In her first book, Homefront (Rizzoli), Windsor Smith writes, “I didn’t become a designer through a formal education or growing up in an exotic culture—I sort of snuck upon it, and my journey was purely intuitive.” The trained dancer’s intuition resulted in a fearless use of color and a drive to not just create a beautiful home, but to make spaces that are useful and that add to the lives of the people who inhabit them.
Having coined the term “lifestyle architect” to define what she saw as her purpose in the field, Smith takes readers not only inside her home, but the homes of clients whose projects required innovative thinking and repurposing of space. Above all, Smith demonstrates that architecture and design should fit the lives of the people in a home, not the other way round. If a dining room is not going to be used for formal sit-down meals, change it into something else. Take down walls, defy what “should” be, and a family can enjoy an integrated space that accommodates all members, whether children, pets or even horses.
Smith also draws inspiration from stables and equestrian homes, especially the balance between organization and a sense of lived-in warmth. In projects including stables, she integrates home and stable, ensuring that the humans can be just as comfortable with their horses as they are in their homes. But whether an equestrian estate, a Manhattan apartment or a Federalist farmhouse, Smith reinterprets spaces in such a way that those who originally sold them wished they never had.
Editor at Large found out a little more about Smith’s creative process and inspirations:
What do you think is the most important component in designing a house or a room for a client?
Communication or listening. Any designer who is paying close attention recognizes the deeper need in decoration today, as much as I want to design beautiful spaces, I want to create rooms that draw people in. I think we need to take another look at what's really a good fit for families, what sets them up for success. That’s why I titled the book Homefront. It’s a war metaphor, I know, but appropriate. Today's ‘text-back-now’ lives can be so demanding and it is a battle to reclaim our attention and recreate the home as an active vibrant support structure for modern living.
Do you have a favorite room or project?
I love foyers that invite guests to linger, hangout kitchens and great rooms that allow people to break through the distractions of everyday life and reconnect. Sometimes that means a space designed for families to pursue different activities simultaneously. I also love creating sexy master suites that slow us down enough to enjoy the simple pleasures an intimate space can provide. Suppose the only space I don’t love is the oversize dining room. Or cavernous closets, I don’t have them nor design them much any more. I would rather design a whole sitting room that the clothes sit behind beatiful built ins. I prefer a gorgeous dining kitchen. And I find a library that doubles as a dining space far more intriguing these days.
You mention editing spaces, that “what is left out of a room is just as important as what goes in” –– do you have tips for achieving that balance?
I like to imagine how a space can be occupied before placing furniture. I believe in tradition, but I also think we have to ask ourselves ‘am I placing that sofa there because that’s where everyone else does?’ Do I really need a kitchen island or would a table where we can sit face-to-face feel better? Do I need a sectional or would a variety of seats around an ottoman invite more to join the circle? When you leave out the things you realize you’ve included by habit or convention, you’re making a more active, more meaningful choice of how you want to live.
From where do you draw your inspiration? Does it vary project to project?
I'm very visual so, to me, a picture says a million words. And I find those pictures all around, still and moving. Whatever the source— vintage and fashion photography, art, travel, movies (both old and new)—they make me ask "what if...? which prompts my own visual answer.
Images courtesy of Rizzoli.
You seem to use many stable and equestrian elements in your work, what is it about that nexus of barn and home that you find both so appealing, and so important to creating a home?
I was raised in Texas…And I’ve built and decorated several stables for clients who ride dressage. But mostly I think I’m drawn to equestrian pieces for the same reason I’m fascinated with vintage cars. When I look at a stirrup or the steering wheel on my husband’s Corvette, I see an inspiring economy of form and a perfect marriage of materials: the warmth and artisanship of stitched leather versus sleek metals. Design needs those kinds of pairing for intrigue.
What is the one thing you wish someone had told you when you started your career?
A design career? Once you're bitten, there's just no quittin' !