Interior designer Michel Smith Boyd knows a thing or two about beauty. The star of Buying it Blind, set in Atlanta, on Bravo TV, is one of the top black interior designers in the country. His love of architecture and tailored details pays off each week as he work with people in decorating their dream homes. In an interview with BLACK ENTERPRISE, he discusses his hit reality show; home buying for millennials; and the art of mentorship.
BE: Describe the premise of Buying It Blind and how were you approached to participate in this reality show.
Michel Smith Boyd: A team of experts, including myself, a contractor and a realtor, meet real life couples who are desperately trying to purchase a house — and all of that is dependent on budget, school district, and other factor — and have decided to enlist us to find a property.
As a team, we are present in each space as we initially meet with each and every client. I became involved in this project because I was approached by a casting agency, and due to my reputation and level of work produced, and I just happened to be the guy they needed. Actually, it is so interesting that you find yourself rooting [for] and identifying with the couples. These strangers are making decisions, entrusting you with their life savings which makes the stakes much higher to deliver a stellar product. I find myself creating spaces I have never done before especially when preservation comes into play.
Tell us about your career as a celebrity interior designer.
That term is such a strange one because I tend to focus on being excellent and making a huge contribution for my clients every day. If it is based on doing amazing work, and then only if I am being great is being an inspiration to kids who look up to me — then yes, I accept that title.
Photo Credit: Tomas Espinoza
What advice do you have for millennials or those seeking to purchase their first homes?
The most important thing to remember is to spend money once! Buy good quality over quantity. Never be in a rush to complete a space; make sure you design in phrases. Start with what you would use the most: sofas, mattresses and multi-functional pieces like dining tables. Always remember: Function before form.
If you had your choice of a dream client who would it be and why?
My dream client is not necessarily a celebrity. My client who allows me to do my job. Interior design is all about Romanticism and we’ve lost the idea of letting us completely transfer a space without interruption. And big budgets don’t hurt either!
As a black man in this field how do you distinguish yourself in the design world?
The only one thing you can be is yourself; present your full authenticity. I don’t water down my presentation for no one. I always present myself as a professional and consider myself a student — always learning and constantly growing to be excellent in all areas of my life. I am obsessed with hospitality and design and love the genre. I love the idea that people live better in hotels than homes and I am changing that one home at a time.
Who are some of your mentors/colleagues in the business; and explain the importance of having mentors in your life.
Honestly, I never had mentorships and have suffered and oftentimes wondered if it is too late. Guess what? It’s not. I have a group of incredibly smart friends who have inspired me tremendously. In the beginning, I wanted to mimic Tom Ford, Kelly Werstler … and their career paths have somehow mentored me. My journey is different, but I don’t see myself as less than. I mentor young designers all the time and one of my favorite things to go (one of the few things I like about exposure). I teach them the importance of deciding what they want from this industry. You need to figure out what contribution you wish to make and then you will find direction, identify and supply your point of view.
Any words of advice for aspiring or burgeoning interiors designers of color?
Once you know your value, you can approach meetings and clients in a much more positive and confident manner. You should be well versed in art history, fashion, textiles. You cannot deny excellence regardless of what you look like or where you come from … Remember — if you don’t know who you are then you can’t offer expertise.
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