Inside design: Timothy Mather
Following an auspicious start with Canadian design giants Budd Sugarman and Brian Gluckstein, interior designer Timothy Mather has carved out a well deserved niche as one of the nation's top tastemakers. The Toronto-based principal of TM Design is one of about 75 designers included in the 13th edition of the prestigious Andrew Martin Interior Design Review (Andrew Martin International, 2009), and his work is also featured on the cover of Spectacular Homes of Toronto (Panache, 2008). Renowned for his transitional aesthetic tempered with warm, nostalgic nods to tradition, Timothy dishes on design and the tips and tricks he’s picked up on the path to preeminence.
Style at Home: What's the secret to pulling off a successful reno?
Timothy Mather: Creating a fictitious timeline as a reference point helps blur the distinction about when a project was finished. For example, if a house is a 1920s Georgian, there should be some stylistic references to that era inside—even if you’re doing something more contemporary. That will make the house feel consistent and give it longevity. A lot of my renovations are successful because people don't realize that a period home has been entirely rebuilt. Plus, there's nothing worse than a McMansion that combines a bit of Georgian, French and English, all layered on top of one another. There’s no consistency, and the house just looks like a bad movie set.
S@H: But you don't want it to come across as matchy-matchy either.
TM: Not at all, nor do you want something that looks like a museum. It's about creating integrity through consistency, which can be as simple as using the same colour of hardwood flooring throughout a house. I try to limit the number of materials; the greatest danger is getting caught up in the sheer number of options.
TM: When someone hires me, I like to come in fresh, with out preconceived ideas. I'm influenced by the architecture of the space, the people, and their possessions. I like to pull from my clients and exaggerate that character. A good designer will create a background that showcases clients in a flattering way, gives them a sense of comfort, and is welcoming for guests.
S@H: Is there a way of accomplishing those things without breaking the bank?
TM: Buy the best quality you can afford and amortize the cost over a number of years. Consider an Hermès belt. Sure, the initial cost is a lot, but it's an investment: you can wear it every single day, and even with a pair of $50 pants from the Gap, you can still get into the best restaurants. That's another point: mix the high with the low. Great design is still great design, regardless of price point. It goes back to the English country idea of mixing grand with humble.
S@H: Has your philosophy or approach to design changed over time?
TM: A designer, who once complained to me that his clients were all dying off, wanted to know how I maintained a strong base. I explained that it's because I'm changing with my clients. At Gluckstein Design Planning, Brian was always on my case, saying, "Tim, you’re a vibrant, stylish guy and you dress really well—you should decorate a little younger." I’m working on that; I'm always trying to evolve and create my own style. Once they’re ready for a renovation, most clients want something younger, more relevant and current. Adapting is key to surviving in this business.