It takes a deft hand to infuse a period home with cosmopolitan flair while respecting its historical roots, but that is just what Matthew Patrick Smyth has done with his house in Sharon, Connecticut.
I stumbled upon the story of his restoration in a magazine, Old House Interiors, that I have been reading since we rebuilt our Victorian after a devastating fire. The magazine is hard to find on the newsstand. You need to subscribe.
I like it because it reports on products that I don’t find elsewhere. Sometimes, however, the interiors shown are very museum-like; one note rooms entirely based on the house’s architecture. Great coverage for brushing up on your decorative arts, but not how most of us live.
Matthew’s lovely home, on the other hand, is a departure from that restricted style of decorating. I am hoping its inclusion in Old House Interiors signals a shift in the magazine’s editorial eye.
While there is strong respect for the past, Matthew has addressed the needs and wants of today’s lifestyle, resulting in a home that is traditional and modern at the same time.
Here are 4 reasons why I think his restoration works.
1. He cleaned up the “bones” of the house to let its beautiful architecture sing. It is always a good idea to correct earlier “remuddles”.
In Matthew’s case, he removed an interior wall that blocked the beautiful palladian window. This resulted in a sunny landing large enough for a comfy seating area.
He also removed a solid wall at the staircase, which uncovered a marvelous surprise: this beautiful tiger maple handrail. (What type of person covers this stuff up?!)
2. He introduced some period appropriate antiques, but he wasn’t a slave to them.
While I love Matthew’s camel backed sofa in the living room, his 18th century Parisian prints in his formal entry/dining room, and the bobbin chair (front left, reminiscent of the late 17th century spool furniture) and bull’s eye mirror on the new landing (shown above), I was delighted to see contemporary shapes and art as well.
Love the greek key trim on the table skirt and those Parisian prints.
Take his coffee table as one example. Coffee tables are a particular hot button for me. They didn’t exist in the federal period so why not go with a modern shape–I shudder when I see rooms where people have cut down the legs of an antique (or reproduction) for use as a coffee table. It is a 20th century invention so do something contemporary.
3. A sense of history can be conveyed with decorative accessories–there is no need to rely solely on the furniture and architecture.
Matthew told his neoclassical story subtly with appropriate motifs such as the greek key trim on the skirted table seen above, the lions on the coffee table, urns throughout the house and even this sweet vignette:
4. Finally, Matthew tackled his kitchen and bathroom renovations sensitively, keeping in mind his country location and his home’s architecture. Here is where I think it is important not to go too modern in style. Injecting sleek kitchen cabinetry or bath fixtures would be jarring.
Matthew’s kitchen and bathrooms give off an old fashioned air while being fully functional.
Simple, shaker-like cabinetry, with an older piece used as an island
The small-print wallpaper and claw foot tub give the bathroom a sense of the past.
Matthew Patrick Smyth’s home is a model for style and historical substance. Love.
Except for the first 2 photos, which are from Matthew’s website, photos by Tim Street-Porter, scanned in from Old House Interiors.