Design Experts

20 questions with Tommy Smythe

20 questions with Tommy Smythe Author: Style At Home

Design Experts

20 questions with Tommy Smythe

We've all seen Tommy Smythe rock as Sarah Richardson's main sidekick on Design inc. and Sarah's House, so we wanted to get to know the fabulous -- and funny! -- designer a bit better. Tommy joins us to answer 20 questions about his design inspirations, favourite movie interior and why we should avoid buying knock-offs.

1 If you could shadow any designer for a day, who would it be?

Tommy Smythe I get to shadow my favorite designer every day (Sarah), but besides her I would say Rose Tarlow -- I'm in awe of her! Also, Thomas O’Brien because we’re friends and he is just so talented and fun to hang out with.

2 Where do you look for an obscure source of inspiration?
TS It looks for me! I find inspiration everywhere -- I really do. Recently during the relentless Michael Jackson retrospective, I became inspired by the jacket he wore in the Thriller video. I'm doing a red and black kitchen based loosely on that.

3 Favourite restaurant?
TS I have one in every city I’ve ever been to! I tend to lump them into two categories; ‘old school’ and ‘new and exciting’. The dining room at the Carlyle Hotel in NYC designed by Mark Hampton is an all-time favourite. In Toronto, I love Scaramouche and Splendido – they never disappoint. Deluxe on Toronto's Ossington Ave. is a new-ish favourite too -- just don’t try to order bottled water there, because you'll get a major lecture!

4 What’s your favourite room to decorate?

TS I love to design hall spaces. Passageways are often neglected, yet we spend a great deal of time in them. These areas offer interesting opportunities for art and lighting and are great places to experiment with architectural embellishment. 

The ultra luxe dining room at the Carlyle Hotel in NYC, one of Tommy's favourite places to eat.


5 What’s your current paint colour obsession?

TS The recent passing of my dear friend and mentor, the great John Schofield Manuel, has made me nostalgic for his signature blue. It was by Para Paints and was called Solitary. The shade is very subtle, extremely elegant and feels perfect at every time of day -- just like everything John did.

6 If one song could be the soundtrack to your life, what would it be?
The Beatles' Help!

7 What’s the one store you could spend hours browsing?
I can’t choose just one! Aero Studios and Melrose House -- and any bookstore.

8 London, Paris or New York?
Yes please!

9 What do you consider to be the most iconic design piece of the past century?
Unfair question! Impossible to answer -- there are too many! Pass. 

10 If money were no object, what one thing would you buy?
A painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat. He has been a lifelong obsession. I've seen Julian Schnabel’s film, Basquiat, about a thousand times and would befriend Madonna just to get a close look at the masterpiece she owns by him. And, make no mistake, money would really have to be no object -- his work sells for millions.

 In Italian, a 1983 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat, a fave artist of Tommy's.


11 Favourite movie?

TS The Breakfast Club

12 What’s your favourite movie interior?
Gods and Monsters is still a major favourite -- perfectly articulated Hollywood glamour. I also loved Gosford Park (the upstairs and downstairs of the set).

13 What do you think is the easiest way to update a room?
I don’t believe in doing that the easy way -- sorry!

14 Best coffee table book?
Horst Interiors. It’s out of print and hard to find online, but worth the search (and the price!). It's the one book I pick up regularly and could never tire of. We also have the big Proust questionnaire book on our coffee table – it's our version of a guest book and I love to read what the people in our lives write inside.

15 What’s your fave way to spend a lazy Sunday?
Starbucks (Venti, 5-shot, half-sweet, sugar free vanilla Americano with soy) +  St. Lawrence Antiques Market + flower market + Summerhill Market for breakfast supplies + sofa with my boyfriend + movies and books and current magazines (still on sofa, still with boyfriend) + light dinner (still on sofa, still with boyfriend) + bed (actually in bed, not on sofa, but still with boyfriend).

16 Do you like to be the entertainer or be entertained?
I prefer to be entertained. Entertaining is great too, but being entertained edges out slightly, based on not having to clean up!


17 What do you think is the best renovation you can do to your home?
Whatever renovation suits your lifestyle! I'm a bit fed up of hearing about homeowners who feel that their reno simply has to be appropriate for resale. Life's too short to be designing one’s home to suit the next person who lives there -- do what’s right for you. 

18 What is your fave space that you've designed?
Always the last one I’ve completed, but if I had to choose one from the past, it would be the powder room in my former home on Carlton St. It was emerald green and black with a Macassar vanity, a lamp on the black marble countertop, and a chandelier that was my grandmother's. The combined elements were everything I think makes an interior feel Canadian: French, English, frontier (there were antlers on one wall!) and contemporary.

19 What’s the biggest design faux pas?
Fakes -- I know it's tempting to seek the look for less, but I don't like knock-offs. If you can, save up and buy the best you can afford. It’s worth the wait and it's infinitely more stylish to respect originality and integrity in design.

20 Marilyn, Audrey or Jackie?
Each is incomparable, but, let’s be honest, darling -- it’s Jackie. The other two were actresses.


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Design Experts

20 questions with Tommy Smythe