Growing up in Crosby, TX, a small town near Houston, interior designer Joshua Smith knew he wasn’t like the other boys and it caused him much pain and grief. He recalls his “pink sock” moment as an example.
“I had these new socks,” Smith explains. “They were actually a salmon color and matched my polo shirt. I thought they were pretty cool, but this one kid gave me such grief for wearing girl-colored socks that I never wore them again.”
Somehow Smith knew he had an affinity for being creative and expressive, but he had no idea how to pursue that aspect of his life.
“The first time I was called a ‘faggot’ I was in sixth grade and it was painful,” says Smith. “This was all way before the internet; there was nowhere for me to go to ask questions and get answers. I kept praying to be fixed. But then I decided that maybe there was nothing to fix. When I was old enough, I spent a lot of time going to gay bars to get attention and feel that I was a worthy person.”
Home is everything
But it didn’t all work out at the onset. Somewhere along the way, Smith crossed the line and fell into drug and alcohol addiction, which then led to homelessness. He eventually recovered and began selling real estate.
“My mother loved the home,” Smith says, “and she instilled that in me. In the South home is everything. It’s not just where you live, it’s where memories are made. It’s the backdrop for your entire life. Whenever I closed a deal on a house I would always help the new owners decorate. At the age of 27 I finally bought my first home. I had to design it and I had no idea how to do it for myself. I immersed myself in studying design. My heart started to sing. As I started to see things that resonated with me, I started to see a connection between the things we love and how they make us feel. I started to get the power of the home. Once that home was created and I walked in at the end of a stressful day, I would exhale and realize that there was something really magical happening. In the conversation of body, mind, and soul we forget about how our environment plays a role in this wellness dialogue.”
A new state and a new career
Three years later Smith decided it was time to move out of Texas and start another career, one that he seemed destined to pursue. He sold everything and moved to New York to study at the New York School of Interior Design.
“One summer I was lucky enough to work as an intern for Steven Gambrel, one of my favorite designers, and I learned so much. When the summer was over I let the studio manager know that I would be interested in an apprenticeship should one ever become available. That same weekend she e-mailed me that one of the project managers had given notice and if I’d like the job it was mine. It was a sign from the Universe that I was on the right path. I worked for Steven for 18 months on projects around the world. I was working on one with Arianna Huffington and Steven said he was amenable to my taking on freelance work, and business started to take off for me. That’s when my Joshua Smith brand was birthed. My first year out, I was recognized as a rising star by House Beautiful.”
Philosophy and approach
But Smith is more than just a designer who creates beautiful rooms. His approach is unique and emphasizes the belief that our homes should be our sanctuaries. Moreover, he takes a holistic approach to design to inspire wellness and to encourage the essence of who we are and how we want to live. He strives to create a conscious home “that nourishes your spirit, inspires your mind, and enhances your connection to yourself.”
This is a philosophy that has evolved for Smith as he has garnered respect and recognition in the interior design world.
“I started to see my role in people’s lives as more than creating a beautiful space – but to show how one can aspire to live better. When we live better we feel better. The home is the starting point for that. But I am not going to tell you what I think is beautiful and have you accept it as your style. ‘How do you want the space to feel when you walk in the door?’ That’s what is important for me to pull from you so I can do the best for you. I want to express the personalities of the owners.”
“Everyone comes with a different agenda, but my process as a designer begins the same way for every project. I present the client with 50 questions, such as favorite books, favorite hotels, fondest childhood memory, when you felt most proud of yourself. After they answer these questions, I do a written analysis and present the results. ‘This is what I heard you say and who you are, and what you find beautiful and from there we can go on to design schemes.’”
Smith seems to have come up with a unique formula that works. In addition to creating beautiful rooms, he conducts a variety of one-on-one coaching experiences and online group workshops. He also offers opportunities for a country retreat at his home in the Litchfield Hills.
“It’s a small gathering of four to five people for a nourishing experience of body, mind, and soul,” Smith explains. “You can relax and enjoy the beauty and comfort of a charming farmhouse on 13 acres surrounded by 100 acres of protected land. The property offers private hiking trails, a swimming pool, yoga, guided meditation, healthy meals, a gym, and an oversized screen porch with a stone fireplace. Our retreats explore themes such as Designing Your Life, Spiritual Reboot, and Enhancing Connection to the Divine.”
As if he wasn’t busy enough, Smith has recently opened a storefront at 50 Main Street in Millerton, NY.
“I signed the lease on the space a week before Covid hit. Originally it was to be an experiential studio, a place that engages the senses, a place to nourish body, mind, and spirit. Everyone who has walked in says the interiors look pretty in pictures but it feels even better when experienced in the flesh. That’s where some of my magic lies. The second room will be a workshop meditation studio, teaching people how to live better in a pleasing environment every day. And perhaps we will host specials as well. It’s all part of my mission to help people live better and feel better about themselves.” •
To learn more about Joshua Smith, his work, and philosophy you can visit him in person at 50 Main Street in Millerton, NY, or online at www.joshuasmithinc.com.