Interior designer Matthew Patrick Smyth
Make it beautiful and comfortable is Matthew Patrick Smyth’s design philosophy.
A credo that is evident in the interiors he creates for his clients throughout the United States and Europe. Matthew Patrick Smyth’s interior designs can be viewed in countless shelter magazines and in his book — Living Traditions.
Welcome to this month’s
Focus On: Interior Designer Matthew Patrick Smyth
Why Interior design?
I wanted to be a photographer, but I did not have the money for all of the equipment, etc. So, I applied to FIT’s Interior Design program instead. It was the best quick decision I ever made!
How would you describe your style?
Appropriate, edited and organized.
Do you have any design rules?
Many…Most I break, but having them in my mind hopefully keeps me from making too many errors.
Tell us a little bit about your first design project and how it felt to have control over your own vision? Were you pleased with the outcome?
It was an apartment located at 81st St and Park Ave…I was still working full time at David Easton’s office…Nights and weekends I worked on this apartment. It was fun…scary and the kiss of death. I gave notice at David Easton soon after it was done. It is still my favorite project, as it was my first. Sadly, the owner passed away recently and it was sold…But it still looked great 25 years later.
You are an interior designer. You also design fabric and wallpaper for Schumacher & Co. and a rug collection available through Peterson, Flynn and Martin. What field of design excites you the most?
I love designing rugs for PFM. One design can be interpreted in so many different techniques and look totally different. Designing products in general is rewarding as I am able to pool years of looking and researching together and come to a result that hopefully connects with the end user.
Do you have a favorite design book?
“The New York Times Book of Interior Design and Decoration” by Norma Skurka (1976). It was the first design book I ever bought and is still my favorite. I discovered David Easton in that book and decided that I wanted to work for him…5 years later I did!
Is there a science behind design?
I suppose the reaction of the brain to visual elements and the process of solving problems would put it in the science category. But I prefer to think that we add an element of art to the experience.
What keeps you motivated?
Do trends influence your work?
Yes and no…Trends are so vapid in the long run, but I guess we are subconsciously influenced by them. I do my best to avoid them more times than not, as they are usually over before a project is truly finished.
Do you have a design philosophy?
Make it beautiful and comfortable…It is that simple.
Do you collect and if so, what?
Do you have a favorite item in your possession? One that has traveled with you from home to home.
I have a French 1940s/ 50s convex sunburst mirror…I bought this mirror in the early 1990s at a flea market when I had no real extra money to get through the week. My paycheck cleared $90 and it cost $30…I handed over my lunch and bus money for the week and never regretted it. Something I still use and will never sell.
I imagine the process of designing an interior isn’t as flawless as the interiors we see in shelter magazines and interior design books. What has been your greatest challenge as an interior designer?
The pull of online shopping is a blessing and a curse. In some ways it has made life easier, but the spontaneity and uniqueness sometimes gets sidelined.
What design trend past or present you wish never happened?
Sputnik lighting fixtures.
What fundamental skill or skills would you advise an emerging designer to master?
If possible, LEARN TO DRAW…It’s how I communicate and get my ideas across in seconds.
What does every room need?
An organized and well thought out furniture floor plan. It is the core of what we do.
You are running out of a burning building and near the exit there’s a painting by Lucian Freud hanging to your left and a David Bomberg to your right which one would you save?
If I owned the building and the paintings, I would grab the Freud because it would do better at auction… (of course, I also appreciate his genius as an artist)… and I would need a new building! If not, I may save the Bomberg as he is the lesser known teacher who died in poverty and deserves to be remembered…He had few breaks in his lifetime; he was an interesting person and artist who influenced so many. I tend towards an emotional response in a crisis.
What exciting projects are you currently working on?
We are at the beginning stages of a house in Switzerland that I am looking forward to working on…and many apartments and houses on the East and West coasts for nice people…which is my main criteria at this point.
Have you ever turned down a project. If so, why?
Sure…Sometimes a project is meant for another designer and it’s best to let go early! But, I would do a lampshade for someone I liked!
What are your goals for 2017?