Michael S. Smith Talks Product Design

For Michael S. Smith, designing products always stems from his own need for them. The offerings in his Signature Lines series, developed for such brands as Ann Sacks, Kallista, and Samuel & Sons, are spawned from not being able to find what he desires for his own interiors projects.

“Then I think I can’t be alone in this wilderness, that other people could use it too,” says the Los Angeles-based designer. “It’s not like I decide that I’m influenced by a trip to Thailand and I’m going to do an entire collection around that.” He even launched Jasper Furniture & Fabrics because “I would find a table or mirror in a flea market or auction and I couldn’t replicate it. It’s like a perfect navy sweater, once it’s gone, you can’t get it again.”

The Nordic Garden wallpaper, displayed in a space designed by Amanda Brooks, owner of home goods store Cutter Brooks in Oxfordshire, UK

Smith is known for transforming the White House during the Obama presidency, as well as his sweeping residences that mix traditional grandeur with modernism, but he has also played a role in several venerable hospitality projects over the decades, such as the Santa Monica landmarks Shutters on the Beach and Hotel Casa del Mar. In New York, he worked on the Lowell Hotel and its restaurant Majorelle, and is in the midst of renovating the Pierre, part of the Taj Hotels portfolio, scheduled for completion in 2022.

Necessity, of course, also propelled Smith’s latest product range and it’s easy to imagine the wallpapers he recently designed for de Gournay appearing in a number of these spaces. “I’m obsessed with antique European and Chinese wallpaper,” he says. “Having these handpainted designs so accessible seemed like a good idea.”

Referencing porcelain tile, the Braganza pattern is installed by design dealer Jermaine Gallacher in his London showroom

Each of the five styles—Botanical Studies, Uki Hana, Braganza, Nordic Garden, and Pantheon—draws from different sources, such as the 17th-century home of Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, the Japanese Edo period, and ancient stone architecture. In Uki Hana, for example, large-scale floral illustrations pop against a gilded backdrop, while Portuguese-inspired Braganza, with its glazed finish, is reminiscent of a tile mural. “De Gournay understands cross-currents and collaboration, that something like this can go out into the world without the brand losing a sense of craftsmanship or integrity,” Smith points out.

This article originally appeared in HD’s 2021 Product Marketplace issue.

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