Matthew Boland, Interior Designer
2021 MASTERS of the SOUTHWEST Award Winner - Matthew Boland
Interior designer Matthew Boland’s work is stylish, discreet and meticulous.
By Nora Burba Trulsson | Photography by Scott Sandler
In Arizona, Matthew Boland flies under the radar. Despite having a studio and retail showroom in downtown Scottsdale for years, the interior designer is not exactly a household name locally when it comes to residential projects. His work is all over the country, with projects in Los Angeles, Aspen, Palm Beach, St. Louis, Cleveland, Laguna Beach and in other cities.
“Even though I’m Valley-based, my work has largely been elsewhere,” says the soft-spoken Boland. “I’m better known outside of Arizona.”
The designer didn’t set out to be low-key in his home state. A graduate of Brophy College Preparatory in Phoenix, he became interested in design at a young age, interning with local interior designer Paula Berg as a teen. Boland then went off to college, starting out in historic preservation, then switching his major at the University of Idaho to interior architecture. Back in Arizona, he worked with interior designer Jim Harris, known for his coolly elegant approach to homes and private yachts—and working with clients who shunned publicity.
“I was 30 when I opened my own studio in 2005,” Boland recalls. “I went out on my own specifically to be considered for a residential project that I wanted to get.” He found a 500-square-foot space, which he built out in a matter of a few weeks, complete with a conference table and presentation boards. “I had to have a presentable office to get the job, so I threw the dice,” he remembers. “I did get the job, a house in Paradise Valley. I also expanded my studio and, today, I own the building.”
Boland also expanded his design repertoire into tableware and linens, thanks to meeting the late, great Cookie Levine when he was a youth. Levine, who brought exquisite tabletop offerings to Arizona’s design community through her firm, Levine Linens, sparked Boland to open Main Dish, a retail tableware shop adjacent to his studio. The 2,000-square-foot store features some 90-plus lines, including luxe offerings from Christofle, Hermés and Bernardaud. “What I love about setting a table is that it is a creative outlet, a way to tell your story,” Boland explains. “With interior design, you’re not going to change out your sofa every day, but you can always set your table differently, depending on your mood or the occasion.”
Since launching his design studio, Boland has worked on projects as disparate as a mountain home in Colorado filled with Navajo rugs and colorful art to a regency-influenced Florida beach home where Lilly Pulitzer might have enjoyed a daiquiri. “I don’t have a signature style,” he explains, “so clients don’t come to me for ‘my look.’” Instead, the designer does as much interviewing of potential clients as they of him. “One of the things I ask is ‘Are you committed to the project?’” he notes. “I’m not just looking for their financial commitment. I am looking for their time and attention. Torn pages from magazines aren’t enough. I want them to experience different places and spaces to see how they feel in them. I want to create a unique home for them by taking all their information and funneling it down.”
Despite his far-flung residential projects, Boland is, indeed, doing more work locally. A Paradise Valley house for a pair of professionals offers a glimpse into Boland’s design methods, particularly, his meticulous approach to helping clients choose unique furnishings and flesh out their art collections.
“This house is all about using American makers when it comes to furniture and about the owners’ contemporary Latin American art collection,” says Boland of the fiercely modern, 9,000-square-foot glass, steel and block home by architect David Cawthron. Originally designed in 2009 for clients who were also art collectors, the home and its details—I-beam-framed ceilings, black slate floors and large expanses of white walls to display art—have largely remained intact under Boland’s watchful gaze, but with spaces reimagined and selectively filled with furniture that commands as much attention as the art.
“The art is edgy and intellectually interesting,” Boland explains, “so the furniture has to balance the pieces.” Indeed, visitors first see Maria Fernanda Cardoso’s “Tres Coronas,” three circles of flowers referencing cartel funeral wreaths in the entry and view Mexican artist Damien Ortega’s “Superficie Modulada” in an atrium-like setting opposite the front door. Re-imagining the original dining room, Boland instead created a music room, anchored by a grand piano, Regina Silveira’s tank art and several organically shaped metal tables by Silas Seandel. “One of the pieces I love in this room is the Jean-Michel Frank cigarette table from the time he was with Comte, the Argentine furniture design company, in the 1930s,” Boland points out.
The living room—which has a dead-on view of Camelback Mountain’s Praying Monk rock formation—includes a quartet of high-backed chairs encircling another Seandel concrete and metal table, enlightened by a print of the moon by Brazilian artist Vik Muniz.
“The owners don’t need a formal dining room,” Boland explains of his approach to tailoring spaces to clients’ needs. “The bigger Seandel table in the living room doubles as a dining table in a pinch when the weather is bad. Usually, it’s cocktails inside, then dinner is outdoors on one of the patios.” Boland re-imagined other spaces in the house, as well, turning a sitting area that connects the guest bedrooms into an art installation room and converting one of the three guest bedrooms into an exercise room. Outdoors, he worked with landscape designer Dustin Moss to reclaim the front yard with new patio spaces and walls for privacy from the street. What started as a reflecting pool in the new front patio morphed into a second swimming pool. “Why not?” asks Boland rhetorically. “It’s part of the way I work with clients. I want them to experience a space as they need it, to live in it, rather than going with preconceived ideas.”
The interior designer attributes his success, with this project and others, less about style and more about a good sensory experience. “I get most of my work through referrals,” he reflects. “Potential clients hire me because they’ve walked through another home I’ve done. While that style might not appeal to them, they like the way the interior feels—how it’s comfortable, how you can sit anywhere and be relaxed.”
In the meantime, Boland is still fleshing out the interior of the Paradise Valley home. There is more art to be added and, perhaps, a master bathroom renovation to come. “I tell my clients to live in the house for at least six months, to experience the light and to pay attention to how they actually use the house. The interior should always be evolving. The best design comes from how you respond to the house and the clients.”
For more information, see Sources.
Architect: David Cawthron, Cawthron Architects. Interior designer: Matthew Boland, MMB Studio.