THE PATTERN, COLOR AND PIZAZZ OF TIBI FOUNDER AMY SMILOVIC'S SPUNKY CLOTHING LINE FINDS ITS WAY INTO HER HOME
Sometimes a career—even a creative one—can expose the paradoxes within us. There are introverted comedians, chefs who order dinner at fast-food joints and fashion designers who churn out dazzling Technicolor confections on the runway but retreat to austere white homes in order to escape the fatigue of Pantone color swatches swirling around in their heads.
Amy Smilovic, founder of the women's clothing label Tibi, doesn't embody such a contradiction. The Greenwich home she shares with her husband and two small children is yet another flag heralding the Tibi mantra of color and pattern—a mantra likewise heralded by fashionistas such as Scarlett Johansson and Kylie Minogue, as well.
Smilovic didn't unleash her vibrant, notice-me patterns on moving day; in fact, until recently, her family assumed the previous homeowners' very different, very Pierre Deux vision. "For seven years I lived with these rooster curtains," recalls Smilovic. That is, until Bruce Shostak, a colleague of a friend, came and ripped them down. "As soon as I did it," says the Manhattan-based decorator, "the room felt fresher, lighter and more in line with what Amy wanted." His bold gesture turned into a call to action for Smilovic, who "thought you had to have everything planned out" before embarking on a renovation project.
And she practically did. As with her twice-yearly fashion collections, Smilovic created mood boards for each room, pairing magazine tear sheets with fabric memos from New York City's Decoration & Design Building. The kitchen was inspired by the label Marni, the bedroom by Chloé. "Amy had the talent and vision to do it herself, but she also had a family and a full-time job," Shostak says. So, with Smilovic's vision and Shostak's know-how, the duo swept every bit of stodginess from the 1962 Colonial-style house, all the while adhering to the lightning-fast fashion-industry calendar: The first wall came down after spring Fashion Week and the project wrapped up just two weeks prior to the fall shows.
Fashion fueled the concept for many areas of the home, but the living room, an addition with low ceilings and little architectural detail, stumped Smilovic. While she had previously ruled out curtains, they became the surprise unsung hero, the decorative element that actually ended up saving the day. Shostak hung them from floor to ceiling, tricking the eye into seeing an elongated, vertical space. The two settled on a swatch of yellow silk from a home furnishings fabric house, but the fashion designer knew that Tibi's overseas mills could replicate it for a fraction of the price. "The first sample came back as sickly neon," Shostak says with a laugh. A second try yielded much better, very chic results.
That silk was one of the dozens of items custom made for the project. The upholstery on white-painted straight-back dining chairs is a Tibi dress fabric printed on heavier cloth. Rugs were designed and fabricated by Tibi and are now offered as a service to the brand's clients, as well. And when Smilovic fancied a psychedelic patterned wallpaper, she set out to make it herself. A colleague connected her with Flavor Paper, the New Orleans wallpaper firm famous for their vibrant, riotous designs. The company, which was so smitten with her renderings, signed Smilovic for an entire licensed collection.
The fact that the swirling black-and-white pattern ended up in the bedroom underscores how dedicated Smilovic is to her aesthetic. This is a room that most people describe as a sanctuary, retreat, or getaway. It's often the last room homeowners paint, and they often leave it white, cloudlike. Not Smilovic. She plastered one wall, floor to high-pitched ceiling, with the bold pattern. (A compromise with her husband; she would have papered the whole room.) "I'm really comfortable with what the Tibi aesthetic is," she says. "The house helps me constantly validate who I am and what I'm designing. Of every look I do, I ask, 'Would the person wearing this dress look OK in my house, in my office, in store in SoHo?' And if not, it has no business being in the collection."
Both Shostak and Smilovic learned much from their collaboration and each other's viewpoints. "Amy chose this because she loves it," says Shostak of the former advertising executive. "So she takes it home with her." After working with the decorator, Smilovic has a new outlook that informs her decor. Experiment, she advises, and flout convention when the mood strikes. "I used to think, 'Don't you have to use upholstery fabric?' But if you find a great scarf, just make it a pillow."