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STREETSEEN  |  Laurie Smith

Photo by Steve Roberts

Laurie Smith: A Woman of Design Inspiration

Story by Emily Adams Keplinger

Laurie Smith was one of the first designers to hit the airwaves on TLC’s (The Learning Channel) home design hit show Trading Spaces in 1999. Originally from Atlanta, Georgia, Smith came to Memphis by way of several other cities (Miami, Houston, El Paso — just to name a few). Her creative streak bubbled to the surface when she was a young child, beginning with an interest in theater and dance.

“Growing up, theater was a love of mine,” recalled Smith. “I also enjoyed writing and ultimately majored in journalism, with a minor in art history. I spent a semester in Italy as part of a summer program and realized that I had a passion for art, architecture, color and composition.”

Smith returned to Atlanta after college when she accepted a position with CNN. That’s when Smith met Heather Dewberry-Stoller who helped steer Smith towards a career that would combine all her passions — interior design.

“I was working as a Turner Home Entertainment writer and became best friends with Heather, who was an interior designer. Often I would shadow her on weekends, and she gave me my introduction to the world of interior design. She also introduced me to Dan Carithers, one of the country’s leading design talents. He encouraged me to go to design school. But first, he suggested that I test the waters by taking three specific classes; color theory, drafting and spatial planning. And, if I liked those classes, then I needed to put together a portfolio and apply to design school.”

Smith heeded the advice and took night classes at the Atlanta Art Institute; subsequently, she enrolled in the New York School of Interior Design.

“I’d always dreamed about being in Manhattan,” said Smith. “I moved there when I was 26, completed the program and then worked for an architecture firm.”

Matrimony led her down the path back to Jackson, MS. 

“Within a few weeks of being in Jackson, I was working for a local designer when I received a call from Heather,” said Smith. “She said a production company out of Knoxville had bought the rights to a British show called “Changing Rooms” and was hiring to launch the American version (Trading Spaces) on TLC — and that she had recommended me. In a strange twist of fate, I was well familiar with the British show because one of my friends at design school was from London and every week her mother sent us a VHS tape of the show to watch.”

The production company was impressed with Smith’s background in broadcasting, theater and design. They called her to audition and quickly surmised that she was a fantastic fit. They shot the pilot and the first episode on the spot. Smith was a designer for the first run, which lasted eight years and garnered multiple Emmy nominations, working as part of a team that remade a space in just 48 hours. 

Smith was also in the public’s eye through numerous articles in House Beautiful, House & Garden, Metropolitan Home, Better Homes and Gardens, Southern Living, Woman’s Day, Guidepost, O Magazine, People and Parade. Also, she appeared on The View and decorated Katie Couric’s office on The Today Show.

“Additionally, I had the opportunity to have my first book, ‘Discovering Home – Find Your Personal Style,’ published,” explained Smith.

When the show went off the air in 2008, Smith stayed home with her young children to be a full-time mother. However, she kept her hands busy with design work, developing a lighting line with the Charleston manufacturer Quoizel Lighting and a line of textiles sold exclusively through Hancock Fabrics. 

Then in 2017, after a 10-year absence, it was announced that Trading Spaces would be back on the air and Smith returned to the show. The new season aired this past spring with eight episodes and has been renewed for a second season. What’s next for Smith? Currently, she enjoys traveling on the lecture circuit — stay tuned for further details. 


STREETSEEN  |  Lydia Frank

Photo by Steve Roberts

Lydia Frank: From Hobby to Heirlooms

Story by Emily Adams Keplinger

Lydia Frank claims Memphis as home. She moved here with her family as an infant after her father accepted a position at The University of Tennessee Health Science Center. Throughout her school years at Snowden Elementary and Immaculate Conception Cathedral School she displayed a strong creative streak and enjoyed sewing, smocking and crafts. After graduating from Vanderbilt, Lydia married her husband, Erik, and returned to Memphis. They had three children (Louis, Walter and Mary Margaret) and settled into a comfortable lifestyle in East Memphis. It was when the family moved to England for a two-year assignment that Lydia’s life took a different turn.

“In 2008, my family and I moved to a little town called Virginia Water, just outside of London,” recalled Lydia. “My husband worked for Dun & Bradstreet and went to England to manage their overseas offices. Ultimately that adventure gave me two years ‘to play’ and I began collecting bits and pieces of antiques items like watch chains, shoe buckles and jewelry as a hobby. It was a perfect location to be able to scout antique fairs, flea markets and estates sales.”

Lydia continued, “I have a love for old things. I appreciate that someone has spent time handcrafting pieces, versus today’s mass-produced products. Even if an item was broken, I wondered about its past. Feeling that these things still had meaning, I was drawn to try to put them to use again.”

After two years of gathering and collecting items, Lydia and her family returned to Memphis. But Lydia said it wasn’t just the items that were significant. “The most important things I returned with were my acquired contacts,” explained Lydia. “In fact, I still do most of my shopping with estate brokers, either domestically or abroad.”

Since returning to Memphis, Lydia has become a self-taught jewelry artist. Her company, Pindi House, is named after the residence where her family stayed in England. She perfected soldering through practice and has developed quite a following for her vintage-inspired collection of bracelets and necklaces. Lydia’s pieces are unique due to the one-of-a-kind items she uses, but they also stand out because she brings some contemporary elements into play to connect with the Old World feel of her jewelry.

“I try to find a new use for old items, but keep them from feeling stuffy,” said Lydia. “Beautiful brooches, which may not be as fashionable now as they once were, are incorporated into necklaces, giving them a new wearability. Shoe buckles are another item that women don’t usually wear now, but I refashion them into bracelets and necklaces that can be worn everyday. Each piece has a story — who has owned it, why they’ve held on to it, etc. People bring their own pieces for me to rework into something they can enjoy.” 

As for the future, Lydia said there are several exciting developments on the near horizon.

“I’m opening an online store, The Pindi House Jewelry (www.pindihouse.com), this month,” said Lydia. “And for the month of September, I will have a pop-up shop in New York City, at the corner of 46th and Lexington in the Roger Smith Hotel. After that I expect to stay busy with my regular inventory and the custom work I do for the holidays. I love what I’ve learned, but truly what is so wonderful and so humbling are the new friendships I’ve made, which were completely unexpected at this point in my life. And, I’m always excited to see other people enjoy my pieces and know that those things have renewed meaning. For me, that’s how heirlooms are created.” 

Follow Lydia on her website (pindihouse.com), Facebook (thepindihouse), Instragram (pindihousejewlery), or Twitter (pindihousejewlery).