Michael S. Smith Inc.

From chalet to cabana, country house to White House, Michael S. Smith’s historically grounded touch and relaxed California attitude lends every project a sense of gravitas and graciousness.

All photos by Michael Mundy

Built in the 1920s, this traditional house in Los Angeles has the relaxed bearing of a Mediterranean villa, which Michael S. Smith exploited to full effect for longtime clients. The ’20s is “this moment where there’s an appreciation of California as the new Riviera,” says the designer, who was born and raised in the state and understands the magic of SoCal light. In the dining room, tooled-leather walls provide a foundational bit of color and texture for Orientalist paintings, antique console tables from the clients’ collection and a surprise or two, like the Indian architectural element in polished brass and the chandelier found at auction. Checked slipcovers bring everything down a notch — but just a notch. “The idea was to create a very romanticized version of the perfect villa,” Smith says.

“The tooled-leather wallpaper is something you’d find in Spanish or Italian houses, and I just felt it would be a nice framework against which to pull together the clients’ disparate collections, including Orientalist paintings, and  also make the room feel warm and inviting and layered, like something Mongiardino would do.”

Key design move?

“The room feels rich but also approachable, because it is not trying to be more than it is. The pieces are put together in a way that’s really pleasing and charming, but it’s not too shiny. The room is filled with these beautiful things, but it’s not propagandistic — you’re not meant to feel in awe of any of them.”

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