See Inside Tommy Smythe’s Most Beautiful Spaces
Longtime H&H contributor and columnist Tommy Smythe crafts interiors that are as witty and memorable as the comments on his Instagram feed. He started out as sidekick to Sarah Richardson on her popular shows, but Tommy has more than carved out his own career. His interiors are classic but never stuffy, and stand the test of time brilliantly. His bold use of accent color (particularly red) is perfectly in keeping with a personality and design eye that’s cheeky and smart. “Given free rein, this is what you’ll get from me: strong colors, bold gestures and traditional references,” says Tommy. Here the HGTV star takes us on a personal tour of the homes he designed throughout the years.
Tommy redesigned a pint-size hotel room (room 303, the Lucky Stryke room) in Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel with sophisticated style and a spotlight on art. “I photographed these bar, nightclub and restaurant matchbooks that nod to Toronto’s queer history, drew them and colored them vividly so they’d stand out in the space,” he says.
“As a frequent flyer and longtime lodger, I know the value of a designated desk area,” says Tommy. “When designing a modestly sized space the best way to include a work surface is to build it in.”
“To maximize space in the shower, I employed a little trick you should steal if you’re doing your own itty-bitty bath reno: a completely external shower system needs less wall depth and doesn’t skimp on bells and whistles,” says Tommy. “This made-in-Canada example has temperature control, handheld components and a rain showerhead, all on a very attractive frame.”
Holt Renfrew’s Lisa Tant turned to Tommy to refashion her dated condo into a lively reflection of her personal style. “I wanted to give Lisa’s home a nod to French fashion without feeling overtly themed,” says the designer. “The wheat sheaf, a favorite motif of Yves Saint Laurent, takes the form of a gilt cocktail table here.”
“The main footprint of Lisa’s kitchen stayed more or less the same, but I did make a few critical adjustments to create a more user-friendly plan and upscale look,” he says. Tommy replaced the original dated floor tile with a prefinished walnut hardwood, which runs through the condo.
“I’m no snob when it comes to TV, but I don’t find televisions to be as beautiful as they are useful,” he says. “Since Lisa’s priorities are conversation and reading, I had to find a way to minimize the unit’s presence.” Tommy customized the cabinets to allow for an undermounted flatscreen, which blends into the all-black side of the island.
Several walls in the kitchen and dining area were clad in Calacatta marble tile to link the two spaces. “There’s no rule that says storage solutions for kitchens have to look clinical — especially in a home with an open plan,” says Tommy. “I wanted the dining area to feel formal — even though kitchen storage had to bleed into this space. I used Ikea’s new Sektion kitchen cabinetry in the dining area but modified it to look like an uberchic sideboard with center-mounted vintage gold hardware.”
These homeowners moved from a big family home in Toronto’s Lawrence Park into this glamorous uptown condo. To emphasize the graceful proportions, Tommy kept the design perfectly symmetrical. The horizontal-striped sofa invigorates the formal space, and warm gold accents tie the whole scheme together.
Rich eggplant walls makes a striking first impression in the entryway, especially when paired with a gilded mirror and sparkling chandelier. Opulence and drama abound!
This clean-lined country kitchen feels extra special with a copper faucet, pendant light and cabinet knobs.
Bold vertical stripes and a rough-hewn table give the dining area lots of character. Formerly the eat-in part of the kitchen, it’s now a distinct space with custom cabinetry and built-in wine fridges that make entertaining easy. The copper lantern from Sharon O’Dowd is a Smythe signature.
This den is wrapped in paper-backed linen walls, and accented by buttery soft silk drapes and a wool and velvet sofa to create a cozy retreat.
The principal bedroom is reminiscent of a formal Parisian salon. Tommy and the team conceived it as a deliberately “matchy-matchy” space, with a range of different textures and fabrics in soft blues. The custom headboard has the same classic lines as the alabaster lamps — their shades were designed to tie in with the room — and a sunburst mirror completes the luxe, European look.
Tommy revived this stunning Toronto family home but kept a heritage feel. Full-height subway tile makes a statement in the kitchen’s sitting area, used by the homeowners for casual time with their two children. The inside of the Victorian armoire was wallpapered in a delicate print to make it appear less heavy and more youthful.
The kitchen cabinets are a mix of colors, while the counters pair marble and honed granite. An oversized lantern (a Tommy trademark) gets a new life with red paint. “They wanted a house that was modern, youthful and colorful but classic enough that they wouldn’t have to redo it — maybe ever,” he says. “The permanent installations are all based on timeless influences.”
Even the range’s red knobs tie in with the kitchen’s scheme.
Chevron drapes pop against grasscloth wallpaper in the office.
One of the office’s two desks is paired with a stately chair in cognac leather.
Brass accents warm up the moody library, while pompom trim and leather piping are unexpected upholstery accents.
The powder room’s fixtures, sconces and art are ultratraditional to offset the bold zigzag pattern painted on the walls.
The principal bedroom is awash in calming greys. Tommy chose the vintage glass light fixture for its strong shape, which reminded him of a headdress.
The striking sight line from the principal bedroom into the bathroom is one of the many wow-factors in the home.
White walls are a crisp foil to aged antiques and darker finishes in an early apartment occupied by Tommy. “This is the first really white living room I’ve ever done,” admits Tommy, whose past homes were distinguished by dark, dramatic walls. Since the sofa is also neutral, it blends in and doesn’t overpower the small space. “White is also the perfect backdrop for layering in strong colors, which I chose to give the room a youthful, happy feel.”
This antique Biedermeier chest from was reimagined as a bar in his former apartment’s living room. In past houses, it has also served as a sideboard, night table and bedroom dresser. “Using pieces differently in each home challenges me to constantly reevaluate their suitability,” he explains.
To create a dining area in his compact abode, Tommy set up a cheerful yellow table and low tartan stools in front of a bay window. When not in use, this bright surface displayed pretty curios and fresh-cut foliage.
The bedroom is a marked departure in style from the rest of his one-bedroom apartment. “The living room is fun and energetic, but I wanted this room to be serene,” he says. He painted the walls a soft grey-green to achieve that effect.
Arranged handsome wood boxes sit atop this handsome antique dresser to conceal everyday items like receipts and remotes. Tommy also displayed one-of-a-kind treasures for a personal touch, like a clock that belonged to Bill Blass. “He was a major style icon of mine,” he says.
Tommy turned this petite, 180-square-foot apartment into a chic gentleman’s retreat using a sophisticated palette and vintage pieces. An antique writing desk does triple-duty, serving as a dining table, nightstand and desk. “It’s the best thing I own,” he says. “It’s not some piece of convertible modern furniture, but it does the trick for everything.”
Tommy often doesn’t get home until the sun goes down, so he decorated his former apartment to suit a night owl. “I wanted a nighttime space, so I didn’t do bright and white,” he says. The dusky palette sets off the wood tones of his antiques, such as the Biedermeier chest of drawers and English sleigh bed.
Passionate about historical items and thoughtful vignettes, the designer imagines every room with surfaces for display. “Other than artwork, decorative objects tell the most about a person,” says Tommy. A handsome plate corralled his signature specs, while a gold Cartier clock added a touch of luxe style.
The designer’s former home was defined by its striking mix of dark and light, and formal and fun pieces. In the living room, the symmetrical placement of chairs, demilune console tables, lamps and floral arrangements lent a feeling of formality. The antique lantern once hung in the hallway of Tommy’s childhood home.
A bay window becomes a sophisticated nook for private conversation. A steeple and two obelisks provided a sculptural focal point against the bright window of Tommy’s formal living space.
Classic touches create a cozy atmosphere in the library, like a menswear-inspired sofa and oversized pillows, which invite visitors to sink in with a good book. The rich olive green wall color emphasizes the traditional feel of the library, and makes the white trim pop. Antique furniture and accent pieces further the sense of history, while the black painted mullions provide a graphic focal point.
Tommy had antique mirrored doors installed on one wall of his library to discreetly conceal a TV. The handsome leather club chair from the 1950s was his grandfather’s favourite.
Evoking black tie and tails, the glossy white mouldings and black walls in the dining room are a glamorous backdrop to the traditional furnishings. An antique Biedermeier dresser, topped with an ornate Chippendale-style mirror, stands in as a sideboard.
Tommy painted his bedroom walls a dark grey hue to evoke Bill Blass’ sharp signature style. He also clad his upholstered headboard and bench in smart suiting fabrics for a handsome haberdashery touch inspired by men’s fashion.