Self Portrait

GYC_MattUnderwood_Sept_BMetro_055A Birmingham artist turns his home & art studio into a completely unique expression of self.

Written and Photographed by Graham Yelton

Matt Underwood hadn’t picked up a paint brush in almost 10 years when he came face to face with a painting that would change his life. “I left the gallery and went straight to Alabama Art Supply. The rest is history.” Now a successful artist, that fateful painting by Marianne Van Der Haar hangs on the wall of his loft, along with several of his own works.

At the time of his artistic epiphany, Underwood was living in a home filled with beige and browns. “It was so boring and unoriginal,” he says with a laugh. He ditched the suburbs and headed into town. Two years ago, he moved into an exposed brick loft in the thriving Second Avenue North neighborhood. “My favorite part of living downtown is the community. I’m sure a lot of people think of living downtown as cold and harsh, but I find it to be very friendly and inspiring.”

Working with interior designer Barri Thompson, Underwood has spent the last two years piecing together his largest creation yet.  “I feel like my home is a blank canvas and each piece placed in it is like a brush stroke on a new painting.” He has come a long way from beige. Underwood’s artistic flair for color and texture is obvious throughout the apartment: peacock blue velvet chairs, shelves of vibrantly colored books, bright yellow pillows, graphic black & white patterns and Underwood’s favorite piece, an orange mid-century sofa with orange python piping.

“I think that your home should be a reflection of you. Design it around things you love, things that tell a story or things that serve a purpose.” Underwood points out the van der Hart painting surrounded by his own art from childhood and his grandmother’s quilts that he cherishes, one in particular was used to recover a midcentury stool. Each frame and piece of furniture has a story. Playful touches such as the skull dinnerware set and Alexander McQueen skull pillow mixed with the ‘No Vacancy’ neon sign, add an element of whimsy to the well-curated space. “I still don’t think it’s done,” he says. Spoken like a true artist.


How would you describe your style?

Personal, colorful, eclectic


What’s your approach to decorating?

I think my process is to use whatever inspires me. Art, color, surroundings, or just a piece itself. Whatever speaks to me. I like my home to be personal and be a representation of who I am and the things that I love.


Do you have any advice for people who want to their space to be more personal? 

Design it around things you love, not around what you think everyone else is doing. Don’t be afraid! It’s your home. Who cares if your neighbor thinks it’s too bold or different? They don’t live there.


What was it like working with an interior designer?

Barri Thompson has been such a help and inspiration. It’s hard in this town to discover designers with original ideas and someone who is bold and not afraid to go there. The moment she stepped foot into my loft, I felt an instant connection. I love people who are creative and love what they do. Her originality is very refreshing!


GYC_MattUnderwood_Sept_BMetro_001Do you have any favorite designers or favorite places to shop? 

Atmosphere Home Essentials

SoHo Retro

What’s on Second

ABC Home

Jonathan Adler




One Response to “Self Portrait”

  1. Marianne says:

    Thank you for mention my name and posting my creation ” Powerful Green” in the news, looks spectacular in your Avant-Garde Loft! Thank you Matt

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