Frank Smith Opens Up about the Architectural Greats that Inspire Him

Frank Smith Design
Photos by Jamey Price and provided by Frank Smith

Charlotte architectural designer Frank Smith travels the world, studying architecture on a global scale and learning from the greats.

What got you started in the industry?
When I first started seeking an education, I was looking at architecture and engineering. I went to Auburn and started out in their engineering school. Halfway through engineering school, I was really wanting to go to architecture school too. I went through a process of what is best for me. I went into engineering and got recruited out of college from Duke Energy (Duke Power then). I was working in that industry, grew through the ranks, and really loved my job. As I started to feel that there was something missing in the home market, I realized that maybe I had something to offer. I asked myself, “Well, do I have the passion to do this?” You have to have a passion that gets you out of bed when you don’t want to get out of bed. It drives you. After our 4th design made the cover of Southern Accent Magazine, I began to think maybe I could compete in the industry. 

Frank Smith Design

Frank Smith Design

How long have you been in the business?
I’ve been designing since 2004. I’m working on house number 116. It’s a business that I take very seriously: If I can create a product that a client gets excited about, it creates jobs. 

What are some additional things you would like to share?
One of the things that makes our designs very unique is that anybody that is really successful in the industry has to have a really good three-dimensional intelligence. There is something about that connection between hand drawing, the mind, and the passion that drives that.

Frank Smith Design

Where do you draw inspiration for your designs?
We have created a unique business model. Our designs promote both business and art. Our business is geared around the passion for creating art. The inspiration we are drawing from is what has been fed to our spirit. When I started structuring the business and studying what I wanted to build the business around, I noticed one of the things lacking was really good beauty. If you can create beauty, you evoke an emotional response. If I can incorporate that into a design, that’s what I want to do — create more of an experience. I travel. I keep a travel log. I’m in the eighties on the number of trips I’ve taken. I study past architects and actually go and find where they worked. I walk the same streets that they walked, see the things they saw, and the buildings they built. The inspiration is really pulled out by passion. 

As an artist, you have a medium you choose to work in, and that’s your lifestyle. Design isn’t a career, it’s a lifestyle.

Do you always take a lot of photos on travels?
Yes, you have too. Your mind is off the next assignment. You can’t internalize everything you’re looking at. When time slows down I can go back and draw on resources. 

Can you describe your style and/or ways you’ve found to mix styles?
I’ve discovered I’m really skilled at renovation. In the early part of the business I didn’t take renovation projects unless I could do something that was surprising. Style is driven by the site, the clients, and what I think they really like. My favorite style is the style I built for my house, Villa Rotunda. 

Frank Smith Design

Is there anything in your style of work that you would consider timeless?
Classicism is more of thought and a process. It’s really defined by symmetry, balance, a serene beauty. The idea that there is a harmony and order to things. It’s not necessarily a style but it’s an end result where you create a design that is harmonious with who you are and nature. 

In what ways are you hoping to grow here in Charlotte?
We’re sharing the idea of beauty in hopes that it will help other people grow. It raises the bar. Competition is a good thing. I tell my clients that I’m a student of architecture, always learning. We are looking at a architecture in a completely different way than the traditional corporate structure. There are a lot of layers to the design process I have that makes our product very unique in the industry. As an artist, you have a medium you choose to work in, and that’s your lifestyle. Design isn’t a career, it’s a lifestyle.