The Smyth Collection
Inside Sharon Smyth’s Winter Park townhome is a menagerie of objects competing for her attention.
|A love of art and collectibles makes Sharon aaSmyth’s Winter Park home a veritable gallery|
Some people say that if you bury a statue of St. Joseph in your yard, your home will sell faster. Sharon Smyth planted a four-foot-tall statue of the saint right by her front door, but she doesn’t have any intention of selling her Winter Park residence. Smyth just loves statues—as well as busts, paintings, art glass, pottery and antiques, all of which she’s built into an impressive collection since moving into her home 12 years ago.
“I love collecting; it’s a passion,” she states or, rather, understates, given the sheer quantity of pieces on display in her 2,000-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath townhome near Park Avenue. “I’ve been able to express myself here.” Smyth’s expansive collection has grown steadily through a variety of means, including purchases made at various local art auctions.
One of those purchases is a freestanding ceramic sculpture made by students at Winter Park’s Crealdé School of Art. “It’s my totem pole of Florida,” says Smyth of the piece, which is comprised of various Sunshine State critters stacked on top of each other. “That’s what got me started on the theme of this room.”
The theme of that room could be described as “Florida fantasy.” The cozy space, located just off the kitchen with a view of the outdoor garden through French doors, is filled with paintings, pottery and other works by Florida artists, whom Smyth enthusiastically supports. The room’s mantel is lined with faience pottery by Eustis artist Martin Cushman, while an oil-on-canvas work by Pinnelas Park artist Rasa Saldaitis hangs above. Another of Smyth’s auction finds, a painting of the St. Johns River by Sandy LaCour of Daytona Beach, also is on display in the room.
Smyth’s Florida room is her favorite retreat for relaxing or reading. “This is where I hide out; it’s happy and fun and cheerful,” remarks Smyth, 65, whose sunny demeanor could be described with those same adjectives. She adds that when her 11 grandchildren (aged 4 to 20) come to visit, they make a beeline for this part of the house: “My grandchildren love this room; they love all the animals in here.”
An active supporter of the Winter Park arts community, Smyth often invites to her home local artists whose works she has purchased. “Most of my things are from people in the community,” she says. “I like to know the artists; it’s nice to know who they are when you look at their work.”
The single retiree also is well acquainted with Park Avenue’s art and curiosity boutiques. Keeping time in her Florida room is a whimsical, hand-painted clock by Iowa artisan house Sticks Furniture. Smyth purchased the clock years ago at Timothy’s Gallery, one of several Park Avenue shops whose owners are always happy to see Smyth walk in the door. “Loyal customers like Sharon are so appreciated by our gallery,” says Timothy’s manager, Jill Daunno. “We love it when people get a treasure, like the Sticks clock she purchased, that reflects a part of their personality.” Another source for Smyth’s treasures is Antiques on the Avenue, whose owner, Hardy Hudson, remains on continual lookout for items that might appeal to Smyth. “I wouldn’t have all of these things without him,” says Smyth. The pair met when Smyth wandered into his shop one day, and they became fast friends over a shared love of things beautiful, historical and artistic.
“They’re very special, one-of-a-kind things,” notes Hudson of the objets d’art he has found for Smyth over the years. Among those pieces are the ornate, floor-to-ceiling 19th-century mirror that dominates one wall in the dining room and an equally embellished mahogany Victorian étagère that serves as the living room’s centerpiece and is the first piece Smyth bought from Hudson.
Taking center stage on the elaborately carved étagère is a striking bust of a woman clad in Renaissance-style clothing and sporting an equally ancient hairdo. Her companion, a bust of a similarly clad male, is located across the room on a small table. Their placement is unintentionally ingenious: Immediately eye-catching, each draws attention, causing onlookers to take in the entire room and its lively variety of contents in one sweeping glance.
|Smyth and her 4-year-old granddaughter, Evelyn, relax
in the Florida room
Art at Every Turn
Beyond the French doors that form the rear wall of the living room is Smyth’s outdoor lanai and English-style garden. A faux stone fountain burbles on one wall; plaques depicting female representations of the four seasons grace another. Blooming azaleas add a splash of color, and there’s not a blade of grass to be found anywhere. “I had it all taken out to create this little oasis,” says Smyth.
Back inside, a set of stairs leads to the second story, with not an inch of space wasted in the stairwell. Here, she showcases a variety of artistic media and styles created by Florida artists, including photorealistic pieces by octogenarian and Winter Park resident Harold Gibson; an oil-and-canvas piece entitled “Florida Roundup” by Cynthia Edmonds, the 2007 Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival’s poster artist; and works by Laurence E. “Ed” Fosgate, whose day job is designing residential landscapes in Winter Park.
A massive bronze-and-wood door from Africa on the landing invites visitors to pause on the stairs and examine the intricate carving and metalwork. Smyth found the door at Kismet, a Winter Park boutique that closed last year. The huge door was part of the store’s décor, and Smyth bought it during Kismet’s relocation sale. “It took two guys to carry it in,” she recalls.
Smyth’s instinct for a bargain, combined with her love of art and collecting, led to another of her collections. When the old Winter Park Mall, where Winter Park Village now stands, was in its last months of existence, Smyth visited art studios there that featured the works of undiscovered artists. She was smitten with the brightly colored art glass she saw and bought the lot of it at bargain-basement prices. Now the pieces, each with a different shape, hue and design, line the transom windows of her living room, where the sunlight sets them ablaze with color. Additional pieces are displayed on a plant shelf in Smyth’s bright and sunny master suite.
|Brilliant pops of color brighten Smyth’s shady lanai|
The upstairs guest room reveals a bit of Smyth’s mischievous side: above the bed hangs an oversized print of Hippolyte Flandrin’s 1836 work, “Figure d’Etude,” which shows the profile of a seated nude man. “This is like a hotel in the winter time,” notes Smyth, adding with a chuckle that some of her friends jokingly request “the naked man room” when “booking” a visit. The remainder of the room is charmingly decorated with a piscatory touch, including a brightly painted, fish-festooned bureau that Smyth picked up at Robb & Stucky in Altamonte Springs.
There are no nude portraits in Smyth’s own room, but there is an attention-grabber. The first thing that catches the eye here is the improbable tutu that hangs from a dividing screen. A bright-pink fantasy of tulle and satin of the sort any budding ballerina would adore, it begs the question: Was Smyth a dancer at some point in her life? Smyth, a former nurse, laughs at that notion. “It’s just for fun,” she replies before revealing that she’s yearned to go to clown school and still has belly-dancing lessons on her bucket list.
That fuchsia tutu says everything you need to know about Smyth. High-energy and happy-go-lucky, she loves the whimsical, the artistic and the just plain beautiful in all their many forms. “My home is my passion,” she says, “and I wake up happy here every day.”