i can’t think of anyone who i have done more blog posts on than interior designer Michael S. Smith, therefore, it’s such an honor and a delight to have him featured in the first MDS interviews of 2013.
someone asked me the other day, if you could have any other designer design one of your homes who would it be? not an easy question, however, the first person that came to my mind for many reasons was Michael.
there are very few homes i could walk right into and live in. i could be at home in any of michael’s projects, especially a home he did probably 15 years ago in monticeto, california, that was featured in elle decor. one of my first favorite homes posts featured this home appropriately titled sentimental. the open aired california white interior he created for this space with chinoiserie and portuguese blue and white tiles has defined beauty in my mind.
michael was also one of the first designers to reach out to me early on in my blogging to thank me sincerely for all the posts i had done on his work, his homes, his books and his showroom. since then we have had many inspiring chats.
and i know you all know this, but michael also designed the white house for president obama. isn’t it nice to know that somehow in between all his projects, his collections and his books, he still has time to read a few blogs.
i hope you enjoy this interview with Michael S. Smith- i sure did!
MSS- I rely on others to define my style since it’s ever-evolving. But, I’ve heard it described as “updated traditional” or “a juxtaposition of modern and traditional.” I don’t want to be restricted or roped in to thinking of myself as only one thing.
Michael’s Bel-air home featured- updated traditional style- california style- elle decor
MDS- Where did you grow up and how do you think that influences your work?
MSS- I grew up in an aesthetic, design-oriented family in Newport Beach, CA. The area is very much a culture of set rules of what houses were supposed to look like. So, for me, not sticking to a certain sense of style – a California style – just wasn’t a part of it. But even things like seeing the fog on eucalyptus leaves as I rode my bike to school each morning helped define my idea of a California room. It’s a bit second nature when you grow up in it.
Cindy Crawford and Rande Gerbers Malibu Master bedroom- california style- elle decor
MDS- If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
MSS- I’d be a real estate developer. I always loved building as a kid – blocks, Legos. I built an underground city on graph paper. I also love organization and structure. One of the things I do to relax is check out the rental markets.
Michael’s new home in Hombly Hills
MDS- Who or what is inspiring you right now?
MSS- I am captivated by the Billy Baldwin 70s aesthetic right now. Basically, if you take away the pop, groovy 70s you get a “hippie meets casual.” Think Bob Evans or bamboo matchstick shades or a Karl Springer table covered in batik. It’s sexy without being sinister; an interesting balance of Bohemian with a sense of lightness.
Billy Baldwin designed Manhattan apartment
Bob Evans- 1974
MDS- What is the favorite room in your home?
MSS- My bedroom in NewYork. There’s a crazy rock crystal chandelier in it that appears differently throughout the day. It’s great to wake up and fall asleep to it because it has this magical, other-worldly quality to it.
Michael’s Master bedrooom in NYC- Architectural Digest
MDS- Is there anything you obsessively collect?
MSS- Karl Springer. Warhol drawings as much as I can, specifically the black and white pieces from the late 70s and early 80s. There’s also a pair of silvery-gold Converse tennis shoes they just discontinued. I buy up every pair I can find.
Karl Springer dining chairs
MDS- Fill in the blank: “I could never own too many ____________ .”
MSS- I could probably own too much of anything. But, if I had to pick something: houses. There’s a particular cotton-linen J. Crew navy cardigan I have quite a few of too.
Malibu estate designed by Michael
MDS- If you could decorate anyones home – who’s would it be and why?
MSS- Beyoncé. I just think she’s so great. Her whole presentation: it’s so together. I love someone who is incredibly strong and professional.
Beyonce performing at President Obama’s first inauguration
MDS- What do you want to be known for?
MSS- I think I don’t know yet. A question better asked at the end of my career.
Monticeto estate designed by Michael- Sentimental
open aired california white interior
blue and white portuguese tiles
chinoiserie wall papered bedroom
MDS- What do you think is chic, stylish and glamorous?
MSS- People who are really confident and can move the needle forward in an intellectual way. They are truly chic, stylish and glamorous. Of course someone can have a veneer of those things – photos and moments are ephemeral – but depth is the really interesting thing.
Michael’s new book arriving in may- Building Beauty: the Alchemy of Design
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