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A new design book called Living Traditions: Interiors by Matthew Patrick Smyth ($50, The Monacelli Press) finally launched last week, and I have to say, it was a long time coming. Ever since Matthew started his practice, in 1987, he has been urged by his friends and clients like Gloria Vanderbilt to do a book of his own designs. But Matthew is that rare bird in the design business: a true gentleman with virtually no ego. His work is elegant and understated, and he always leaves enough room for his client’s tastes to shine through, as exemplified in the décor of this family’s living room, which had to hold its own in the midst of a bold Yin Jin painting.

Photo: John Gruen

Here is Matthew’s own family room in the Colonial-era country house he shares with his partner, writer Jean Vallier, in Connecticut. I love that he left the original beamed ceiling alone, while adding a simple new stone surround by local stonemason, Andy Savage, to the fireplace. Where else would you want to curl up on a Sunday afternoon?

Photo: John Gruen

Matthew designs homes to be lived in, and he’s not afraid of a little tasteful clutter. This bedside table in his bedroom in Connecticut is filled with small, meaningful possessions. I like that he used the seat underneath as an impromptu bookshelf.

Photo: John Gruen

Part of the fun and creativity of good design is taking something and reinterpreting it in a different scale or with different materials. Matthew commissioned the sheet-steel mirror in this living room after he saw a much smaller version of it in a Greenwich Village shop.

Photo: John Gruen

Beekman Place has always been a staid bastion of formality on Manhattan’s East Side, but for this neighborhood client, Matthew smashed expectations to create his own fresh palette of stipple-glazed walls. The 1940s Algerian lanterns are a great mix of the modern and traditional.

Photo: John Gruen

Sometime less is more—especially if the less in question is a James Mont table and chairs beside an original James Dean photomosaic by Robert Silvers. Perfection.

Photo: John Gruen

Matthew created some surprising juxtapositions in this Connecticut farmhouse, positioning a graphic Carroll Dunham painting next to a strong-lined piano next to a beautifully patterned ottoman.

Photo: John Gruen

The cover of Matthew’s first book.

Photo: John Gruen

For me, the high point of the show is this, which manages simultaneously to be a painting, a force field, and an electromagnetic visual discharge. This is an artist sloughing off old consciousness, making something he doesn’t even know is art, giving up nearly all known languages of painting, and maybe violating the laws of nature by making something that seemingly puts off more energy than went into making it.

Photo: John Gruen

For me, the high point of the show is this, which manages simultaneously to be a painting, a force field, and an electromagnetic visual discharge. This is an artist sloughing off old consciousness, making something he doesn’t even know is art, giving up nearly all known languages of painting, and maybe violating the laws of nature by making something that seemingly puts off more energy than went into making it.

Photo: John Gruen

For me, the high point of the show is this, which manages simultaneously to be a painting, a force field, and an electromagnetic visual discharge. This is an artist sloughing off old consciousness, making something he doesn’t even know is art, giving up nearly all known languages of painting, and maybe violating the laws of nature by making something that seemingly puts off more energy than went into making it.

Photo: John Gruen

For me, the high point of the show is this, which manages simultaneously to be a painting, a force field, and an electromagnetic visual discharge. This is an artist sloughing off old consciousness, making something he doesn’t even know is art, giving up nearly all known languages of painting, and maybe violating the laws of nature by making something that seemingly puts off more energy than went into making it.

Photo: John Gruen

For me, the high point of the show is this, which manages simultaneously to be a painting, a force field, and an electromagnetic visual discharge. This is an artist sloughing off old consciousness, making something he doesn’t even know is art, giving up nearly all known languages of painting, and maybe violating the laws of nature by making something that seemingly puts off more energy than went into making it.

Photo: John Gruen

For me, the high point of the show is this, which manages simultaneously to be a painting, a force field, and an electromagnetic visual discharge. This is an artist sloughing off old consciousness, making something he doesn’t even know is art, giving up nearly all known languages of painting, and maybe violating the laws of nature by making something that seemingly puts off more energy than went into making it.

Photo: John Gruen

For me, the high point of the show is this, which manages simultaneously to be a painting, a force field, and an electromagnetic visual discharge. This is an artist sloughing off old consciousness, making something he doesn’t even know is art, giving up nearly all known languages of painting, and maybe violating the laws of nature by making something that seemingly puts off more energy than went into making it.

Photo: John Gruen

For me, the high point of the show is this, which manages simultaneously to be a painting, a force field, and an electromagnetic visual discharge. This is an artist sloughing off old consciousness, making something he doesn’t even know is art, giving up nearly all known languages of painting, and maybe violating the laws of nature by making something that seemingly puts off more energy than went into making it.

Photo: John Gruen

For me, the high point of the show is this, which manages simultaneously to be a painting, a force field, and an electromagnetic visual discharge. This is an artist sloughing off old consciousness, making something he doesn’t even know is art, giving up nearly all known languages of painting, and maybe violating the laws of nature by making something that seemingly puts off more energy than went into making it.

Photo: John Gruen

For me, the high point of the show is this, which manages simultaneously to be a painting, a force field, and an electromagnetic visual discharge. This is an artist sloughing off old consciousness, making something he doesn’t even know is art, giving up nearly all known languages of painting, and maybe violating the laws of nature by making something that seemingly puts off more energy than went into making it.

Photo: John Gruen

For me, the high point of the show is this, which manages simultaneously to be a painting, a force field, and an electromagnetic visual discharge. This is an artist sloughing off old consciousness, making something he doesn’t even know is art, giving up nearly all known languages of painting, and maybe violating the laws of nature by making something that seemingly puts off more energy than went into making it.

Photo: John Gruen

For me, the high point of the show is this, which manages simultaneously to be a painting, a force field, and an electromagnetic visual discharge. This is an artist sloughing off old consciousness, making something he doesn’t even know is art, giving up nearly all known languages of painting, and maybe violating the laws of nature by making something that seemingly puts off more energy than went into making it.

Photo: John Gruen
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