When approaching the interior design scheme of his clients multi-million dollar homes, Thomas Hamel draws influence from his travels as he creates unique masterpieces playing careful attention to address the Architectural Importance of a home before deciding colours and finishes. We spoke with the designer to discuss what made him become a designer and his latest projects.
When and how did you decide to become an interior designer?
I knew my passion was for interior design from a very young age. While other children were out playing ball games, I was indoors creating homes and miniature rooms with Legos and many other materials. I went into the fine details with these miniature homes and rooms to the extent of naming the properties I created. This passion continued and it lead me to move to New York and then on to London to study interior design after my high school education in Virginia.
Explain your process when developing a design scheme for one of your projects?
Under the tutelage of Albert Hadley during my time working at Parish - Hadley and associates in New York, I was taught to understand the importance of architectural features of a home and how these must be addressed long before actual design / decoration work begins. On meeting new clients, there are times when they ask questions such as 'what colour do you see this room being?', my response is always that I'm not going to focus on decorative details such as these until after I understand and rationalise architectural elements such as door heights, window locations, and other important elements of the room. These details are the crucial starting point to a project, then the decorative elements are added, more like the icing on the cake.
Who are your inspirations?
My life as an interior designer is one where my eyes are always open and being influenced. I am fortunate enough to travel continuously for my various projects around the world. Travel is the best form of inspiration, not only from the museums, galleries and stores in each country, but I am typically invited into homes of friends and associates in various cities. I have Kate Hume in Amsterdam, Veere Grenney in London, David Kleinberg in New York, and Barbara Barry in Los Angeles... they are all incredibly inspirational. There is no better way of learning how people live in a country than to visiting locals.
I pride myself on my global knowledge of furnishings, lighting and accessories hence I am always visiting new sources everywhere I go... this of course includes new places in Sydney, Melbourne, and Auckland too.
What are you currently inspired by?
Of all the great galleries I have visited recently, curated exhibitions of furnishings as art are of great inspiration to me. There is Carpenters Workshop in London, Paris and NY, there is Galerie Dutko in Paris and London, Blackman Cuz and Jean de Merry in Los Angeles, and a place called Gallery Wexler in Philadelphia ... they all exhibit special collections by artist / craftsmen which are incredibly inspirational.
Tell us about one of your latest projects?
It is always very difficult to speak of only one project when there are so many going on in my mind at the same time. I have just returned from installing a project in the Tyrol region of Austria. It is a beautiful part of the world. For this project, took a traditional farmhouse and renovated it in a fairly contemporary way for modern family living. There is now a three story bronze and glass staircase, and when combined with all of the traditional wood materials available locally, the home has been excitingly reimagined.
What would be your favourite project to date and why?
Again, not easy to answer this question with so many great projects... but I would say the renovation of a Provincial French farmhouse we completed approximately 7 years ago is high in my memory of favourite projects. Not only was the setting and structure of the existing house wonderful, but the clients were and are lovely friends and they put together a local team of an architect and a builder that were amazing to work with. A sympathetic team is crucial to any project. We made the project look suitable to Provence, but at the same time we added my preferred mix of global items such as Aboriginal art, light fittings from the United States , and decorative items from Asia. At the same time, it was wonderful to experience Provence in such a deep and detailed way, I was able to bring back many materials and interior details that were eventually incorporated into homes in Sydney and Melbourne. I love this cross pollination.
If you weren't an interior designer what would you be doing?
The only other career I could possibly see myself doing would be a furniture designer. This would be enjoyable but not quite as fulfilling as being interior designer as I love the art of 'hunting and gathering'.
What do you think sets Australian design apart on the world design stage?
It has been extremely rewarding for me to watch the interior design industry development over my 26 years in Sydney and Melbourne. I used to say that we were considered the 'last stop on the train...', this is no longer the case. The world is interested in the Australian approach to things... there is an edited approach to our work here and global taste makers are noticing this. We also are world leaders on creating seamless indoor / outdoor spaces. It has been fun to include some of these details of Australian design into the recent project in Austria ... the locals have definitely noticed this difference in approach.