Michael Smith’s interiors exhibit the aesthetics of a person who is well travelled, likes to mix rare antiques and art from different periods and cultures with pieces from lower price points. He achieves comfort, sophistication, modernism and classic traditionalism all at the same time.
Interior designer Barry Dixon told the Washington Post that Michael Smith “. . . . Takes serious things, and in his hands they don’t appear overly serious, but they are still reverent to our aesthetic history.”
Michael Smith wrote in his book “One of the secrets of good decorating is not to be afraid to be simple…”
I have selected 12 of my favorite Michael Smith interiors to study how he adorns them with decorative rugs in blue, gold and red.
1. The front cover of the September, 2012 Architectural Digest pictures Michael Smith’s updated New York penthouse inspired by 18th-century France. The statement piece in the living room is an over the top Louis XV Aubusson rug with red, blue and gold floral scrolls on a cream background. Image courtesy Architectural Digest.
The remarkable thing about this living room is that red and blue colors are that are so dominant in the Aubusson rug are not carried through to the rest of the room which has large expanses of neutrals- white, light grey and beige.
Why did Michael Smith choose an ornate red and blue Aubusson rug and then not use red and blue anywhere else in the room? I can only speculate about this from studying the images of this living room. I feel that if Smith had carried the red and blue colors of the Aubusson rug to the rest of the room, he would have done the ordinary and the expected. Since this is Michael Smith and his partner’s home, they have given themselves the freedom to pick the rug that they likes and decorate the rest of the room with pale neutrals to so the room looks and feels modern and not so serious. It is what interior Bary Dixon said about Michael Smith in the quote.
1A. This view of the living room shows how several seating areas were created on the large Aubusson rug. Image courtesy Architectural Digest.
Many people are uncomfortable decorating with Aubusson rugs if they have a central medallion. However, Micheal Smith intentionally chose an Aubusson rug with a prominent central medallion, and then treated the medallion as if it was just a part of the overall pattern of the Aubusson rug. This treatment of the central medallion makes the living room feel more comfortable and inviting, and on top of that it shows Smith self confidence in decorating with “serious things” in the words of designer Barry Dixon.
Imagine if the furniture had been arrange around the medallion-the living room would have felt stuffy, stiff and formal. Treating the medallion as part of the overall design of the Aubusson rug speaks of the designers sophistication.
2. Michael Smith’s bedroom in his newly updated New York penthouse. The circa 1805 Aubusson rug has a large cicular medallion with multiple floral wreaths and a floral border in red, pink, blue and gold. Image courtesy Architectural Digest.
As in the living room, Michael Smith went against the common decorating practice and did not carry the colors from the Aubusson rug to the rest of the room. Smith chose pale grey for the walls and a strong blue and white scheme for the bed. It is as if the bed and Aubusson rug were acquired over the generations- something that occurs naturally in stately European homes- but has to be consciously strived for in our newer culture.
Notice how more than half the large central medallion of the Aubusson rug is covered by the bed- a continuation of the way Smith treated the living room Aubusson rug.
3. Michael Smith decorated this library for a hedge fund executive’s Sutton Place, New York apartment. A late-19th-century Chinese rug with a geometric pattern of blue, gold and white diamonds complements the vibrantly colored modern painting by Gino Severini. Image courtesy Architectural Digest.
Pattern and color are concentrated in the blue, gold and white geometric rug and in the painting. The rest of the room has neutral colors-cream and beige upholstery and walls and and dark wood tones in the furniture. The geometric rug and the painting mutually enhance the enjoyement of the other. There is also a subtle balance of shapes- square shapes in the geometric rug and coffee table balanced by the rounded lines of the sofa, chairs and lamps. The harmony of all the elements makes the room feel soothing and energetic at the same time.
4. The master bedroom in Michael Smith’s Bel Air ranch house is a luxurious homage to English country life, but with the designer’s own distinctive signature. There are two large areas of pattern and color- the traditional oreintal rug in cream, medium blue, navy, red and the Moghul flower blue and white fabric on the canopy bed. Image courtesy Elle Decor.
Michael Smith’s Bel Air house was decorated several years before his New York penthouse so iwe have an opportunity to study the evolution in his decorating style.
In contrast to Smith’s recently updated New York apartment, the blue color theme is carried throug the entire room. There is a profound serenity in the overall composition- every object supports the overall scheme with not a single note of discord-a remarkable accomplishment given the density of fine objects- rich fabrics, intricate embroideries, handsomely shaped furniture and a beautiful decorative rug.
4A. Another view of the master bedroom showing the continuity of the blue color theme carried through to the sofa, armchair and draperies. Image courtesy Elle Decor.
5. The master bedroom in a traditional Upper East Side, New York home feels out of a romantic Henry James novel. The pale blue Oushak rug has a muted pattern that is a perfect foil for beige fabrics and white linen on the canopy bed. The yellow silky throw brings out the beauty of the entire room. Image courtesy House Beautiful Magazine.
6. A decorative rug with a high contrast blue oriental pattern on an ivory ground pulls together the blue bedspread and the Zuber wall panels with Egyptian scenes. Image courtesy House Beautiful Magazine.
7. A camel, cream and blue oriental rug anchors this classically elegant living room. The color palette of all the upholstery and drapery fabrics is consistent with the colors in the oriental rug. Smith believes in tailoring each project to the client and to the architecture. “My inspiration is my clients and their vision.” he told Architectural Digest,… “The idea is to incorporate the culture of the client and their family.” Image courtesy Michael S. Smith.
8. A blue and gold architectural pattern of the Directoire Aubusson rug contrasts with the grey fan shaped bed and the elegant French armchair. The color composition of grey, blue and pink fabrics and greenish-grey walls is romantic and artistic. Image courtesy Michael S. Smith.
9. This master bedroom has a rare and refined collection of objects and a beautiful color palette that rewards close study. The red, gold and cream oriental rug colors and pattern are echoed in the two red pillows on the beige sofa. The French chair upholstered in a blue silk brocade is a master touch as is the elegant molding on the walls. Image courtesy Architectural Digest.
10. A red, cream and gold oriental rug forms an energetic contrast with blue and white plaid sofa and pale yellow walls and white ceiling to create an inviting and comfortable living room. Image courtesy Architectural Digest.
11. The elegantly molded four-poster bed and gracefully carved French bench are anchored by a pale blue and cream Oushak rug in this master bedroom in an oceanside estate in Malibu, California. Image courtesy Elle Decor.
12. Another bedroom in Malibu has a handsome four-poster bed anchored by a stunning blue and white Oushak rug. The yellow bed cover and purple throw add energetic spark. The Moroccan chandelier and blue drapery create a romantic seating area. Image courtesy Elle Decor.