When it comes to celebrity designers, Sarah Richardson and Tommy Smythe provide perfect #FriendshipGoals. The co-workers and long-time besties have been making spaces better together for decades on series like Design Inc, Sarah’s House, Sarah’s Cottage, and Sarah Off the Grid. To celebrate, we caught up with Sarah and Tommy for a fun round of She Said/He Said. Read on to learn how they first met, what they truly love about each other, and the fun quirks they’ve been hiding.
When Did They First Meet?
These two were destined for friendship. Sarah’s brother and husband went to school with Tommy, and she also knew his sister Christie. So it’s safe to say that by the time they met in 1989 they already knew a lot about each other. “I met Tommy [during] a homecoming weekend of my first year of university and I thought he was amazing,” Sarah says. “The Tommy back then was equally fabulous to what he is today.”
See the gorgeous images from Sarah and Tommy’s latest transformation on Sarah Off The Grid.
When Did They First Meet?
“I’m pretty sure the first time we officially met was when Sarah came to take photographs of some hats my sister was making,” Tommy says. “And because I grew up gay in Toronto, I had a bunch of friends who were male models. And so because I knew the models and because Christie knew Sarah had a camera, suddenly we were all in the same room together.”
What’s the Biggest Asset Sarah Brings to a Project?
“The thing about Sarah is she is so talented and so clever, that working with her feels safe,” Tommy says. “If I had to choose one thing that could be an umbrella over all of her talents is that you feel in such good hands as a partner with her in a creative endeavor or business endeavor. She’s been in this business a long time and she’s been successful the whole time, but she also has this way of being so well-informed and so well-researched.”
Watch Sarah and Tommy face off over closet doors. You may be surprised at who wins.
What’s the Biggest Asset Tommy Brings to a Project?
“He has an unwavering commitment to design” says Sarah. “He is always in pursuit of the best. Sometimes that comes at a high price-point… he’s really passionate and dedicated about the craft and about the pursuit of knowledge. He’s known most for his curiosity and for having an inquisitive mind, which I think is a tremendous asset.” All together now: awwwww.
What Does Sarah Bring to a Friendship?
When it comes to Sarah, what you see is what you get, Tommy reveals. And that’s exactly what makes her such a great friend. She’s also loyal, thoughtful and generous in unexpected ways and at unexpected times. “I’ve had a few occasions where I’ve really felt alone or by myself in the world and every single time she knows and she has planned something that will make me feel less so,” he explains.
What Does Tommy Bring to a Friendship?
As much as Tommy has nice things to say about Sarah, the feeling is mutual. She reveals that he’s loyal and he is an optimist who sees the best in people. “Many people would say that one of the things he’s great at is being friendly, engaging, and supportive to everyone at every level. He makes friends, he cherishes his friendships and he works hard to keep them,” she says.
What is Sarah’s Unknown Talent?
Tommy reveals that Sarah is one of those people who is just really great at everything she tries. But he also pinpoints one of her lesser known talents at home: she’s an excellent cook. “She can take random things in the cupboard and make the most unexpectedly gorgeous meal out of them!” he says. “She would do great on those Food Network Canada challenge shows … Like you have a chicken breast and a lollipop and leaves of Kale, go make dinner. Sarah would be like, grinding down the lollipop and making a sauce with it and using the fat from the chicken to render the sauce.”
What is Tommy’s Unknown Talent?
“He’s amazing with kids,” says Sarah. “He can get in at his level, and at their level at the same time, and is really interested in what kids think and feel, and [he] knows how to relate to them.” She adds that he’s always been Uncle Tommy to her clan.
Watch Sarah and Tommy in an apple crisp bake-off.
What’s the Most Misunderstood Thing About Sarah?
Sarah may create a lot of content, but according to Tommy she really cares deeply about how that content comes across and resonates with fans and viewers. “It’s not just flippantly thrown out there for people to watch and react to,” he says. “She puts so much thought into it. She puts so much heart into it and she cares about the reaction to it. So if she’s misunderstood or misinterpreted, it hurts her deeply because she doesn’t want that to happen.”
What’s the Most Misunderstood Thing About Tommy?
Although most of Sarah’s shows have her name in the title, she wants to make one thing very clear: Tommy is not her sidekick. “That’s not his role. Tommy is a very accomplished designer in and of his own right and he runs some of the best projects we do at the farm,” she maintains. “He’s not my sidekick. He’s a force to be reckoned with. And he is my equal.”
What’s a Standout Project You’ve Worked on Together?
Tommy reveals that working on Sarah’s homes have been some of the most rewarding projects he’s ever done because they were more personal than other endeavours. “When someone asks you to collaborate on their own home as opposed to the home of a client-even a very scary and important client-it’s a completely different responsibility and it’s a completely different assignment,” Tommy explains. “Nobody knows Sarah better than me. So I’m honoured and grateful for the opportunity to make her home life good. But also [a little] scared because you don’t want to screw that up.”
What’s a Standout Project You’ve Worked on Together?
Sarah has a harder time narrowing down one specific project that she’s loved working on with Tommy because she says they’ve all brought her joy. “I love all the projects we’ve done together because every one is different and it’s always about the combination of architecture and geographical location. It’s about who the client is and the collaborative pursuit,” she says. “So I love all of the projects that we’ve done together on camera and off. But I don’t think we’ve done our best project together yet. I think the best is yet to come.”
What is Sarah’s Biggest Design Mistake?
“Sarah has one Achilles heel, only one, and that is that she is often in a hurry. I would even provide the caveat that when she is in a hurry, it’s not always her fault when she is given and handed unreasonable deadlines all the time,” Tommy says. He adds that he often has to remind Sarah that it’s okay if a deadline is missed for the right reason, but whenever he does it’s an open conversation that typically leads to an even better design in the end.
Go behind the design with Sarah and Tommy.
What is Tommy’s Biggest Design Mistake?
Sarah is hard-pressed to identify any specific mistakes, but that’s because she’s all about the joy of trying new things and taking risks. “I don’t think about mistakes in design. I think that everything is an adventure and a journey and an experiment and nothing ventured, nothing gained,” she says. “Not everything necessarily turns out exactly as you imagined. But if you never try it, you’ll never know whether it might be a great success. The best ideas are the big ideas.”
What’s the Biggest Challenge Working with Tommy?
Sarah’s biggest challenge in working with Tommy should really come as no surprise to fans: budget, budget and did we mention budget? “He would happily buy the best of the best and eat ramen noodles, whereas I think about the cohesive finished whole and I will balance that save-and-splurge every step of the way,” she says. “Let’s just say he’s not in charge of budgets. He could only be in charge of a budget if there was no budget. He’s really bad at budget and he will tell you that.”
What’s the Biggest Challenge Working With Sarah?
The old adage that time is money certainly applies to the world of design, especially design captured for television. Tommy notes that it’s those tight timelines that often leads to his biggest challenge in working with his bestie. “The biggest challenge of working with Sarah is always making things happen on time. [Things have to be of] excellent quality and ready to go really quickly,” he says.
What Do You Admire Most About Sarah?
“She doesn’t give up. I’ve never seen her quit and there have been seemingly insurmountable obstacles that she has come up against since I’ve been in her professional and personal orbit,” Tommy says. “We live in a time where there’s so much instant gratification and the long game isn’t always valued as much as short-term gratification. Sarah is certainly a person who can be guilty of being impatient, but she never gives up.”
What Do You Admire Most About Tommy?
“He is committed to being who he is,” Sarah says. “He is fearless in who he is and shares what he believes in. [He] advocates for those who are less fortunate and who need his support, specifically in the LGBTQ community. He puts his money where his mouth is and most importantly, he supports the causes he believes in and isn’t afraid. He’s never afraid of having an awkward conversation. He’s authentic. Who you see on TV is who you get.”
Watch the season premiere of Sarah Off the Grid