The Greek Revival house in New Orleans, in which Michelle R. Smith is the interior designer, was built in 1865. It’s a beacon of elegance and ease. Smith moved from New York City to the home designed by Myrlin McCullar. The well-preserved period rooms of the house were an attraction for her when she relocated with her family. She’s not alone when it comes to impressive architecture. Smith says that all the places on this street are unique. She is referring to her neighbors in the Garden District. “Every time I go for a walk, I see a new detail.”
Smith was born in Berwick, Louisiana. Her parents still reside there, approximately an hour and a quarter outside New Orleans. After a year as a litigator, Smith moved to New York City fifteen years ago. She then pursued a graduate in tax law. She says that it was a temporary move to New York. “I could see the future through my years at a law office, but I didn’t know it.”
Smith took a new path. To further her interest in interior design, Smith interned with Daniel Romualdez. She learned everything she could and started her own design company, Studio in Brooklyn, in 2013. She has a reputation for creating timeless, livable, and exciting interiors. Smith is comfortable and approachable in her work, but there are always interesting, remarkable things hidden within every space,” says Shane Robuck of Atlanta, an antique dealer.
Smith and her partner Sebastiano Tomada (documentary filmmaker) moved from New York to New Orleans in November 2020 with Bash, their four-year-old son. Smith wanted Bash to be able to travel to New York City to work so that she could commute to Smith’s office. Smith says, “I was born in New Orleans and attended Tulane.” It was easy to move from New York City to New Orleans because my parents and a large group of friends of my son’s age were nearby.
MORE INFO ON THIS GRACEFUL BIG EASY HOUSE
Smith was quick to draw up plans for the renovation. She wanted to preserve the historic house as much as possible. Some walls were removed, and some bathrooms were remodeled. A dark paneled study that led to the garden was transformed into a bright, airy kitchen. Smith and her family moved into the house six months after closing on it.
Everything was going so smoothly that you would think that something could go wrong. Smith says that when the truck brought her furniture and belongings from New York, “everything was either broken or covered with what looked like animal fur.” “Every chair had three legs. It was insane!
She saved most of her treasured possessions and salvaged and repaired all she could. The house is full of memories. A guest room’s antique brass bed that she discovered shortly after moving to New York has been hers since then. She recalls that her mother carried the bed frame around for blocks. Since she was in law school, the Baker chairs in her primary bedroom have been with me. In the corner of her family room is an ornate Italian center table from the 1940s, which draws attention just like it did in her Brooklyn apartment.
Tomada and she both like a mixture of old and modern. He says he grew up in Italy with 16th-century furniture and has always needed to add stylish accents. Michelle can combine the classic European style of living with modern comforts.
The couple purchased a few new pieces to help them achieve this goal. The most striking element is the nine-foot-long sofa in the living room. The sofa’s Loro Piana striped upholstery adds drama to its impressive size. Smith’s magic hands make it work. Even a boldly striped giant could live harmoniously with the subtle charm of old objects. Smith states, “You can’t make a room now.” Smith says, “You want things you won’t find everywhere.”