Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Alexa Hampton for Hickory Chair

It's really funny that I had to go all the way to High Point, North Carolina to see a designer who works a few blocks away from me but I'm definitely glad that I made the trip! Alexa Hampton is the kind of person you meet once and immediately feel like you've known forever. She's a very talented designer and her passion and enthusiasm for her new pieces at Hickory Chair makes her the very best spokesperson. I'm so glad that she personally led us through her collection! It was such a treat!

For those of you who may not know, Alexa is the daughter of the late legendary interior designer Mark Hampton. After his death in 1998, she took over as President of Mark Hampton LLC. At the dinner Monday night, she was telling me lovely stories about her father who grew up in farm country in Indiana but at age 12, much like the rest of us, was decorating his own room. One of his first projects involved painting a pair of shutters and installing them in his room. He went on to study art history and during a semester at the London School of Economics he went to David Hicks in search of a job. As luck would have it, David's assistant was leaving so he was told to come back in a month to start work. Another time, he went into the Parish Hadley office to look for a job and when Mrs. Parish heard him speaking, he sounded just like her brother so she told them to hire him immediately! Alexa had many of these good luck stories about her father including the story of how he met her mother in Venice, a place that holds special meaning in her life.

Later, Mark Hampton was the New York representative for David Hicks and Alexa recalled how she grew up in a bedroom with a black and white patterned Hicks carpet that lasted through many different colors and incarnations of the room. We both agreed that the best part of David Hicks and his style was his mix of the bold colors and patterns with the antiques. Antiques are something that I associate with Mark Hampton who used to take Alexa with him to galleries and antique shops and traveling. She really learned at his knee and she, like her father, is a very talented artist. She was surprised that I remembered her apartment that appeared many years ago in House Beautiful but it was the artwork in it that she had created that impressed me enough to keep the tear sheets which I need to find!

Mark Hampton created one of the first designer furniture collections for Hickory Chair and many of the pieces were inspired by his own antiques. After his death, Alexa took over the reigns of her father's design firm and fittingly, also started designing her own pieces for Hickory Chair. Alexa and her family were and still are friends with many of the top interior and fashion designers and it was a chair that Bill Blass owned that was the inspiration for the Grant Chair above. It was very interesting to hear her explain the often long and arduous process of furniture design that sometimes takes multiple tries to achieve the perfect end result and that was case with this chair that made its debut at High Point. From the reaction it has received thus far, it already looks like it's going to be a huge success!

I loved how Alexa described how you can come to Hickory Chair for the basics but also the couture pieces which she compared to a Gap tee shirt and a Lanvin necklace. A girl after my own heart! I personally love how you can use the same piece in multiple projects but never have it look the same since you can customize the finish and hardware options to your heart's content!

Alexa also joked that if she could, she'd produce hundreds of occasional tables since they are so useful. She also designed these nesting tables above since there are only so many blue and white porcelain vases that you can display in the empty space under a side table!

The best part of Alexa's collection is that it has a mix of modern clean lined pieces and interesting items like her Greek revival chairs. She said she gets "bored of the same shapes" and that mix really does create a more interesting room. One of my favorite quotes was when she said, "Danish Modern bums me out." I know what she means. So she cleaned it up a bit and created her version of a Danish Modern sofa and chairs.

Another one of my favorite aspects of Hickory Chair in general and Alexa's line is that there is a lot of thought put into the back of all the chairs and sofas. You usually walk into the back of them if they are floating and they should be interesting and well designed.

This desk is another new and clean lined piece in the collection.

Here Alexa is extolling the virtues of the roll away file cabinets for the desk. You can also order it with out them and use it as a console table.

The entire Hickory Chair showroom was beyond gorgeous but Alexa's spaces were especially beautiful. Ron Fiore, the Creative Director, who styles all the spaces decided to go more neutral this season so they all looked calm and serene.

Alexa has designed a new line of fabrics for Kravet that will be out soon but until the are, Kravet has graciously allowed Hickory Chair to exclusively carry five of the designs including this beautiful paisley on the bed.

Alexa designs pieces for her own clients and many of those made their way into her collection for Hickory Chair.

One thing that I completely agree with that Alexa said was that she likes her spaces to appeal to both men and women. There is nothing worse that a frilly bed full of pillows that a man has throw on the floor every night!

The Perlini Mirror seen above the fireplace was inspired by one that she saw at Mallett Antiques in New York. She said that David Easton and Oscar de la Renta must have seen the same mirror because they both designed similar versions of the mirror for their collections!

Alexa pointed out that most upholstered beds have upholstered head boards and foot boards but not upholstered side rails and she made sure that her bed did have upholstered side rails.

The Hubert slipper chair on the right was inspired by one in the Hubert de Givenchy sale in the 1990's. He had two flanking his fireplace and they had a huge affect on her. She later said she wondered how the Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge sales would affect designers going forward. It will be interesting to see.

In addition to her furniture line with Hickory Chair and her fabric line at Kravet, Alexa also designs rugs for Stark Carpet and lamps for Visual Comfort. She was excited to mention that she designed flat porcelain lamps that are perfect for console tables!

Alexa was very careful to make sure that all of her pieces were appropriately scaled. One hard piece to create was a canopy bed that could work with different ceiling heights. The result is the Belle Canopy Bed that is lower but still looks great!

The Hickory Chair showroom was a place that you wanted to hang out in all day and I actually did! I came back after the tour to take my time taking photos and that's when I saw Donna Warner, editor in chief of Metropolitan Home and her team taking their tour and also where I ran into author Cathy Whitlock. She was there taking a break before her book signing for her great new book reDesign. Hickory Chair actually gave us all a signed copy and I very much enjoyed reading it on the plane ride home!

Alexa named this chair after her best friend Gabby with the intent that it be very comfortable and cozy yet still look tidy and beautiful after you get up. It's this attention to detail that really impressed me about Alexa. She's also very intelligent and knowledgeable about styles, periods and designers. I joked with friends later that Alexa used a few words that I was going to have to look up later but she's one of those wonderfully charming and personable people that don't have a snobby bone in their body! I don't think it would be possible to be in a bad mood around her!

It takes a really long time to see a furniture line realized and Alexa said that it's like giving birth and watching it grow. "I'm excited because it's the collection it wants to be." The Breck Chair seen here is one of the most popular styles and the Mark Desk was named after her late father. Alexa is profiled in Cathy Whitlock's book and at the end of her chapter Cathy writes, "With or without her famous moniker, Alexa has established herself as a well-rounded and accomplished designer. And her father would be proud." I don't think I could have said it any better myself!

Photos by Heather Clawson

11 comments:

Grant K. Gibson said...

Welcome home!
I can't wait to check out Alexa's new line!
What a treat...

Hello Lover... said...

I think my favorites are the Breck chair, the upholstered, bed and that huge ottoman. Thanks so much for sharing!

Chic Coles (Cole Design) said...

Great post. thank you so much for covering all of her new pieces. Melissa and I feel in Love with the Grant chair. It is the first piece my eye went to when we walked into the show room. I wonder if Grant Gibson would like this chair with his name.I think Melissa and I stayed in that show room for days. They kept saying. The Cole girls again. It was just so beautiful. You took great pictures. Thank you so much.

ArchitectDesign™ said...

I love the insider look and all of the back stories especially! Sounds like a great day was had by all -what beautiful furniture too! wow!

CashmereLibrarian said...

Lovely recap, Heather! I love all the furniture, but I particularly covet the Gabby chair!

Tracy @ Comfort and Luxury said...

Great post. I just wrote a post myself on Alexa Hampton's association with Williams-Sonoma Home (yours too). I love how her pieces look historically inspired yet fresh and modern all at once. What fun to have seen it all (and the designer!) in person.

Developing Designs said...

Great Post I particularly loved the heart warming family dad stories. You did such an amazing job with everything. I really enjoyed it all, from the photos, to the stories, to the details and how you made her so real and lovable. I am definitely grooving on that Breck chair. xo

jones said...

This collection is amazing great design and fabrication; so many bells and whistles. Alexa Hampton is truly a great talent. Thanks for highlighting her. Mary

Brilliant Asylum said...

Alexa Hampton sounds like the real deal. And AMEN on her position on frilly bedrooms. I firmly believe in designing for both the sexes.

Jennifer Sergent said...

Hey Heather! Thanks for posting on our blog -- it was great meeting you, and I hope we can stay in touch. I agree with you about Alexa -- when you meet her, you feel like you've been friends for years!

TheCluelessCrafter said...

Thank you, thank you for taking us through her inspiration and the family history. For me, it makes an inanimate object truly come to life and have a spirit about it.

I never really thought about how many upholstered beds do not have covered sideboards. What an eye for detail.

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