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Tommy's True North

Posted on Jun 26, 2017

On the 150th anniversary of politely asking for our independence, Tommy gives us his roundup of all things quintessentially Canadian.
Tommy Smythe in front of grey-scaled map of Canada

Whether you’re newly minted or a born and raised Canadian, there are thousands of reasons to love this country. This is my unofficial cheat sheet to who’s who, what’s what and where’s where in our land, the true north strong and free. - Tommy


Jann Arden is my favourite Canadian musician. She's the velvet voiced gal pal everyone wishes they had. She’s funny, she’s smart, she’s talented and she can sing the pants off anyone. At a live Arden show, you laugh, you cry, it becomes a part of you, literally.


Thrush Holmes is a stellar contemporary Canadian artist whose abstract floral and neon combos would look super spiffy just about anywhere. And the truth is – they do! His work is highly sought after at home and abroad. (scroll down a bit further to be wowed by one of his best works of art)

Tommy Smythe and Jann Arden
Portrait of Neil Young by Christopher Wahl

Neil Young


I own a lot of photography and use a lot in my interior work, so I have many favourites, but Christopher Wahl tops my list. Isn't Christopher's portrait of Canadian singer-songwriter Neil Young striking?! He blurs the boundaries between reportage and fine art. And there isn’t a better portraiture photographer working in Canada today. But don't take my word for it - he's in the AGO's collection.

Painting titled "Death Valley Lovers" by artist Thrush Holmes

Death Valley Lovers, 2013 Thrush Holmes

Picture of Bar Raval restaurant designed by architect Todd Saunders

Bar Raval


It's a bit of a tie here. Todd Saunders grew up in Newfoundland and designed the province's Fogo Island Inn which I recently had the pleasure of visiting. His work is modernist and linear but derived of its environment. Ontario native Alexander Josephson of Partisans designed Bar Raval in Toronto which is awesome. I love that he uses incredibly organic forms that make you feel like you’re inside the belly of a beast. Alexander is to curves, what Todd is to lines.

Fogo Island Inn, Newfoundland

Fogo Island Inn

Fashion Label

I have such close ties to the fashion community that I couldn’t pick just one. There’s such enormous talent working in Canada and abroad, and many are friends of mine. Kirk and Stephen of Greta Constantine, Dean and Dan of D2Squared, Andrea and Christie of Smythe (Christie is my sister!), Shawn and Ruth of BustleMikhael Kale. So many incredible talents!

Clothing Store

Uncle Otis in Toronto is the best store. I’ve been shopping there for at least 20 years. It’s a small collection of awesome labels so stylish, you always feel current without looking ridiculous. My years of brave fashion are bracketed by my youth and extreme old age. In the middle years, where I am now, I don’t want to look like a 16 year old and I don’t want to look like Iris Apfel. Uncle Otis makes sure I'm kitted out.

Candid picture of siblings Tommy and Christie Smythe

Tommy and Christie Smythe

Kirk and Stephen, Greta Constantine

Kirk and Stephen, Greta Constantine

Dean and Dan, D2Squared

Dean and Dan, D2Squared

Shawn Hewson and Ruth Promislow, Bustle Clothing

Shawn Hewson and Ruth Promislow, Bustle Clothing


Lora Kirk of Ruby Watchco., Toronto, is a chef of such extreme talent that she can make a pizza feel like a brand new thing you never had before. And she can create formal cuisine that is off the charts haute in a way that should put her on the world stage. She’s so deft of hand that she is her own pastry chef, which is so rare. Lora also happens to be one of the most generous human beings I’ve ever met… and yes, that means she feeds me well!


P.E.I. lobster, B.C. salmon, Alberta bison. Seems that I like protein!

Vacation Spot

My favourite vacation spot is always the last place I’ve been. Currently that puts Newfoundland's Fogo Island Inn at the top of the list. It’s a design and culinary hot spot; an architectural masterpiece surrounded by a culture of people who are warm, welcoming and FUNNY in that signature East Coast way - I can't get enough!

Village on Fogo Island, Newfoundland

Fogo Island, Newfoundland

Portrait of writer Claudia Dey

Writer Claudia Dey


Claudia Dey is a playwright and novelist whose work is brave and feminist without sacrificing tenderness and sex appeal or humour. I get lost in her prose and I cherish her company. Everyone should befriend a writer… it'll make you smarter - I promise.

Rick Mercer


Rick Mercer is as Canadian as Canadian celebrities get. He stayed in Canada. He could have had a massive career in comedy elsewhere, but he stayed here to do what he does, and I admire that. He also makes me laugh my butt off every time he opens his mouth.

Schitt's Creek

TV Show

Schitt’s Creek is such a funny show! Dan Levy is the greatest thing to happen to Canadian comedy since Eugene Levy. And the best news about that is that they’re both in the same show!