Matthew Patrick Smyth’s Big Picture

With a focus on historical authenticity and storied antiques, designer Matthew Patrick Smyth brings classic style and intriguing character to this Westport, Connecticut home
traditional-style formal living room designed by Matthew Patrick Smyth
With 12-foot ceilings and vast square footage, the living room was cavernous. Designer Matthew Patrick Smyth added the coffered ceiling, French mantel, and wall trim, and he painted the ceiling a pale blue to temper its hard white edge. Two seating areas help delineate the space, while cut velvets, silks, oil paintings, and antiques add patina.

Matthew Patrick Smyth’s new book, Through a Designer’s Eye, features beloved design projects along with some of his favorite Instagram shots. “The book is a combination of rooms and spaces I’ve designed along with photos and details that have inspired me,” he says. His Instagram highlight reel includes travel destinations, stunning landscapes, and snippets of architectural details. While these little vignettes inspire textures, palettes, and moods in his work, he adamantly stresses that good—really good—interior design is bigger and more powerful than any photo or rising number of followers on social media.

Red damask wallpapered entry hall with an oriental rug layered over a larger sea grass rug in a home designed by Matthew Patrick Smyth. A formal antique corner chair, traditional moldings, and gold framed antique paintings finish the space.
Starting with the bold red ‘Raj Damask’ wallpaper by Carleton V in the entrance hall, Matthew chose a palette of warm jewel tones to add richness and depth to the interiors.

flowers, pottery vases, and a stack of books on a cleanl-lined wood sideboard. An abstract painting with blue tones and pop of red hangs in the background in a vignette by designer Matthew Patrick Smyth
An arrangement by Mieke ten Have, Matthew’s go-to floral designer, complements a contemporary painting by Emilia Dubicki above the bar.

When Matthew began working on this Westport, Connecticut, home almost nine years ago, Instagram was only a year old. Pinterest, the virtual bulletin board for traditional magazine tear sheets was also in its infancy, and popular retail brands had (almost) everyone convinced that clean lines, white upholstery, and bleached finishes were the pinnacle of high design. “There’s no doubt that social media is a powerful tool for designers who want to showcase their work, and if it falls into place, great, but you can’t get caught up in a corner of a room or a little moment. You have to think big picture,” Matthew says.

“We weren’t trying to fool anyone into thinking this was an old house. We just wanted it to have historic character.” — Matthew Patrick Smyth

home library designed by Matthew Patrick Smyth
The library is Matthew’s interpretation of a modern yet traditional men’s club. The walls and molding are painted Benjamin Moore’s ‘Notre Dame’.

His big picture view shines throughout this Georgian Revival home, a place where he thoughtfully considered scale, color, the movement of light, mood, and both visual and tactile textures. “The house was built 30 years ago. It had great bones and the architecture was fine, but the interior proportions were off,” Matthew says. “We needed to reset the spaces with classic moldings and delineate rooms to scale it back to a more intimate level.”

To do that, Matthew traveled to Colonial Williamsburg, a place he knew well thanks to his experience as a guest lecturer with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. “When you are building or renovating a new home, you should always go to the most authentic source of the design you can find,” he says. “Otherwise, you are picking and pulling ideas from here and there, and it can end up being chaotic.

bookcase, reading chair
A tall gilt bookcase holds a collection of white earthenware pieces chosen for their silhouettes and profiles.

velvet banquette, antiques
Matthew designed a pair of banquettes to fill two corners in the living room. The brass-and-glass coffee table is 1950s French, and the sconces are French Art Deco. Nineteenth-century English landscapes hang over the banquette.

“Travel is one of the most important experiences you can have if you want to be a good designer,” he adds. “When you see something in person, you get a sense of the place’s volume and whether it feels intimate or massive. I advise young designers to travel—and travel often. Save your money and get out there. Go to Europe. But if you can’t travel, there’s plenty you can find locally. Visit museums and historic buildings. You’re not going to decorate that way, but you’ll get a sense of history and appropriateness. The more you see, the more you build up your repertoire.”

Returning to Connecticut with loads of images and precise measurements, Matthew stripped out the existing interior moldings so he could start fresh. “There were a lot of subtle things that needed to be done before we could start with furniture selection,” he says.

“We started working on this house about nine years ago when there was all this pressure in the design world to go white and new. Now, everything is colorful again. Design has come full circle.” — Matthew Patrick Smyth

master bedroom designed by Matthew Patrick Smyth
Sanderson wallpaper makes a pretty statement while offering a serene backdrop in the master bedroom. Mismatched end tables—an antique English writing table and a new white piece from Mecox Gardens—offer contrast while remaining open and airy. Matthew added pillows by B. Viz on the seating and bed.

A coffered ceiling and arched openings visually scaled down rooms. New trim replaced wall paneling. Antique mantels from France and England were retrofitted for period style, and in the library, Matthew refreshed tired paneling with paint. With the hardscape in place, the red wallpaper in the foyer set the tone for the interior colors and decorating. “It’s a simple damask,” Matthew says of the pattern by Carleton V. “It doesn’t have that heavy European feel. It’s stylized but modern, and it’s crisp. It’s cheerful in the daytime and glamorous at night. Once you start with something like that, it has a domino effect.”

Design Details

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dining room designed by Matthew Patrick Smyth
An assortment of seating surrounds a 19th-century English dining table on a birdcage pedestal base. A green glass vase holds allium and delphinium. Matthew designed the wingback settee. The contemporary chairs are from A. Rudin.
china cabinet
A room off the dining room features a cabinet filled with Frances Palmer pottery against a Zoffany wallpaper.
reading chair, bedroom sitting area
A closer look at the wallpaper by Sanderson in the master bedroom. The pillow is by B. Viz.
vignette with bedside table, lamp, and simple flowers in a silver cup
Bedside table from Mecox Gardens
A 19th-century wing chair anchors a corner in the gallery that leads from the front door to the living room.
throw pillows
Vintage fabrics cover the pillows on the living room banquettes.
Regency mirror, antiques
A Regency mirror fills a narrow spot between the French doors..
Late 18th-century English paintings depict Shakespearean characters.

Seeking antiques to accompany the traditional bones, Matthew scoured shops and worked with dealers to source a mix of periods and styles to get a custom blend.

“When I do modern, I know exactly what the house is going to look like,” he says. “But when I am designing with antiques, it’s always an evolution and a surprise. You just don’t know what is out there or what you are going to find until you start looking.”

There are Swedish chairs, French settees, Irish tables, English paintings, and Scottish clocks. “I love antiques, but you do have to balance them with upholstery, wallpaper, and some painted pieces here and there,” says the designer. “Everything has to work together as a whole.”

The project featured in this story appears in Through a Designer’s Eye: A Focus on Interiors  by Matthew Patrick Smyth (The Monacelli Press, 2020).

book cover

By Cathy Still McGowin | Photography by John Gruen | Interior design by Matthew Patrick Smyth,

Loose, garden inspired arrangement of dark pink dahlias, white and light purple anemones, and trailing vines by floral designer Mieke ten Have in a white pottery vase

Meet Florist & Stylist Mieke ten Have

When it comes to floral design for his interiors, Matthew Patrick Smyth defers to Mieke ten Have. We talked to the interiors stylist and design writer to garner her insights. See story.

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