“Rooms are not theater sets, and design is not about making fiction come to life. Rooms should express the needs and personalities of the people who live in them now.” ~MPS
I really lament the disappearance of bricks and mortar shopping, most especially bookstores. Spending several hours riding the escalators between floors and disciplines at Barnes & Noble on Saturday was the norm for me. Two weekends ago I was upstate visiting some friends, and I noticed Matthew Patrick Smyth’s book ‘Living Traditions‘ on an ottoman. I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t seen it… furthermore I hadn’t seen him since we were introduced by an editor years ago. The pages and prose are an amazing account of his life’s experiences in interior design. Reading it prompted me to stop by his office to congratulate him on it’s publication.
While chatting I realized Matthew and I have a few things in common. We both were the go-to ‘artists’ in our Catholic Schools, we both moved to New York right after college, and we both tried our hands at several different creative ventures including photography. We also share a friendship with David Easton, who he began his career working with, and who imbued him with a masterful understanding of architecture, form, scale and proportion. One can see Easton’s influence in Matthew’s work, but look carefully and you can see the differences. Matthew has a love for all things Parisian. He maintains an apartment there to facilitate shopping everywhere from fine antique shops to the flea market. It can also be said that his aesthetic is more often about subtle color, texture, line, and provenance than a mix of riotous patterns more typical of an anglophile perspective. His rooms are at once historically informed, confident and relaxed.
I inevitably ask other design professionals their opinion about how life has changed for them in the digital age. “I frankly don’t know how we got things done before the internet. An antique dealer would call to tell me about a new piece, and I’d jump in the car for a 3 hour ride…, sometimes to be greatly disappointed. Now, 1st dibs has solved the problem.” He shared that speed can be a double-edged sword. “Clients expect interior design to happen at the same accelerated pace the rest of life travels at, which can be difficult to manage. We work harder, but I’m committed to exceeding my clients expectations whenever possible.”
I asked Matthew the one piece of advise he might give someone hopeful of establishing a career in interiors. “Never follow trends. History is far more reliable for the success and longevity of a room.” And perhaps more importantly, he shared with me that you must completely understand the floor plan you’re going to be working with. “I use the floor plan to number the necessary pieces, to choose the materials, to organize a schedule, to place orders and to keep track of things. Once everything is on the floor plan, it becomes a simple exercise in styling.” Easy for him to say!
Just before we ended our visit, Matthew gave me a signed copy of ‘Living Traditions’. Easy-going, talented, and generous of spirit. It’s no wonder he’s having such a celebrated career.
Matthew Patrick Smyth 136 East 57th Street New York 10022 212-333-5353