By Kristine Hope Kowalski
For Alexa Hampton, interior design is all in the family. Her father founded the self-titled Mark Hampton LLC back in 1976, and she has taken over the business since his passing 20 years ago. But another Hampton family tradition is participating in the Kips Bay Decorator Show House, an annual event where top designers in the industry take over a seven-floor brownstone in New York City in order to show off their creations and raise funds for the great work of the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club.
House Tipster had the great pleasure of interviewing Alexa Hampton at this year’s 2018 Show House unveiling, and she told us all about the personal connection she has to the event – and her room of the year, “Olympia’s Folly.”
“I have to admit, this is a bit of a themed room this year, and I’ll tell you why,” the designer tells us. “I’m married to a Greek and I love Neoclassicism. I kind of exploit my husband’s Greekness to my decorative desires. This year, I called up the wonderful firm of De Gournay, and I asked them if they would like to collaborate on a paper. Not even for this show house, I just said, “I’m a fan of your work, I would love to do a paper with you.” They said great, and I showed them this swagging fabric and they said it would really benefit from a scenic. Again, as I said, default setting is happy Greek temple, I designed with a wonderful artist named Chuck Fisher this great scenic view of tons of idealized Greek temples. While they were painting the paper in London, I had Chuck painting this ceiling drapery in New York, then had a different show room in New York doing the curtains so that it all looked like it tied in together.”
Putting together a room this grand and opulent isn’t easy on a time crunch – but Alexa says that it’s all worth it to give back and support the incredible work the Kips Bay Boys & Girls Club accomplishes.
“I will admit that there was a day when I cried nonstop and was in the bathroom with the door shut, but that’s between us. It’s past us. It’s fine. And what wouldn’t I do for Kips Bay?” the designer shares. “Kips Bay is a huge stalwart in New York City. It helps at-risk youth in the Bronx and offers them incredible things. When you hear about the kinds of things Kips Bay offers, I’m not going to lie, I wish I were in those programs. I wish my kids were in those programs. They’re wonderful, they’re artistic, they’re intellectual, there are wonderful things that they offer the kids.”
Alexa’s ties to Kips Bay are also deeply rooted in her dad’s heritage interior design firm – and new generations are getting started with its work.
“As my father was a designer, I was exposed to this Show House since forever. When I was in third grade, my father arranged for my entire class to come and visit the show house. Which is pretty weird and wonderful,” she explains. “Now my kids have been dragged, and next year, I will be the Show House co-chairman along with Jamie Drake. So it is a lifelong love affair that I am having with Kips Bay.”
“Having said that, I am going to drag you back into the realities of decorating a Kips Bay room. Part of doing a room is beg, borrow, and steal,” Alexa adds. “You go to your favorite antique dealers, and you find the things you’d really love to borrow. Thanks to their generosity, you are able to take them out for a month. In this case, I have a beautiful Khorrassan rug from Doris Leslie Blau; wonderful upholstery made by a company by Anthony Lawrence Belfair, with whom my firm has worked for 40 years; I bought these chairs from a store called 145 Antiques; I got this great Russian secretary from a wonderful shop called Newel Antiques; I stole the bookcases with the Greek temple front (and the coffee table) from my living room.”
Don’t think Alexa’s family didn’t notice that they were the direct inspiration for this remarkable room!
“A few days ago I was sitting with my daughter, who is 9, and we’re chatting and she stops and goes, ‘Mommy, where did all of our furniture go?’” the designer recalls. “And I’m like, ‘Honey, you remember, it’s Kips Bay.’ So there’s nothing we won’t do for Kips Bay, even if it’s living in a furniture-free apartment for a month.”
That is some true dedication, and it was our honor to see the Mark Hampton LLC space come to life at the 2018 Kips Bay event.