A business born out of friendship and a shared penchant for bespoke Southern goods, Reed Smythe & Company makes decorating and entertaining special. Recently launched by Keith Meacham and Julia Reed, the website is home to specially created pieces for a well-appointed Southern home.
Keith and Julia’s history is deep and colorful. Though their paths didn’t cross until their post-grad years in New York, they were parallel for many years prior. Growing up just 10 miles apart, both women cite their Mississippi Delta upbringing for their creative tendencies. Many years later, the two met and subsequently clung to each other as young adults in New York. “There’s such a force of bonding when you’re these two Southern girls in the city of New York,” Keith explains. “You find yourself really creating this posse of Southerners when you’re in those moments of exile in your youth.”
It was in the city that Keith and Julia began to entertain together. At the time, Keith’s husband was the managing editor of Newsweek Magazine, and she was admittedly intimidated by the crowd she found herself entertaining. Julia provided comfort with her handful of Southern entertaining tips: “Set a gorgeous table, lay out food that tastes good and is easy to eat from a small plate in one hand with a drink in the other, keep the booze flowing, and mix up the crowd. Nothing is more deadly to a party than a group of people who see each other every day,” she shares.
Together, the two have hosted everyone from the owner of the Washington Post to Manolo Blahnik. At the heart of it all, though, their objective is to welcome guests into a space like the ones they grew up in in the Mississippi Delta – layered, welcoming and pretty, but not so formal that you feel bad about resting a drink on a side table.
Twenty-five years later and now in different places, the two are still dear friends and now business partners. Keith laughs, “Julia and I have been working together for more than 20 years on projects … we just never had figured out a way to get paid for it!”
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Together, they own and operate Reed Smythe & Company, a new online destination for beautiful and unique items for home and garden. The two fill the shop with handmade, artisanal goods that they commission from talented makers. The pair draws inspiration from antique pieces they’ve found, or items they’ve dreamed up and then seek out the creator who can make it happen. “I have been thinking about doing something like this for at least 10 years,” Julia explains. Throughout her childhood, her mother had commissioned creatives to build, paint or craft the items she wanted, instead of finding a substitute option. So to Julia, it’s natural. “In addition to being a catalyst for various artisans, Mama is an inveterate collector, and I got the gene.”
Previously, Julia had Catfish & Henry, a pop-up shop concept she implemented in New Orleans. But a promise of growth was born when Keith came on board and they changed the name to Reed Smythe, Julia’s last name and Keith’s maiden name (pronounced Sm-eye-the, not Smith). The direction of the business shifted as well.
“When Keith decided to join me in this larger endeavor — bringing to it her business savviness and knowledge of e-commerce — it seemed fitting to name the company Reed Smythe as a tribute to both our families and our common roots in Greenville, Mississippi, where both our families still live, and where I have a new folly where many Reed Smythe goods are doing honorable service at the table and on the bar,” Julie explains.
For seven years prior, Keith was on the development team of an educational technology startup, learning the ins and outs of the startup world as well as on-the-fly digital marketing, website design and running a business on a budget. It’s Keith’s strong mind for business and her relentless organizational skills that have taken Reed Smythe to a new level, Julia tells us. Meanwhile, Julia worked as a contributing writer to well-respected publications across the nation and published several books, including her most recent Julia Reed’s New Orleans. Together, the two blend their business and life experiences with their shared affinity for the Southern culture that ties them together to run Reed Smythe & Company.
Julia admits that the business was essentially born out of necessity.
“When I was shooting my first big cookbook, Julia Reed’s South, several years ago, I kept finding myself searching (unfruitfully) for one more wine rinser to complete an odd set of 18th century originals I found in a shop in New Orleans, or wishing I could copy the gorgeous bronze Labrador head I found at a shop on the Portobello Road years ago — one that looked exactly like our family’s beloved lab, Bo,” she says. “Nowhere could I find a suitably heavy highball glass that rested in the palm of a man’s hand and had the character of true blown glass. So I set out on a mission to find artisans who could make the things I couldn’t find elsewhere, and a dozen or so collaborations were born.”
The collaborations continue as Reed Smythe & Company grows. Glance through the shop offerings, and you’ll see the wine rinsers Julia once couldn’t locate. The vessels, available in five colors, serve as anything from planters to candy dishes, and as noted on their site, are “apt to grace tables as vases holding low arrangements of loose flowers, as their height ensures that dinner party conversation is not hindered.” Each listing is intentional, holding not just the background information about the product, but also recommendations for use today.
And the selection truly knows no limit. Keith tells us, “We work with a glass blower in Vermont who is doing copies of 19th-century glassware. We have a metalworker in New Orleans who is doing a lot of garden tables and cocktail tables. We have a vendor who sells rare Moroccan tiles that we’re turning into tables. We have Helen Bransford, our dear friend in Nashville, who is creating silver baby cups and belt buckles and jewelry that we’re selling exclusively.” These artisans team up with Julia and Keith to conceive handsome Southern goods that are only available at Reed Smythe.
When it’s all said and done, the pair hopes they will have not just created and curated lovely items that adorn homes, but that they will have also inspired the inhabitants to live comfortably and freely in their beautiful space.
They tell us, “Edith Wharton, best known for her sweeping novels about the American upper class, published a book in 1897 called The Decoration of Houses, and it was all about how to eschew the temptation to create opulent spaces that no one uses and to create comfortable, livable rooms that inspire and calm the people who inhabit them. That’s what we’d like to do with our company: Remind people who like houses and design that form should follow function, and that things should be in service always to people and not the other way around.”
We’re confident they’re on the right path.
To see more of their beautiful offerings and collaborations, visit Reed Smythe & Company here.
For more interior design inspiration, explore our homes archive HERE.