Notes from the Field: Living Traditions

May 23, 2011

By Karin Lidbeck Brent

JUST OUT! I am thrilled to have just received the new book, Living Traditions: Interiors by Matthew Patrick Smyth. After speaking with Smyth about scouting some of his projects for future New England Home magazine pages, he sent me his new book hot off the press.

Living Traditions is filled with page after page of drop-dead gorgeous rooms–there are more than 200 images from photographer John Gruen. Not only does the book expose the classic, refined and timeless feel of Smyth’s work, but it also reveals his personal design tactics regarding color, perspective, proportion and balance. “Design is a set of relationships, of interactions among objects, colors, patterns, textures, materials and light–all with definite parameters,†says Smyth. The book combines a sense of history and timeless sensibility with a modern, contemporary edge, illustrating how Smyth gives each room order and balance. “I have always liked the comfort of order,†he adds. Order is a recurring element that can be seen in all of his designs; none of Smyth’s spaces are overstated or overdone. According to Smyth, “too little is always, always, always better than too much.â€

Photos by John Gruen

Just as important, Smyth’s attention to detail is inspiring, and each room is exquisitely styled. Looking at the photographs by John Gruen, I am truly enthused and cannot help but imagine the extent of careful deliberation that influenced the planning and styling of each room.


After spending multiple evenings engrossed in Living Traditions, I am sure I will be influenced by Smyth’s techniques during my next styling assignment for New England Home. I’ll probably be thinking, what would Smyth put in? What would he take out? After reading his book, I am sure you will be just as convinced as I am that his interior work and personal rules will influence the styling and interior design decisions you make in your own home.

Living Traditions: Interiors by Matthew Patrick Smyth is published by The Monacelli Press.

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