My longtime friend Alexa Hampton stopped by the show this week to talk about the world-renowned interior design business founded by her late father, Mark Hampton. Alexa is the ultimate entrepreneur; she has her own fabric, lighting, furniture, and carpeting product lines and oversees design projects around the world.
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You’ve said that "The biggest mistake clients make is not trusting themselves to know what they don’t like." How can people become more attuned to their own tastes?
Your entire life you’ve been looking, you have a point of view; learn to rely on yourself a little bit more. For example a friend of mine was redoing her house in the Hamptons and she had hired an architect but it was more just to get things done, so every decision she made was fraught with such anxiety. I told her: 'Calm down. You have traveled a lot of places, you have seen a lot of things, there are things that you know and understand without extrapolating them from their context and understanding the theory.' So, remember that you have not lived in a bubble.
Also, understand that there’s an intuitive aspect to a lot of design decisions, for example where you put a switch and why a baseboard is the height that a baseboard is. There are lots of things that are the result of actual, practical issues.
What advice would you give to a couple or roommate who are trying to merge two different design preferences into one space?
Good luck! No, I’m kidding. It’s like T'ai Chi right? Each person is exerting a force and you have to absorb it and give it back. It’s always a negotiation. I was lucky with my husband that I met him early enough I could manhandle is sensibilities. He’s a graduate of the Hampton school of design philosophy. He wisely ceded control.
Sometimes I see rooms so beautiful, I can’t imagine someone actually living in them. How do you find that balance between aesthetics and practicality?
I think if your ultimate takeaway of any space is “This cannot be lived in” then it’s a failure, or it’s a stage set or museum or something. The balance is in its inhabitant.
So I have…it’s almost like a litmus test or a Richter scale, so I will sometimes say “On a scale of one to 10, how formal do you want to be?” and try to find that happy spot for the inhabitant, understanding that there is no universal answer to this. We all have subjective sensibilities and we have to live in the space that we’re going to like.
I’m an extremely informal personality, but I got to tell you, I like a little fancy, not going to lie.