Kouros gallery.
How about entertaining home? Do you like to invite people over?
I used to do parties all the time here in the apartment. I can pull a party together in an hour and a half. Behind this screen is shelving with all my party stuff, extra glasses and so forth. I turn the kitchen into a big bar. I’ve had 50 people in here. But I stopped after 9\11 for a while and then I’ve just never got back into the swing of it. I go out almost every night.
Do you ever Google people after a party?
Oh all the time! Have you ever been to ussearch.com? If you have somebody’s name, you can get their age – for free!
— Sian Ballen and Lesley Hauge
Matthew in his living room. The 1950s Paul Frankel chest of drawers nearby is made of cork and was purchased at The 20th Century Gallery in Hudson, New York. A collection of drawings from the Paris flea market hangs on the wall above the chest.
1st Dibs Introspective Magazine
Matthew Patrick Smyth
Empress of the Eye
Sneak Preview of Matthew Patrick Smyth's Design Book
This is the book I have been waiting for and when you see this exclusive first look I know you will want to add it to your design library.
Matthew Patrick Smyth's new book Living Traditions: Interiors by Matthew Patrick Smyth published by The Monacelli Press is in bookstores and on Amazon now.
It is beautiful.
Cover to cover, including 200 beautiful photos that, even though they are very high end, will inspire you, give you some great ideas and it is a damn good read!
Learn what it was like working for David Easton, how travel plays such a large part in his design inspirations and find out what rules he follows and those he doesn't. I know for a fact that even tho most of his projects have heafty budgets and he works with clients who have amazing art and collections, he doesn't shy away from a well designed chair from Crate & Barrel.
London, Paris, The Kips Bay Show House, country and city projects with terrific insight into what his clients ask for and design problems he has solved... exquisitely!
So, as I sat outside in the sun yesterday looking at my copy I was so thrilled for my dear friend.
And then as I read it a second time I noticed the acknowledgments... I found my name and was overwhelmed.
It was a lovely day!
Sneak Preview of
Matthew Patrick Smyth’s
10 Artful Decorating Ideas at the Kips Bay Decorator Show House
Top designers took over a New York mansion for the annual Kips Bay Decorator Show House charity event, filling the home with drop-dead gorgeous decor – and some unique and unexpected ways to decorate with art.
-By Orli Ben-Dor
All the room’s a canvas in Matthew Patrick Smyth’s dining room. These beautifully tailored curtains frame the views on the hand-painted wallpaper.
10 Artful Decorating Ideas
at the Kips Bay Designer
The New York Times
The Kips Bay Decorator Show House, Room by Room
In the dining room, a Japanese scene painted on silk and made by Gracie wallpaper. Matthew Patrick Smyth framed each wall with cotton curtains edged with a wool cuff. The chest is from the 17th century.
The Kips Bay Designer
tips & tidbits: matthew patrick smyth.
August 17, 2011
PHOTOGRAPHY BY PETER MARGONELLI
Imagine being handpicked to collaborate with a living legend like Gloria Vanderbilt. Are you nervous yet? If you answered yes, then we’re with you, but when New York-based Matthew Patrick Smyth got the call, he was as cool as the rooms he designs, and it shows. The two worked to recreate the look of Vanderbilt’s 1940s bedroom for a decorator show house, and Smyth nailed it. Dressing the walls and ceiling in silver foil and filling the room with vintage furniture and flowing fabrics, he transformed the space into what he calls “a little jewel box,” while remaining true to his classic understanding of interiors: “I tend to believe that the best trends to follow in interior design are ones that will endure.”
Tips & Tidbits:
Matthew Patrick Smyth
Matthew Smyth: The Accidental Interior Designer
Posted: Apr. 12th, 2011
PHOTO COURTESY OF MATTHEW SMYTH
Matthew Patrick Smyth's traditional middle class Irish Catholic upbringing did not include exposure to interior design. He discovered his accidental career path when attending a dinner party in Lake Forest, Illinois.
When his dinner partner vividly described the process of designing and weaving a custom rug for a home under construction, Smyth was intrigued. Smyth's business degree did not feed his passion, so he researched the field of interior design and discovered the work of legendary David Easton. Matthew Smyth instantly knew he wanted to work for Easton, but not until he completed an interior design degree and had experience working for another firm.
Even though Smyth's portfolio review for acceptance at the Fashion Institute of Technology was termed weak, they decided to take a chance on him. After graduating, Smyth was shocked to learn that 90 percent of interior design is paperwork. Smyth quickly learned the art of follow-up, persistence and not to believe what people said. When he began his career, his tools were the typewriter and mimeograph machine.
Interior designs complexity took time to learn. As Smyths experience grew, his instincts and speed increased. Every project had new problems with resources and suppliers and he quickly learned valuable problem solving skills. He worked extremely hard and fast and he learned never to assume.
It is typical in interior design to have an apprenticeship for three to five years. Right on schedule Smyth realized four years after joining Easton's firm that he had it, and by the end of his sixth year with Easton, he knew it was time to start his own firm.
Smyth shared common misconceptions about interior design. The best clients have tried it for themselves. They don't realize how much time is required and the frustration with making so many decisions. For example, a skilled designer can quickly narrow shopping for fabric from eighteen floors of showrooms to four specific ones that fit the clients taste.
Smyth doesn't mind if clients buy things on their own, but believes that when they shop online or at retail, their homes rarely express their unique personality. An interior designer offers custom design with resources and details that take years to master.
Interior design is a business. A designers job is to select good quality furnishings, professionally order the right things, organize projects, solve problems and get things done. Interior decorating is fun and games.
"The designer is responsible for so many things. We're directors in a movie. We appreciate the performers, and we rely on them. As designers, we see the artistic range and we look for artisans who are flexible and can be herded," said Smyth.
A few years ago, there was one time when Smyth felt a lack of chemistry when showing his portfolio to a prospective client. "I need to feel they can work with me and vice versa. This is a subjective and personal business, and I work with nice people who enjoy the process. I interview them in their home to get a sense of them, and then again in my office so they can see I have a real business. It is best if they interview other designers first."
What is his favorite compliment from a treasured client? "It looks like I did it myself and I knew what I was doing."
Smyth's favorite accessory is an Anglo-Indian sandalwood box given to him by a special client. If you look carefully in his new book, Living Traditions: Interiors by Matthew Patrick Smyth, you will see his "good luck" sandalwood box in more than one photograph.
Smyth dreams of working in the Dakota building in New York and designing and renovating a fabulous Georgian home on the West coast of Ireland. He loves the challenge and process of modernizing an older home while maintaining its historical integrity.
Smyths sartorial style is professional and sophisticated when in New York. You will never see him without a jacket in New York City even on 103 degree days. When he is not in the city, you might find him browsing unshaven at his secret obsession, Target, in jeans and a t-shirt. Smyths favorite quote? A recent guest at his home raved about his burnt cherry living room walls and said, "I wish I could go through life with these walls behind me."
The Accidental Interior Designer
Kips Bay House
Seeing a Room
Five Different Ways
Matthew Smyth shops online
for eBay showhouse