August 19, 2012

Designed to make a difference

Pick up some valuable tips from celebrity designer Tommy Smythe at this year’s Interior Design Show West


Celebrity designer Tommy Smythe says design fixes can be quick and easy. “Little things can make a huge difference,” says Smythe, speaking by cell phone from his base in Toronto. “Just take the plunge.”  Not sure where to start? You can soon ask Smythe in person. The bow-tie-wearing charmer – known for his savvy design skills on HGTV shows, including Sarah 101 and Sarah’s House – will be sharing his tips and tricks at the upcoming Interior Design Show West (IDSwest) at the Vancouver Convention Centre, Sept. 27 to 30.

And Smythe says he’s looking forward to connecting with the 28,000 visitors expected to attend the show. “Vancouver better look out because I’m excited to come,” he says, chuckling. “I love Vancouverites. They are awesome people.” Smythe is known for his sense of style, his passion for design and his signature look, and is one of HGTV’s most popular personalities – not afraid to tell it like it is. Viewers enjoy his delightfully acerbic approach to interior design.

In his two design presentations – Sept. 29 at 3 p.m. and Sept. 30 at noon – he plans to cover a wide range of topics, from trends in design to what’s new in colours and what inspires him right now. “I have DADD: design attention deficit disorder,” he jokes, adding this carries into his presentation style: “I speak off the top of my head.”

Smythe says he draws inspiration from everything, from music and fashion to his continuing interest in Haida art.  Once, he says, he was watching a Michael Jackson retrospective and became inspired by the late singer’s jacket in his Thriller video and did a red and black kitchen based loosely on the iconic piece of clothing. Looking outside the box keeps Smythe’s designs interesting, fun and accessible – and makes for good television, too – especially when you mix in frank commentary and a big personality.   Right now, he says, he’s really enjoying the latest 1980s resurgence, a trend that is having an impact on fashion and design, as well as in-home furnishings and finishings.

For instance, he says, “brass is the metal of the moment,” neutrals are moving from greys to beige tones, and the hippest hues are bright and bold primary colours, like cobalt blue, yellow and red. “First you see it in jeans, then you see it in the home,” says Smythe. The key is to interpret a trend to fit your own taste and budget. You can update your home’s look quickly and with minimal cost just by adding new pillowcases, fresh seasonal flowers or even a coat of paint.

“I think a person’s environment is not only important to their sense of well-being,” he says, “it’s also a reflection of who you are.” Take stock of what you do have and start editing, he says. “I like to rearrange stuff that I already have, including artwork. When you position it slightly differently, it can be exciting.” Kind of like red jeans or crimped hair.

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