3 Design Tips from Tommy Smythe

Floorscapes Blog ,,,, 0

At this year’s Calgary Fall Home Show, we at Floorscapes got the chance to learn a few tips from Designer-guru, Tommy Smythe. If you don’t know Tommy, check out the show Sarah’s House on HGTV where Tommy and Sarah Richardson spearhead a renovation from the ground up.

In only a couple of minutes, you’ll learn why Tommy is well-known for his sharp wit and tell-it-like-it-is attitude. Tommy is not just a sassy TV personality however, he is also a talented designer with plenty of insight to share. During his presentation at the Fall Home Show, he talked about combining contemporary and traditional decor, designing a unique space for yourself, being courageous and most importantly, seeking out specialists. If you’re planning a renovation or simply want to redecorate, here are some very useful tips straight from the horse’s mouth.

Folding in New Pieces

If you’re an HGTV fanatic, you might be inclined to think that redecorating is a matter of purging and buying everything anew. Tommy readily admits that this kind of redecorating is meant for TV and isn’t necessarily realistic. Even if you did have that kind of budget, would you really want to get rid of the objects that have accompanied your life for so many years? Tommy told his Calgary audience that redecorating is not about overhauling, it’s about “folding in new pieces to what you already have.” Decorating in the first place, is about surrounding yourself with “objects that are meaningful to you.” This takes time, and objects from the past are part of it.

Far from being solely concerned with aesthetics, Tommy thinks that objects ought to have three qualities: they ought to be beautiful, have a sense of history and ideally, be useful. One glance through his portfolio in House & Home will reveal that he’s a big fan of antiques. Many of his rooms host a variety of Victorian pieces, or even archaic pieces from a once aristocratic Europe. The pieces he chooses however, in both his own and his client’s spaces, are personally relevant. He loves pursuing his curiosities and encourages his clients to do the same. One of the first slides he showed was of a stairway hallway where he had hung a collection of Victorian mirrors, inspired by his client’s affinity for glass and mirrors.

Be Courageous

At Floorscapes, we always appreciate the bold—bold design choices, bold colours and bold objects. Far too often though, we find that our clients refrain from their more bold ideas for fear of doing something unorthodox. They hesitate to use strong colours and eccentric objects because they’re afraid to stray too much from the status quo. In spirit, Tommy says—to hell with status quo. He told an interesting story to his Calgary audience about “the Kitchen that put him on the map.” It was a Victorian Kitchen, much like the one he did for House & Home in 2012, but with some bright red pieces, some eccentric historical objects and a very daring streetlight which he used as a chandelier overlooking the table.

When House & Home saw it, they gave him his first feature. Ever since, he has been using antique street lights taken from countries around the world as chandeliers; and he has come to specialize in Victorian kitchens. The moral of the story is that he made a name for himself by putting a spin on a tradition. He isn’t afraid to think outside of the box. Check out the tiny Toronto apartment he proudly decorated and inhabited in the late 00’s.

Seek Out Specialists

Despite his role as a renown designer, Tommy Smythe is a student as well. He studies art, antiques and aesthetics. His best piece of advice to his Calgary audience was to “seek out specialists” because they will “teach you what’s possible.” He used the example of his flower girls in Toronto. On the weekly, he goes to them to buy fresh flowers for his or his clients’ place. Having picked their brains for years, he has learned to incorporate flowers in his designs in whole new ways: like using rare species to get a certain look, or using a flower with a particular symbolic meaning to help define the identity of a space.

The exact same could be said about flooring. When our customers first enter our showroom, usually they have a preconceived idea about what material and what colour would suit their place best. So often, we find that they haven’t considered all the options and because of it, their perfect floor isn’t even on their radar. A couple months ago we did a project in Westhills where a married couple wanted to replace their old beige carpet with new beige carpet…. Hardwood was in their budget but they said that although they liked the look, they find hardwood too harsh underfoot. Little did they know, TORLYS has an innovative product called Corkwood, which is actually a cork product that has been embossed to look like hardwood. It has the sophisticated beauty of hardwood, but the softness of cork underfoot. Once we told them about Corkwood, they were all for it. They couldn’t be more thrilled with their new cork-hardwood hybrid floor.


It was a thrill to see Tommy Smythe speak in person. If you have any questions interior design or how to make your vision come to life, send us an email or give us a call. Better yet, if you live in Calgary and you’re in the flooring market, stop by our showroom at 525 58th Aveue SE. The Floorscapes team has as much experience as we do passion: combined, we have over 150 years in the world of Calgary flooring. We offer our knowledge, our expertise and our aesthetic sensibility in order to help you create a space that you will love.