Leah Ashley Chats with Photographer Harper Smith About Her Design Inspirations Behind Smuddy Ranch
Cameron Duddy and Harper Smith are the epitome of cool. Duddy is the bassist for the hit country band Midland, whose vintage style is a throwback to the genre’s golden age of the ’70s and ’80s. He also happens to be an award-winning director, bringing home a Best Male Video Moon Man for Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ 2014 hit, “Uptown Funk.” Turns out Moon Men are pretty heavy. I know this because he let me hold it. Smith is an über-talented photographer who travels the world capturing musicians, celebrities and magazine covers. She’s also a mom (Duddy and Smith have a young son) and has a farm full of animals, and if that wasn’t enough, in her spare time she started a candle line, called Retablo Apothecary.
How do I know all this? She happens to be the first friend I made when my husband, son and I moved back to Texas in late 2016. We were invited to a casual barbecue at the couple’s Dripping Springs farm on a hot October day. It was a bit of a blind date. We were introduced by her dad (he and I had worked together in Los Angeles), who thought we might hit it off, given that we both had young sons the same age.
From the moment we pulled up to Smuddy Ranch, which is what they have affectionately named their farm, I was completely charmed. The setting was so perfectly Texas. There were goats, chickens, pigs, a horse and a white donkey named Kevin McAllister. When we stepped into the charming farmhouse, I felt as though I had been invited to sit with the cool kids at lunch. They were cool. Their house was cool. Even their friends were cool. And it all felt so effortless. And if that wasn’t enough, they also happened to be incredibly kind and warm.
I recently sat down with Smith, which is hard to do with all she juggles, to chat about the farm, her design inspirations and life in Dripping Springs.
Leah Ashley: You are originally from Los Angeles, but you and your family have been in Texas for quite a while now. What made you decide on Dripping Springs?
Harper Smith: ’Cause it’s the best place on earth. My other half and I were workaholics in L.A., and I wanted to get back to my slower-paced roots.
LA: You guys chose to plop down in the small town of Dripping Springs. What were your thoughts when you saw this house and property for the first time?
HS: It was the first and only house we looked at! We didn’t really even know we were looking till this house came on the market. We were just daydreaming about living here one day and saw this place in a listing, and I was like, “Yes!” Crazy thing — I recently read my very favorite, very special-to-me childhood book to my son, and I realized the house in the book is identical to the one we live in now. Almost like I manifested this life from childhood.
LA: Did you guys always want a farm?
HS: I did! And then I just tricked my always-up-for-a-challenge husband into it. We started with a potbelly pig, and it has grown into so much more. I’m the softie that takes on all the FFA kids’ goats when the season is over.
LA: How would you describe your aesthetic when it comes to decorating your home?
HS: I would say, Southwest influences mixed with Moroccan and American antiques. I like cozy and nostalgic.
LA: Where do you find the items you decorate with?
HS: I travel quite a bit and love picking up little things I can sprinkle through my house. They remind me of the best of my life. I like a vignette or themed area, like a collection of art from my friends on one wall, or a nook curated for music-playing.
LA: You and Cam’s style seems so effortlessly blended. Does he have a lot of say when it comes to house design?
HS: He does! He’s more about the little tokens than the color of the blinds, though. But if I go rogue, he’s definitely vocal about reeling it back in.
LA: What’s the weirdest thing he’s ever brought home? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever brought home?
HS: Well, bless his heart, he backlit our headboard with a red light, and I’m still trying to find a way to turn it off. He later admitted it was a fail. He also refuses to get rid of the jackalope head we somehow inherited, so now it lives happily in his office. Mine isn’t much better, though. I am obsessed with my taxidermied albino rattlesnake. It could just be sun-bleached. I’m not totally sure.
LA: What is your favorite place to shop for your home in and around Austin?
HS: I would actually live inside Uncommon Objects if I could.
LA: Your son is three. Any tips on dealing with the clutter that comes with living with kids?
HS: Fisher Price bright-as-hell plastic is your enemy. Go for the things you can break down, like train sets or Lincoln Logs. You’re more likely to keep those long term.
LA: What is the thing in your home that makes you happiest? Besides Bruce the Bunny.
HS: So many things make me happy about our home. It’s a close tie between the Turkish sideboard in my entryway and the Logan Hagege painting right above it. I also love the little collections of memory-keepers that Cam and I put together on accident. Because of my Retablo business, I have a lot of ceramic plates. We have started a little shrine in each room with a Retablo candle on a Retablo plate and a collection of themed objects that relate to something sentimental. We also keep objects from our animals above the fireplace. A feather from my favorite duck, Scoobie; the collar tag from our first dog, Child et cetera.
We just made a new one with a collection of rocks our son has given us along with a rock from each location my husband and I have hiked or rock climbed. These are so necessary for me, because they are physical memories that catch my eye every day. I move so quickly through life I never pick up a photo album and cruise down memory lane, so this takes the place of that.