Are you familiar with Galerie magazine? I recently picked up a copy, intrigued by the cover story of designer Michael S. Smith’s Madrid home, and quickly subscribed after devouring the issue cover to cover, which admittedly, is a bit unusual for me.

My typical magazine consumption looks a little like this: 1. immediately skim through the entire mag from back to front to see what catches my eye 2. flip through again, this time front to back, reading what interested me on the first go around 3. discard on coffee table/nightstand where I vow I’ll read it in its entirety later while “relaxing” (ha) 4. receive next month’s issue and feign shock that I’ve yet to finish the previous. Rinse and repeat.

All this to say, I’m very impressed with Galerie, and as you may have guessed from my musings in this post, appreciate its focus on art and culture alongside design.

Now, back to Michael S. Smith and his fabulous home in Madrid. If you’re not in the design world, but the name is ringing a bell, it’s likely because of Smith’s work on a particularly high profile project: the Obama’s private residence during their years in the White House.

In fact, Smith and his partner, James Costos, are quite the power couple; Costos served as Ambassador to Spain during the Obama Administration. After exiting the diplomatic arena last January, Smith & Costos relocated from the ambassador’s residence to a comfortable 5,000 square foot apartment in a 19th century former palace.

If you’re familiar with Smith’s work, it will be no surprise that the apartment is chock a block with exquisite antiques. I’m particularly enamored with the red lacquer chinoiserie secretary in the entrance hall and the Coromondel screen in the living room.

Upholstery fabrics and several light fixtures throughout the apartment were sourced from Smith’s own lines. Jasper, in particular, is a personal favorite. I’m still dying to find the perfect project for this fabric.

This will come as no surprise, given my long standing predilection for chinoiserie which has been well documented here over the years, but the dining room took my breath away. The 18th century hand painted Chinese wallpaper panels previously hung in the guest room occupied by the Obamas during their visits to the ambassador’s residence.

It really doesn’t get more beautiful than that, does it? Also, slipcovering the dining chairs in a simple striped cotton was a stroke of genius.

Ochre, turquoise, and light blue, are not colors I would ever immediately consider, but the pairing of the Bryan Organ painting against the traditional climbing vine wallpaper works beautifully. 

In the master bedroom, the walls are upholstered in a Madeleine Castaing fabric with coordinating drapery, and I just can’t get over the juxtaposition with the embroidered banner of a noble family’s crest above the bed.

If I’ve whet your appetite for Michael S. Smith’s work, I’d highly recommend any/all of his books below. I recently finished Building Beauty which tells the renovation story of a Malibu home which Smith and an expert team of craftsmen transformed into a Palladian inspired villa by the sea.

Michael S. Smith Elements of Style

Michael S. Smith Houses

The Curated House

Building Beauty


  1. This is UNREAL. Inspiration overdrive happening on my couch right now. That dining room is everything my dreams are made of.Thank you so much for sharing, what an amazing find!

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