At Home with Interior Designer 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.
Living Traditions: Interiors by Matthew Patrick Smyth
Book signing April 30, 5 - 7 p.m.
12 Academy Street
Salisbury, CT; 860.435.6677