Totally Fearless Design Tips from SmithHönig Co-Founder Kellie Smith
SmithHönig co-founder, Kellie Smith, is an interior designer known for getting a little wild. Business partner Melanie Hönig decided to dig a little deeper into Kellie’s rule-breaking aesthetic.
When you’re designing a space, you’re very analytical at first, in a classic way. You look at the space, the client, how the owners live. But then you might suggest something that pushes the boundaries and ends up being amazing. What inspires you to take those kinds of design risks?
KELLIE: Well, there are two specific places in the world – two huge design risks – that I absolutely love. One is the Taj Mahal. First off, it’s an actual monument to love. Enormous and breathtaking. All pale marble, with precious stones inlaid by hand. It takes up space in a very special, symmetric way. Now of course, we think of it as a classic. But when it was created by a grieving widower in the 1600s, it must have been truly shocking. It still is, really. Being there, in real life – in this place that seems so otherworldly – had a huge impact on me.
The other amazing place is the City of Venice. It’s. A. City. Built. On. Water. My gosh, what else is there to say? Mind blowing.
Are there any wild design ideas in books, or online, that have inspired you?
KELLIE: I have an amazing coffee table book called House of Thurn und Taxis that I’ve scoured hundreds of times. It’s masterful in showing how a family honors time while living in the present day. The Palace of St. Emmeram was built in 739 A.D. as a monastery. It has now been in the Thurn und Taxis family for more than two hundred years. Princess Mariae Gloria Thurn und Taxis is brilliant. She talks about the history of the property and the families who’ve called it home. She also has an eye for modern art, tends toward the eccentric, perhaps, but she blends everything together effortlessly. Warhols, works by Jeff Koons, Cindy Sherman photographs, surrounded by centuries-old relics and antiques. I mean, isn’t that how you live in your palace?
Is there any wild design idea you’ve been mulling over that you really hope to do, one day?
KELLIE: I don’t know that I would consider this wild, but I really want to build a couple of container homes. I find the limitation of the shape of the containers a great challenge to layout and design. You can stack them, double them and cantilever them and that is fascinating to me. I’ve been hooked on this ever since we visited Christ Church in New Zealand. The location is an earthquake hotspot. After the downtown was ravaged multiple times, it was built back using containers. Unbelievably cool.
What’s the wildest design idea that a client has let you do?
KELLIE: I like a little shock factor in my work. Nothing too crazy, because these are people’s homes, but I do feel it’s my job to push a client out of his or her comfort zone. I can bring details to a project that others might overlook.
I might not push for a graffitied sofa but if that was the exact right element, I’d include it. I might suggest painting an antique a wild color, for instance. The idea is to come up with something they wouldn’t have thought of, on their own. Maybe the concept is already there, somewhere in their psyche, and it’s my job to help them uncover that hidden truth.
Some things we’ve done include converting ship figureheads into lighting, building a steel fireplace, painting a master bedroom black and spray painting antique sofas. I love to challenge both myself and my clients to think outside the norm. I love it when they’re willing to be guided through the unexpected. I’m especially excited when they fall in love with the thing that at first seemed slightly shocking.
Which of SmithHönig’s patterns or products would you use to create a wildly beautiful space?
KELLIE: Right now I’m loving Pantera but I fall in and out of love easily. I love them all. We’re working on a few new patterns and collections right now that I’m really excited about, but I still love our first patterns too. I’m all over the place because they each bring different elements to the forefront for me.
What wild design ideas have you undertaken in your own space? (I’m thinking about the all black kitchen and the overall mid-century glam vibe…)
KELLIE: Well when they’re your personal projects you get to do whatever you like. That’s always fun! I have a couple of favorite aesthetics that I added to my personal home. One would include the Alex Turco art piece that I had tiled inside our master shower. It’s a major statement piece. Also, I am completely in love with the built-ins I designed for my jewelry storage, which is genius and something every woman needs!
Okay, last question. What’s the wildest thing you’ve ever done – that you can talk about!
KELLIE: Oh, I am totally not touching that one!
Want to add a little wildness to your own home? Click to see some of Kellie’s personal favorites.