Friday, December 17, 2010

Catching up with…Sarah Richardson and Tommy Smythe

How do you spell talented, charming and fun?  Why Sarah Richardson and Tommy Smythe, of course.

I had the opportunity to meet them at their design offices in Toronto with a few other design bloggers.  The purpose was to chat about their new show on HGTV, Sarah 101 and ask questions.

This is what greets you as you walk into the Sarah Richardson Design offices.  Would you expect anything less?  The upholstered pieces throughout the space are from Sarah’s furniture line.  As one of you asked in my last post – yes, you can order her furniture if you live in the US. I didn’t have an opportunity to ask that question but researched it online.  Call her office for details.



Look who is here? (Funny how we all hunch over in photos when there’s really no need to!)  Yes, Tommy is as witty as he is on TV and no, they don’t have a writer – that’s all 100% Tommy!

sarahand lindsay

Sarah and Lindsay working before our informal chat begins.  You may remember that the office was designed on an episode of Design Inc.  The desks were found at a hotel and office liquidator and she had them spray painted.  One thing I love about Sarah is that she shares all her sources on her site. Because of her, I found out about the liquidator and her spray painter which I have used on projects.  Sarah’s office is right behind Lindsay’s – love the windows which are from a salvage shop.


When we arrived, Sarah and Tommy were filming for HGTV, hence the lights and sound equipment, although it may be there permanently for filming.


Their inspiration board.   Get closer and you can see: fabric samples with small print; floral wallpaper; tear sheets from Canadian House and Home; painted stairs from her farm house; and a tear sheet on Modern Africa.  A real mix of inspiration and ideas– not one style, bold and quiet, colour and neutrals.


They had some snacks for us and Sarah even made tea! The cupboards were filled with all kinds of nuts and healthy snacks.  I didn’t peek – they were open, really!


I was sitting right beside Tommy for our chat, hence the close up.  They spoke about Sarah 101, launching January 4th on HGTV as well as the evolution of the brand.  The hour flew by and there wasn’t enough time to ask all of your questions that you had so kindly written in my last post.   Below are some notes and interesting facts from our conversation and then after when I had Tommy all to myself.  (I had taken some video but shot it in portrait mode and can’t for the life of me figure out how to rotate it!)

Room Service:
- Sarah’s first show showcased her DIY/craft skills - interesting point: more than half the homes featured on one of the five seasons sold within 6 months of their makeover. I suppose homeowners realized the cache of having a Sarah Richardson designed home.

Design Inc:
- came from their desire to show that it takes a whole team to design and renovate
-  anything can and will go wrong
- Sarah said they should have done a 5th season
- they never had a wrap up party for the show because they were filming Sarah’s House simultaneously with the same crew etc.

Sarah’s House:
- focus on how and where to spend your budget and prioritize
- wanted DIY’s in but they ended up on the cutting room floor
-  interesting point:  Sarah’s House 2 – buyer didn’t purchase much of the furniture and then tried to sell the house for  a lot more a few months later on kijiji. 
- Sarah’s House 4 is currently being filmed somewhere in the west suburbs to be aired this Fall.  New build from the ground up.  That’s all she was allowed to say.
- there may be a 5th season – unsure yet.
Sarah 101:
- provide building blocks so that viewers can create the same room in their own home
- case studies – breaks everything down into “To Do” lists
- $10,000 budget paid for by the production company.  Homeowners can add to this amount.
- 6 people worked for 5 1/2 months on 13 rooms – crazy!!
- “dense” show – people can watch it again and again and take something away each time
- the “cheapification of Tommy” – Tommy had to work within a budget and had a bit of trouble with that!
We received a DVD of the first episode and it is full of renovation and decor advice and results in an amazing transformation.  Tune in on January 4th, 2011 to watch.

Other interesting info:

- A few of you had asked in my last post if Sarah would be writing a book.  Good news!  A book  is in the beginning stages.  Sarah will be fully involved and it will be published in 2012, fingers crossed.  I asked Tommy this question after the “formal, informal” chat was over.
- Tommy is not living in his tiny apartment or the home with the bespoke kitchen.  He recently moved within walking distance of their office and has an apartment with a wood burning fireplace.  It will probably be in a magazine one day, right now, he doesn’t even have  a sofa.
- Lindsay is not living in the same tiny apartment that was featured on Design Inc and has moved a few times since then.  She was an intern (only student that had the courage to ask Sarah for a position at a trade/home show) and has been with them for 6 years now.  She is an integral part of their team, hence the position of her desk!
- When asked what designer would they want to design their homes, Tommy immediately said Thomas O’Brien who is a good friend.  I wanted to ask Tommy if he liked having “new fogey” describe his style aesthetic.
Tommy helped Sarah answer the question and came up with a mix of Victoria Hagan and Miles Redd.  Tommy said she would want a little bit of both and she loves everything – colour and neutrals,  traditional and modern etc.  This was a testament to how well they know each other.
- A few readers wanted to know how they met, so I asked the question.  Tommy and Sarah’s husband were friends in high school and Sarah “stole” Tommy away from L’atelier, a high end furniture and accessories retailer in Toronto. (Can’t believe they don’t have a website yet!)
- They try to never repeat a fabric from one home to the next which is difficult to do!
- Sarah’s 4 year old daughter told “Uncle” Tommy “I want colour in my bedroom.”  Their home has lots of colour thanks in part to Sarah’s paint line with Para.  Her daughter is following in her Mom’s footsteps!
Tommy is part of the family and sometimes picks up Sarah’s kids from school/daycare.
- Sarah has lived in her current home for 10 years and is always changing it up.


This photo and group shot taken by Jen – thanks!

Thank you Sarah and Tommy for a delightful afternoon!  Am I too old to say, “You guys rock!”?  You didn’t have to do this because your new show will be successful without any publicity or social media connections!  But, I’m glad you did because I am an even bigger fan now.



  1. Great post with fun facts about Sarah, Tommy and the staff. I am looking forward to her new shows. It seems that you had a great time.

    We will repaint our entire home next week. For the main floor, I selected colors from Sarah Richardson's PARA paint collection. I selected a range of grey, greige and muted yellow. I am looking forward to see the results.

  2. What an interesting post Vanessa. I am so looking forward to the new show. Sarah purchased an old vintage chair from me for the new show and I am excited to see what she did with it.

    They are both very straight forward and nice people. So proud they are Canadian!

  3. How cool that you got to visit with them! I haven't seen much of the shows, but I love looking at images of Sarah's rooms!

  4. I love when you hear that people who have great chemistry on TV are actually that close in real life. How cool that Tommy and Sarah's husband were school friends!

    Great post!

  5. What a great post Vanessa! It was really nice to see the office as well. I can't believe how much info you got in only an hour!


  6. Great post Vanessa! It was so hard to condense everything into a post, right? They were full of lots of good information!

  7. Great post Vanessa!
    Was such a great afternoon, good to see you again!

  8. Vanessa a great post on a stuuning couple and office! Bravo!

    I have a New Giveaway from My Sparrow, come and enter!

    Art by Karena

  9. Fabulous post Vanessa! I've read every word!!! Were you taking notes like a mad women! wow! Have a great weekend!!! :)

  10. Thank you for sharing, excited to see the new series, love that Sarah talks/shows mistakes, realistic time frame and sources I've used a few over the years.

  11. Loved this post Vanessa- enjoyed reading the whole thing and so enjoyed learning some inside info on Tommy and Sarah- just love the two of them!

  12. What a great post - I felt like I got to go too with your great descriptions and details. Sarah's office is fantastic - just like you would expect it to be.

  13. You're never to old to say that Sarah & Tommy rock! Thanks for asking so many questions and all the great pictures. My envious green still isn't fading! Hey, maybe that should be a colour in Sarah's paint collection ;-)

  14. What an incredible opportunity Vanessa! And I love all the inside scoop you got about Sarah and Tommy. I love how Uncle Tommy is part of the family...haha.

    How did you not die in that office?? It is absolutely gorgeous!

  15. My next little project is an inspiration board like theirs. Thanks!
    Mary Ann

  16. Great post! I'm pretending I was right there with you - what a great opportunity!!

  17. thanks so much for posting - i wish i was there to meet them too!

  18. So very jealous of you! I am a BIG fan of the show and I often wish I could see more of the office so I was very excited to see your post on my news feed this morning!

  19. I just found this posting and love it. Sarah and Tommy are my favorite designers. I love their shows and Tommy is so witty. How lucky you were to meet them, visit their office and talk to them. Thanks for all the information about them. I'm DVRer several of Sarah's TV shows. Can't get enough!


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