So Canadian eh? : Tommy Smythe

I am beyond giddy about this week's guest!!

He really doesn't need much introduction. Known for his signature glasses and wit, he has worked alongside another fabulously amazing Canadian designer to create drool worthy spaces. 

Please welcome.........

Tommy Smythe, 


THE Tommy Smythe!

He is

Who doesn't know Tommy? He has worked alongside his design partner-in-crime, the fabulous Sarah Richardson ! I love watching the two work together,  their shopping escapades and design quandaries are always so entertaining. His remarks and comments always make me laugh. Not only does he possess wit and charm but has such impeccable taste.
 What is not to love?

I have gushed about his amazing design talent here and here. He is the design genius behind my all time favourite kitchen. I love his sense of style and talent for mixing classic pieces, high and low pieces and adding a dash of whimsy to create an elegant timeless space. 

In addition to his TV role he also contributes to Style at Home magazine each month,  sharing us his must-haves, favourites and design tips. 

I am envious of those lucky Canadian design bloggers wa-a-a-y on the other side of Canada, who had the opportunity to meet him when he came to speak at their recent meet-up. Well, wouldn't you know it, we on the west are planning a meet-up as well in September. 

Tommy, we love you too - **wink, wink, nudge, nudge**

Tommy is one of my favourite designers. I think he would fabulous to work with, there would be so much you could learn, sigh...maybe in another life.

Each space he decorates and styles is always a hit with me. My all-time favourite kitchen, one that has circulated around the net, is a Tommy Smythe original. 

Isn't it gorgeous?


More of his amazingly decorated spaces.


What is your background? Your education? Have you always wanted to be a designer?

Like a lot of people, I didn't know what I wanted to do until I was well into my 20s.  I always had an aptitude for creating beautiful surroundings for myself, but hadn't really considered it as a career until a little later on in life.  I briefly considered enrolling in design school but after consulting a few industry veterans I decided to just get started.  I actively sought out and developed friendships with like-minded designers who could mentor and guide me while I soaked up every bit of knowledge I could get.  
My grandmother was a designer and had 5 homes while I grew up, so the constantly changing environments of my childhood were a major influence as well.

Who would you say is your greatest influence/mentor when it comes to design?

I have many!  The great American designers of the 20th century have been a huge influence - Dorothy Draper, Sister Parish, Albert Hadley, Billy Baldwin and Mark Hampton to name a few.  My great Canadian design mentor was the late, great J.S. Manuel.  He guided my early career and was like a grandfather to me.  I still miss his guidance and his presence in my life.  Thomas O'Brien is also a very supportive and dear friend.  Sarah is a major source of inspiration and has been a compass for me in my work and in my life for 10 years now.

What did you do before you joined Sarah Richardson as her witty and fabulous co-host?

Good question!  I can hardly remember a time when we weren't cavorting around together...BUT there is always a past, isn't there dahling!!
I was a bus boy and waiter for many years prior to my foray into the world of design (and later design TV) - I'm very proud of that work and experience.  We are in the service industry - no matter how exciting and glamorous we consider our work to be - and my restaurant training is called upon on a daily basis in this work.  Managing expectations, needs, making people feel special and taken care of are all part of it.  I think restaurant training should be mandatory in our culture (like French military service!).

Where do you go for inspiration for your designs? What would you say is your design “style”?

Travel is a constant source of inspiration!  As for my design approach...I don't consider a room complete until it has the right balance of vintage and modern elements.  Trends and whimsy are never really a focus - I'm mostly after a feeling of timelessness and elegance and gracious living.  Rooms should feel as though the furniture and art within them have been collected over time and curated with a sense of personal history.

If you could meet anyone, (or maybe you already have!) who would it be?

I would love to meet Albert Hadley - I think he is the greatest living interior designer.  He has also LIVED an amazing life.  I want to be him when I grow up!

What can homeowners do to their homes to get the most bang for their buck?

The only way to decorate inexpensively and WELL is to be patient.  Wait for the right the markets and garage sales for the BEST stuff at low prices...visit auctions.  I truly believe there's no easy or quick fix, but I also know from experience that slow and steady wins the race!

If one were to purchase an investment piece for their home, what would you recommend?

Buy the best art you can afford.  Nothing makes a more personal statement or brings as much long-term enjoyment as artwork.

What is one décor faux pas that makes you cringe?

Oh my!  There are so many!  I guess one of the worst and most common mistakes has to do with scale of furnishings.  Everyone seems to buy into the 'bigger is better' philosophy.  If you scale things to the size of the room you're designing, the furniture will look so much better and the room will actually FUNCTION.  I can't tell you how many living rooms I've encountered with two GIGANTIC chairs in them and nothing else.  Not good peeps.

What tips do you have for aspiring designers?

Work really hard.  Care about making home beautiful and functional for the people who live there - not you.  publish your work wherever and whenever possible - the world needs to share in your creativity!

What do you like to do in your free time?

Travel (when I can afford it - boy is it getting expensive to be me these days!) and reading are my favorite activities.  My family is a really big part of my after work life too.  I have three sisters and two nieces and a nephew as well as amazing and supportive parents - they all keep me pretty busy when I'm not flying somewhere. (reading this answer back, I'm noticing I don't mention dating anywhere...this is a problem! lol).

What are your aspirations for the future?

I have so many - I would love to do a book someday, a line of furniture, fabrics, lighting - I have a lot of ideas.  I've always wanted to have a shop too.  But that's my semi-retirement plan, so not for a while (let's hope!).

As a Canadian designer, do you think you have a uniquely "Canadian" perspective when it comes to your designs? What are your views on the role Canadian design plays in the world design scene

The work of Canadian designers is absolutely on the world stage now.  I think we bring a unique perspective and point of view.  If you examine our culture and experience as a Nation - we bring influences from England, France, The U.S. and just about anywhere else you can think of.  Toss it all into the salad and you've got Canadian Design.  It's an eclectic mix, but when done right; isn't that everyone's favorite design style?  It sure is mine!

Tommy, you have no idea how thrilled I am that you were willing to be interviewed for my So Canadian, eh? series. I am truly honoured to have you here! You are an inspiration to us all! If you ever need a sidekick for your own design show, er...well..I can be funny too {and love to shop as well} 
{Did I just say that out loud?}

XO Barbara


  1. What a fantastic interview Barbara & Tommy! Who better represents the epitomy of Canadian style? I literally ate up every word. And Tommy, I would buy from your furniture/fabric/lighting line in a heart beat!! Keep up the fabulous work.

    PS. Barbara, thanks for the link love!! xo

  2. Great interview...that just goes to show you that something you either have or not...of course you do have to have taste which he has an abundance of. And, I hope you get some warm weather with sunshine real soon :)

  3. Barbara, this series has been so much fun! I'm another huge fan of Tommy's work, and am always waiting to see more of his work. A book would be great!

  4. I absolutely adored this inside peak into Tommy's world. I so admire his fabulous style and relatable charm...a fabulously real interview!!

  5. Fabulous interview Barbara - I'm a huge fan of Tommy and his work too, well done!!

  6. Another brilliant interview Barbara! I just love Tommy and his work, and especially his hilarious personality. :) Can't wait to see who is next!

  7. wowsers - love that you got a chance to interview this Tommy. He's so incredibly talented, and how cool to have a sneak peek into that fabulous life! Always looking forward to his next project :)

  8. Oh, Barbara, I just devoured this interview! I am loving your Canadian interview series.
    I have been fortunate to meet Tommy in real life, twice....both at the IDS show in Toronto. I'm sure he doesn't remember me....but I certainly remember him. His kitchen is also in my inspiration file as one of the best kitchens.
    And like your other readers, I would so be scooping up any Tommy designed products, that he produces in the future.

  9. We SOOOOOO want Tommy to come visit us in the west!!! And I absolutely want a Tommy Smythe book on my coffee table... when I get a coffee table ~ I'm doing the slow gather thing, but not necessarily for the reasons Tommy suggested!! Such a fantastic interview Barbara & Tommy. I ate up every word!!

  10. That was incredible!!! Reading this interview was like having a real conversation with Tommy. Can't wait until he does a book! Fabulous!

  11. I'm so excited that you got the interview with Tommy-you didn't disappoint when you said it was someone fabulous! I love his sense of style, but more so, his personality and his attitude about waiting for the perfect things to finish a room affordably and well.

  12. Barbara, you did a fantastic job ...... way to go girlfriend. I can relate to Tommy when he references his "old job" and the restaurant training he's had really helped him out with working with people to make them happy etc. I think those "military" type jobs DO really set a good foundation. I also love that he didn't really know what he wanted to do until he was in his 20's.

  13. I really enjoyed this! Tommy, it would be an extreme pleasure to meet you if you came to the West coast!

    Fabulous interview Barbara. The info really made me think and believe all is possible.

    I'm off to take Tommy's advice and go forth and make killer interiors. I needed to read this today. :)


  14. What a wonderful interview! He is certainly one of the most influential voices in Canadian design. I so appreciate his thoughts on art and creating a space over time. Would love a book, fabric, etc.

  15. I love how down-to-earth he sounds. Just like one of us, and yet so blinking talented!!! Thanks, Barbara!!

  16. I knew this week's guess was going to be Tommy! He's such a funny and talented guy. I missed him at the last design blogger meet-up, but had a chance to talk with him at IDS11 in January. He's even funnier in real life than he is on TV! And he has a great sense of style and a great attitude. I'd love to see him get his own show one day. Wouldn't it rock to be his sidekick?! :-)

  17. LOVE this interview, Tommy and Barbara! It's always so fantastic to see where great designers come from and to get a sneak peak at where they're headed in their design careers! Tommy, you are one of my all time favourites and I love your philosophy that decorating a home takes time and true!
    ~Lily from Birch + Bird

  18. Oh Barbara! This has to be one of my favourite posts you've done so far. Everyone loves Tommy! The guy is so talented, but he's also so funny and kind in person!! Loved ready all about him... what an inspiration he is for those of us who want to get into the design world! Thanks so much for featuring him! :)

  19. "I'm mostly after a feeling of timelessness and elegance and gracious living. Rooms should feel as though the furniture and art within them have been collected over time and curated with a sense of personal history."

    This is exactly why I love his work.

    Wonderful interview, Barbara!

  20. I love this interview and his design rocks! His work is always eclectic, elegant and beautiful!

    I would love to see him with his own TV show, he's so fun to watch and he's super talented as well!


  21. I just caught up with my reading Barbara. What great posts you have here. And I'm so sorry I missed your giveaway. Yay for Alissa though. Boy do I wish you were living close by. I am swimming in indecision and just keeping a day ahead of my carpenter who keeps asking me what I want? You mean I'm supposed to know? Hardly time for blogging or reading blogs. Looks like a beautiful location for your camping trip. Hope your summer is going well.

  22. Oh my goodness. Lucky, lucky you!!! Tommy's amazing. I was equally bummed to miss the CDN design bloggers meet-up in TO and hear Tommy speak. He's hilarious, sweet and so talented.
    Love this interview ;)


  23. I really hope he takes you up on your hints about September. Great to hear from Tommy. I love his wit and am pretty sure we were meant to be besties. Maybe I could add an e to the end of my last name and pretend to be his wife:)

  24. Well, I've got the restaurant training, and I agree with him! Love his comment about timelessness and elegance. Makes me feel better about not always being "on trend". ;)

  25. Love the interview! Thanks for the great read and the aspiration for rest of us! Love Tommy and his style! Always very inspirational and so much to learn from.

  26. Another fabulous interview Barbara! Its so wonderful to hear style advice and encouraging words direct from our design icons like Tommy. His spaces are truly timeless.

  27. This interview was such a treat to read. Tommy is a Canadian Design Icon, and I've followed his work for many years. His work is classic and timeless, with amazing attention to detail. He has the incredible ability to design a room that shows like one, great piece of art.

  28. Fabulous to both of you Tommy and Barbara!

    I agree with Tommy that Designing spaces for the client, and not for yourself. Well said Tommy.

    I would love to see Tommy here in the west for the fall, and have the chance to shake his hand and tell him what a presence he is to Canadian Design.

    The Simply Inspired Home

  29. Love the interview, thanks Barbara for having the gumption to contact Tommy and thanks Tommy for offering up your precious time and valuable advice.

  30. well well well well well!...Thank your Barb thank you Tommy!.WOW!

  31. Thank you Barbara for bringing Tommy to us with your interview! What a great interview! :-) LOVE Tommy. He is so funny. And his designs are just pure heart. You can almost feel the pulse in each space. Wouldn't it be fantastic if Tommy joined the meet-up out West in September ;-) ;-) ;-)

  32. I LOVED this interview so much! Tommy has been a favorite for quite some time. Everything he does is truly perfection. If he ever creates his own line, I'd be right there buying it not only for clients but also myself! xo

  33. Love Love Love Tommy! His style, his wit, his glasses :)
    I had the pleasure of stalking him and Sarah while they were browsing the Christie show and filming her show, but was too shy to say hi. I've been smitten by his kitchen since I saw it and his rooms just have a chic, effortlessness to them. I agree that you have to accumulate things over time to really give your home your true personality and he does it so well.
    Good for you Barbara for adding Tommy to your ever-growing list of awesome Canadians! Did I mention that I love Tommy? :)

  34. Great interview Barbara! It was really fun to read more about Tommy!

  35. Fantastic interview with the fabulous Tommy! He is completely amazing and I loved hearing what he had to say about life and design...I'm kinda jealous that you got to do this interview! (c:

  36. I am fainting over here - fainting!! I KNEW it would be Tommy! And I have a serious crush on him! My first post of 2011 was about HIM!

    What a great interview, Barbara! You scored my friend!

    I love when he says "I don't consider a room complete until it has the right balance of vintage and modern elements". That is exactly how I feel about my own rooms!

    And yes Tommy - a book please!

    Hip hurray for talented and friendly Canadians!

    ox, Mon

  37. Amazing! Do you know how daunting it would be to go to a family dinner at Tommy's? him with his design talents and his ridiculously talented sister who co-created Smythe (the amazing blazer people). What an awesome interview. Loved it!


Let's chat...