World renowned designer, Thomas Hamel, has always captivated us with his diverse portfolio and beautifully cultivated spaces. Although he was born in Virginia and began his career in the United States, including working at the legendary Parish-Hadley Associates in New York City, his feet were not to be firmly planted in this country for long. In 1990, after having relocated to Australia, Thomas decided to open his own design firm, Thomas Hamel & Associates. Now in its 23rd year, it continues to be a thriving international interior design business. Recently, Thomas’ work was published in a beautiful book titled ”Residence“, and he has also launched a collection of hand-printed fabrics as well as custom designed furniture. When we found out that Thomas was going to be a featured speaker at this year’s Antiques and Garden Show in Nashville, we jumped at the opportunity to interview him. We are delighted today to share our conversation we had with Thomas, to you.
IC: Thank you for talking with us today! Have you been to Nashville before or is this your first experience in the Music City?
TH: This is my first time here. I spent the day yesterday touring several of the beautiful neighborhoods here in town.We even got to go in a few homes–from the English influences to the Italian influences. There is beautiful architecture here!
IC: With your business stationed in Australia, how does the South (here) differ in its culture and aesthetic?
TH: Well, we’re addicted to Veranda magazine, so we see so much of the South through its images. So beautiful. The Magazine is very representational of the style of the South as well. The show (Antiques and Garden Show) is also very much a representation as well. I think it’s fantastic to see these different vendors from primarily other southern areas come and show their things. It brings a different element to these types of shows. I feel like the South used to be represented only with formal rooms and now it’s all about porches, verandas, outdoor spaces-more inviting and approachable. Also, something people (like us in Australia) can relate to.
IC: While working at Parish-Hadley, what skills did you develop or fine tune while there?
TH: That you don’t just go in and decorate a room. You go in and look at the architecture first. The backbones and the base of the room have to be exact in one’s mind before you can deal with the decorating side of things. That’s very much a Parish-Hadley trait.
Also, it’s all about the shell and the principle of how people are going to work in the room; where they are going to sit, how will the light affect things–getting that sense of scale and whole concept of editing.
With editing, for example, put everything you like on a table in a room, then slowly edit away until the table makes sense. Until you have one “star.” Because you can only have one “star” in a room with lots of “chorus girls” around it. You need the balance: where you have the important things and then the other things need to step back, so that your eyes are not overwhelmed looking at a room. These were all Parish-Hadley traits that I carried with me.
IC: Is there a golden rule you follow in your design work?
1) I try to avoid trends and gimmickry. There’s always the newest cutting edge thing and it’s ok to be playful a little bit. But it’s always good to stick to the basic principles of design.
2) I always try to throw in something more natural to my rooms: whether it’s a basket, cane, bamboo blinds–something to tone down a room so it’s not so formal. I love sisal carpets mixed with gilded furniture, for instance.
IC: Tell us about your interest in art – both personally and with clients:
TH: I try to give my clients a sense to art as much as possible. I try to keep rooms fairly neutral so that the layer of the art will have a piece to the room.
As for me, I am quite fond of Aboriginal art, which carries a bigger spectrum of things. It carries a certain ethnic quality and also adds extra texture to a room.
IC: In your book, Residence, you show such a wide variety of styles in your work!
TH: That is important to me. I don’t want to have a signature look that defines me every time. I want my work to reflect the clients and their interests and needs. I want them to take ownership of their own projects. It should be about them.
We would like to thank you, Thomas, for not only coming to Nashville but for taking the time to talk with us! Your work is beautiful and your comments are inspiring. Come back to Nashville soon!
Thomas Hamel & Associates
(Images courtesy of Thomas Hamel & Associates)
Nashville Interior Design Blog