Alexa Hampton is many things to many people. For those of us here at Mecox, she is first and foremost a friend. But lately, it’s her role as an artist that has us admiring the award-winning interior designer and business executive. Despite having her hands full with her career and family, the mom of three recently managed to find time to pick up her paintbrushes and produce a collection. The collection is currently on display (and for sale) in Mecox Southampton, Mecox New York and in Mecox East Hampton where one of her paintings can be seen in Tony Ingrao’s window.
Since we’re expecting more than a few shoppers to do a double take when they find out who created the work on our walls, we had a conversation with Alexa and asked her a few questions about how she transitions from being president of one of world’s leading design firms to being a painter who works on her hands and knees. Here are the highlights from our conversation.
On Her Career
What would you be doing if you weren’t designing?
Napping. Or maybe watching a marathon on Bravo. My kids always say, “Mom, you’re either doing everything or nothing.”
You’re based in New York and a lot of your projects are in the city, so how do you approach projects in the Hamptons?
Regardless of where I work, every project should and does begin with the client. I look at photographs of things they already own and ask my clients how they want to live—i.e. do they like to cook a lot, take baths, etc.
How do you know when you’ve hit the mark?
When the client feels happy in their room—even if it isn’t quite on par with their lifestyle. For example, I have a formal living room in my home. Usually I’m lounging in a Gap t-shirt and my husband is in a concert t-shirt, so we feel ludicrous hanging out in such a fancy place. But it makes us happy, and that’s what’s important. I hope to one day be worthy of that room!
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in working in the interior design industry?
You have to love the idea of working for someone and trying to make them happy. You can’t be in this business if you’re not friendly and interested in a career in the service industry.
What do your kids think about your career?
They love it. They think their mom designed their apartment building. I have to frequently remind them that mom designed the apartment, not the building!
When did you start making art?
I’ve been creating art for as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved drawing. My dad was always drawing things; his dad was always drawing things—so I guess it runs in the family. You know how some parents introduce their kids and say, “This is my little dancer or baseball star”? My parents would say, “This is our little artist Alexa.”
Wow, three generations of artists! Will it be four?
Yes, all of my kids, especially Markos, love to draw. Even though they’re kids, they talk about art and design like some kids talk about soccer or TV personalities. Art and design are essential categories for them.
Sounds like there are a lot of artists in the family, have they offered any advice?
My dad always told me to draw what you see, not what you think you see. My mom is always quick to tell me when to stop. She reminds me that I’ve got to put my pencil or brush down at some point because if you don’t stop, your work will eventually suffer. You can only do so much polishing.
How does art influence your design process?
I definitely take it into account because art is a great tool that allows you to straddle style and helps you temper the traditionalism of the interior. I love how there can be lively conversations between furniture and art. That said, I would never use art as a starting point for a room design. It makes no sense to go out and select a blue couch because I’m starting with a blue painting.
If you could be an artist-in-residence anywhere in the world, where would “anywhere” be?
Based on where I’ve been before? I would love to be an artist-in-residence at the American Academy in Rome. My dad helped refurbish the Academy so it has a special meaning to me. Plus, I love Italy.
On Her Paintings
We’ve known of you as a designer for years—why are we just now finding out that you’re such a talented painter?
I decided to paint more (and go public with my work) since I needed inventory. I was tired of going to market year after year and seeing the same pieces. The demand for artwork was an excellent excuse to invest more time into a hobby that could pay off in my design practice.
You’re a mom of three, the president of Mark Hampton LLC, and the creator of several product lines, how do you manage to find time to paint?
It’s simple. We all make time for the activities that we enjoy. I haven’t yet made time for working out, but it’s important to me to make time to paint!
Where do you paint?
I sprawl out on the floor in my office—I’ll probably have to replace the carpet soon. I bring the kids in and put on a movie. It’s fun for them to see me, a grownup, sitting on the floor assigning emotional value to an art project.
Why did you decide to sell your pieces in Mecox?
Mecox represents the decorative elite and obtainable. I can easily go into any Mecox store and find something, unique. A gallery is intimidating, but Mecox is like a family member. I drive by the stores, I shop in them and I adore the Mecox team. In a way, it’s a wonderful homecoming. Plus there is definitely a growing trend in displaying art in a retail setting because it’s more comfortable and more accessible. I’m a firm believer that buying art should be a pleasant and personal experience.