The Design Process, Part I: inspiration from Fab Five

February 6, 2019

Step one in the design process at our firm is to create meaningful spaces for the client.  We learn the client’s story and then try to repeat it in the structure, the flow, and the finishes of the home.  We lead a team to refine the vision and actually fight to keep the focus on balancing function and beauty.  Every piece is informed by this vision… and there are some people and places we reference for inspiration.  These creative flashpoints translate into a personal space- Every. Single. Time. 

I’d like to call these my “ultimate influencers.”  In the ever-flowing tide of curated images on digital media- these are the foundational inspirations of the work we do.

1 – Mark Hampton

Mark Hampton, the American decorating master.  Everything he did was grounded in solid scale, proportion, color perfection and comfort.  An ID legend, he also rendered beautiful watercolors of his spaces and others.   He cared about quality- that elusive term – and famously said, “I have absolutely no interest in a trademark style.”  Ahhh… in a world of branding and forced color and newness… what a lovely authentic take.  Truly one to follow.



A watercolor from his book, On Decorating, detailing Billy Baldwin’s Manhattan apartment.



Hampton’s family living room, Architectural Digest. Just as chic in 2019 as it was in the 80s.  Contrast, balance, comfort and scale perfection.  

Markham Roberts is one of his contemporary protégés.  His book, Decorating the Way I See It, is teeming with details and comfortable rooms that don’t beg for attention.  (And let the personality of the client shine- a great inspiration point for any great feeling room- even if the pieces are too fine or not exactly to one’s taste).





2 – Veere Greeney

His recent book A Point of View presents exquisitely pretty rooms that are still approachable.  So much texture, so much femininity in the details that adorn windows and upholstery. 



Beautiful Italian bowls on the walls, texture in the wicker, the French tufted daybed cushion, the limestone pavers, and the Moroccan rug.  This image inspired my concept for our recent home in the St George Parade of Homes, Casa Leggera.



Balloon shadesPerfectly poufed duchess silk satin, covered buttons, solid weltless cottons and velvet, antiques and apple matting abound! 


3 – France

The entire country is inspiring.  The manners required while entering and leaving a home and a shop.  The way a shopkeeper ties up a tiny package at the register.  The lasting gravitas of Louis XV, Louis XVI, Louis Philippe, Empire pieces Details are everywhere.  Sophisticated, understated, authentic. 



Musee Nissim de Camondo, abutting the famous Parc Monceau in the 17th in Paris. 





Vaux -le –Vicomte is my favorite Chateau in the world.  Louis XIV was so jealous of its beauty that he imprisoned the owner and his finance minister, Nichola Fouquet. Louis Le Vau (architect), Andre Le Notre (landscape designer), and the world’s first interior decorator, and painter, Charles Le Brun, collaborated on this masterpiece.  The spaces inside are actually proportional to humans- unlike the cobbling of styles at Versailles. (Although the same team was hired to create Versailles)!


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My favorite town in the south of France: Gordes It’s a golden limestone village on a very steep pointed hill.  Limestone is everywhere- and it’s quarried here in the Luberon.  Food is integral to this region – the Cavaillon melons that grow here in the Vaucluse are the best in the world!



The Abbaye de Senanque is in the neighborhood.



The Petit Trianon at Versailles.  You just have to be there and visit yourself.  My image doesn’t do it justice… and for a space almost unfurnished, it feels full and light and PERFECTLY scaled.  Skip the lines at the main house, rent a bike in the gardens and head straight here… including the gardens and the faux farm.


4  – California relaxed restraint.

My hometown on the Peninsula in California is a touchstone for our designs.  Light filled spaces, indoor/outdoor living and low-key lack of ostentation (in many cases!).  Some of my hometown favorites include: Suzanne Tucker, Rela Gleason, Fisher Weisman, Martha Angus, and Andrew Skurman.



An outdoor shower by Rela Gleason.



Rela’s design from her furniture line, Summer Hill.  Not currently available, this sofa is scaled to a T, totally versatile.



Rela’s iconic Brighton Bed, also from defunct Summer Hill.  Hoping this American made piece will sometime come back!



A St Helena home by Martha Angus.  Obsessed with the freshness… this room is at least 10 years old.



I mean, just yum Martha Angus!  Talk about juxtaposition at it’s finest.  Happy.  And it has such a deeply meaningful soul- even though we don’t know the client.  We kind of do know the client from this image!  Hearts and stars for this space!



Classicism: scale and mathematics of Suzanne Tucker, Tucker & Marks.  She is pretty much the reigning style doyenne of San Francisco.  Love her work- even though we simplify big time at HWT Interiors.



A gorgeous hall by Tucker & Marks for a home on the Peninsula.  Sight lines to die for – and this hall reminds me of the Petit Trianon (see France above).



Empire, Louis XVI, blue and STRIPES!  Gorgeous.  By Tucker & Marks



A lovely classical bath in Carmel by Fisher Weisman



 Currently using this sconce in a project… the tassel sconce by Fisher Weisman



Andrew Skurman’s French, Georgian, and Mediterranean architecture. This one is French by Skurman Architects. The scale is everything. Not McMansion… just insanely lovely.  I’d really love to go to a book club here



A Georgian porch for a cottage on the peninsula by Skurman Architects.  My favorite.  Dying to copy actually!  It’s a gracious ranch house in Atherton. More hearts and stars.



Another peninsula home by Skurman, a Georgian colonial home.  Sighs and lots of detailed, mathematical proportion make this golden star inspo for our firm.



The same residence, with gorgeous carriage house doors, thick slate roof and hand molded brick with white pointing.  Materials can make the structure.  I love how the doors aren’t perfectly hanging because they open out.  AMAZING.  Expensive, yes, but inspirational.


4 – An All The Other Greats:

Robert Adam, Andrea Palladio, Andre Le Notre, Mario Buatta, Oscar de la Renta, Stephen Sills, Bruce Budd, Leta Austin Foster, Alexa Hampton, Suzanne Kasler, Carolina Herrera.  All can be counted on for beauty unparalleled and solidly grounded in simple balance and scale.


5 – My Mother

She taught me that entertaining isn’t a production- it’s never a show- it is an experience, and a gift to someone else- a service above all.   I love her style and her graciousness.  She has an enduring love for quality.  And if you don’t have the budget to find what you want in your home, learn how to make it.  Buy a sewing machine, hoard fabrics, and appreciate pretty, happy spaces.  Like, buy gallons of white paint and let the light move in.  Chuck the plantation shutters please!  Thanks Mom, I love you!

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