Alexa Hampton is fluent in the Language of Design
Your first book, The Language of Interior Design, comes out in October. Tell us about it.
It's all about how good interior design is like a language that can be learned. Once mastered, beautiful rooms can be created in any idiom using the rules of that language.
What is your favorite room in the home?
The living room, because it's the most ambitious in terms of scope, as well as the most used.
What are the most important things to consider when designing a home?
How you want to use a house and what makes you happy.
What are some of your favorite design destinations?
Florence, Italy is one. My parents met there on a blind date and I lived there for a few months in grad school–heaven!
Who or what has been your greatest influence?
Certainly my father is one huge influence. I am also inspired endlessly by Karl Friedrich Schinkel.
You apprenticed at your father's firm. How valuable is an apprenticeship for a young designer?
It is essential. Beyond the obvious reasons, any kind of professional training is important in order to successfully run a business.
What is the greatest lesson your father taught you?
That there is no such thing as a bad potato.
You're also a painter. How does that affect your design work?
It's tremendously helpful to be to be able to sketch. It's also helpful to my clients.
What is your most prized possession or what can't you live without?
After family, I love my souvenirs of the Grand Tour–small obelisks, etc. Also, for sentimental reasons as well as aesthetic ones, I love the watercolors painted for me by my father.
What is your most memorable design project?
I have many. One noteworthy project was working for many years on the design of a 60-meter Feadship, from the hull up, in the Netherlands. But I love all of my projects. They keep me going to work every day with enthusiasm.
What colors do you love to put together?
Brown and blue. Hot and cold.
Give us three big rules for design.
Always remember that comfort is key. People's color palettes are fairly concrete, so don't push them too far out of their comfort zone or they'll be unhappy with their choice. Always pay attention to the dimensions of furniture. For example, when shopping for end tables, people check width and depth but they can forget to check the height. It's odd.
Where is your favorite place in the world?
Wherever my children are (unless that means a playground).