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2018 New Trad Michelle Smith

Get to know our New Trad Class of 2018

Produced by Jenny Bradley Pfeffer

Michelle Smith

Which “traditional” design rule(s) do you swear by? I think the main rule I swear by is a rule my mom always said: If a room doesn’t have a spot where you would want to be when you have the flu, “a flu spot”, then it is a not a successful room. I also really like Kitchens to have doors, but that’s not a rule I’m able to enforce very often these days. 

Which design rule(s) do you break? Painting baseboard and crown moldings white. I never paint trim white in a non-white room.

Do you have favorite “traditional” design elements? (A classic furniture design, pattern, style etc?) I like to use one or two skirted upholstery pieces of furniture.  Not only does the skirt add some gracefulness and break up the monotony in a room full of leggy furniture; the skirt also helps to hide cords from your floor lamps.

Which iconic interior designer(s) do you admire and feel are still relevant today? Furniture and/or product designer(s)? The late interior designer Frances Elkins. She was the master of non color colors. (See below about my current palette.)

What design eras inspire you? I am always drawn to cottages in the New York area built between the 1790s and early 1800s. Every detail is thoughtful while the overall look and feel is simple.

Which antiques or vintage designs do you think have held up over time and play well with today’s updated traditional interiors? I think I can find a place for a Chippendale sofa in almost every style of house. 

How do you keep your traditional interiors fresh and current? I give a lot of attention to the lighting fixtures selected. I try very hard to convince my clients to skip recessed lights. You can get plenty of light with chandeliers, sconces, art lights, and lamps, but it takes a lot more time to get it right. I think this works toward achieving timelessness.

Give us a couple of examples of modern and traditional design elements that work well together. (For example, Chinoiserie paired with a Parsons table or Converse worn with a Prada suit.) A stainless steel kitchen with an over scaled crystal chandelier.  Streamlined, chrome plumbing fixtures in a country house bathroom.

What is a classic color combination that still feels fresh? Dark Green & White. 

Do you have a favorite go-to palette at the moment? I always use non-color colors—a white that goes slightly peach, a beige that goes yellow, a gray that has some mint green. My palette really shifts between those three worlds. Currently, butter.

How would you define today’s “new traditional” design? With design at everyone’s fingertip, the “new traditional’ design is a bit all over the place right now. So many times, clients tell me they want something traditional, and when we agree on the right direction or inspiration, it often isn’t my version of traditional at all. 

How would you describe your personal design style? My personal design style is constantly changing. I want all of my clients to feel that they have a truly personalized home that is the best version of their own personal style. As a result, I’m newly into things I never thought I’d like. For example, always an unlacquered brass devotee, I recently installed stainless steel curtain hardware in my house in Sag Harbor. It gets kind of exhausting. But the overall feel of my personal style is consistently comfortable and inviting I hope.