Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mark Hampton at Home in Southampton

Mark Hampton on the awning-covered terrace
of his Southampton, Long Island home.
Photo by Durston Saylor for Architectural Digest.
The recent post about Lakeview House, Palm Beach mentioned that one of the former owners, Madame Balsan (Consuelo Vanderbilt) spent summers in Southampton, a village settled in 1640 on Long Island.  Her estate Gardenside (also known as Cara Mia) on Ox Pasture Road featured a circa 1900 shingled house and several outbuildings.  After Madame Balsan's death in 1964, the property was subdivided.
The main house of the estate Gardenside in Southampton.
Although virtually all the estates have been subdivided, the streets west of Lake Agawan are still known as the Estate Area and a desirable place to own property.  (Since 9/11, the full-time population of the Hamptons has grown, especially for families with children).
An aerial view of part of Southampton,
with Lake Agawan in the center
and the Atlantic Ocean at the bottom right.
The red pin marks the main house of Gardenside
and the purple pin marks the former gardener's cottage.
Image:  Google Maps via MapQuest.
The year-around weekend get-away house that the interior designer Mark Hampton created for his own family started out as the estate gardener's cottage at Gardenside.  Hampton added a complimentary garden of his own after he tripled the size of the house and created an interior in his own distinctive style.  (In numerous interviews, he always insisted he did not have a signature style, but his interiors are unmistakably a reflection of his preferences).
A closer aerial view of the Gardenside estate
with the red pin indicating the original main house
and the purple pin the cottage expanded by Mark Hampton.
Image:  Google Maps via MapQuest.
Along with Mario Buatta and Albert Hadley, Mark Hampton was one of the best known 'name' decorators of the early 1990s.  At the time of the article written by Aileen 'Suzy' Mehle for the September, 1996, issue of Architectural Digest, Mark was riding high with international fame as decorator-of-choice to the rich and influential, not the least being Bush 41.  Mark decorated the Vice-President's residence at the Naval Observatory, their house in Houston, the Kennebunkport compound and Camp David in addition to the White House for Barbara and President George H.W. Bush.
The Mark Hampton Residence in Southampton
as it appeared in the September, 1996, issue of
Architectural Digest.  Photo by Durston Saylor.
In the article, Mark said, "Most of the things in the house Duane [his wife] and I bought over the years of travel long before we had the place."   The Hamptons bought the property around 1980.  Facing the entrance elevation (above), the original cottage is to the right and the addition to the left.

"The design is based on old-fashioned
cottage architecture," Mark Hampton
said of his Southampton home.
Photo by Durston Saylor for Architectural Digest.
The entrance stair hall, in the new part of the house, is always bright with a skylight and spotted chocolate carpet with a strawberry motif.  Part of the collection of framed antique architectural renderings decorate the walls.  "Our interest in architectural models, engravings and drawings had an immense effect on how the final collection of odds and ends turned out."

Dark brown walls give a sense of architecture
to the living room in the addition to the cottage.
Photo by Durston Saylor for Architectural Digest.
In the living room, the new bookcase cabinet along with antique pieces are prototypes of models that later were manufactured for the Mark Hampton line of furniture for Hickory Chair.

The living room opens to a terrace
covered by canvas in the summer.
Photo by Durston Saylor for Architectural Digest.
The white slipcovers in the living room are removed in the winter to return the upholstered chairs and sofas to chintz.  The sisal rugs remain year around.

the Georgian Revival chimneypiece.
Photo by Durston Saylor for Architectural Digest.
"And although we needed a palette that would be peaceful and cool in the summer, it had to be cozy during the winter weekends, when we have fires burning all day long."

"A cream room with blue-and-white ceramics
is a classic recipe," said Mark Hampton
in describing his dining room in Southampton.
Photo by Durston Saylor for Architectural Digest.
In the Dining Room, a round table can seat up to eight, and a second table can be added to seat eight more.  The walls are painted with trompe l'oeil panelling and decorated with blue & white early 19th century Staffordshire platters and plates.

The walls of the master bedroom
are a pale lettuce green to compliment
the Colefax & Fowler chintz.
Photo by Durston Saylor for Architectural Digest.
"The master bedroom is a kind of melange of pieces we're both crazy about -- French chairs, English chairs, a Gothic bookcase, and antique Gothic stove, a painted George III bed and a walnut desk from Indiana that I've sat at for forty-five years, writing and drawing since I was a child. . .The bed is always dressed entirely in white except for the antique American quilt we pull over ourselves in the winter."
The garden designed with landscape architect
Bruce Kelly.  Mark Hampton designed the bench
with the tall slat back.
Photo by Durston Saylor for Architectural Digest.
"When we were remodeling and adding on to the cottage," Mark is quoted in the article, "we had the good fortune of working with the late Bruce Kelly, a landscape architect who helped us create the English-style perennial garden.  It cheered us up to have beautiful old fruit trees and herbaceous beds bordered by box hedges when we had to tear down a glorious greenhouse on the property to make room for the swimming pool."
The house from the approach.
The garage, right, was converted to become the poolhouse.
Photo by Durston Saylor for Architectural Digest.
At both of the architectural firms this writer worked for prior to his tenure at Parish-Hadley, there was an association with landscape architect Bruce Kelly;  we worked on a couple of projects together that were never realized.  Bruce was best known for the design of the tribute to John Lennon, Strawberry Fields in Central Park.  Bruce died of AIDS in January, 1993, at age 44.

The Devoted Classicist Library
Mark Hampton died in July, 1998, at age 58.  Duane, who had been involved in the marketing and promotional aspect of the business, wrote a beautifully produced book titled MARK HAMPTON: AN AMERICAN DECORATOR that documents a wide survey of her late husband's work; she sometimes lectures on the subject.  Daughter Alexa had been groomed to take over Mark Hampton LLC  and became president and head designer after her father's death;  she has achieved success in her own name and also has a book ALEXA HAMPTON: THE LANGUAGE OF INTERIOR DESIGN.  Also following in her father's footsteps (Mark had studied theatre in college), daughter Kate is the actress Kate Hampton.


  1. I think that the chair (at least I think that it's a chair) in front of the desk (at least I think that it's a desk)in the bedroom looks interesting. Do you have a full picture of that? It looks like it may be carved in a Regency style?

    1. Sassy, I like that chair in the master bedroom too, and wanted to include it despite the photo depth-of-field putting it a bit out of focus and the annoying layout across the binding of the magazine. I was wondering if the decoration might be composition instead of hand-carved, and if the chair is Regency Revival rather than of the first period. The chair only shows up in the magazine as you see it, so it is difficult to guess any more. But it's quite good-looking isn't it? Thanks for your comment.

  2. The book is one of my most treasured and one which I look through often. My first encounter with Mr Hampton's work was seeing in TWoI in the early 80s his chintz-upholstered sitting room which soon after became beige. That disappointed me no end.

    His brown sitting room in this house was at the time one of the most impressive in its sophistication and that dark brown was one that had not been seen in decorating for thirty years.

    Mark Hampton remains one of the best.

    1. Blue, I agree with you about the Hamptons' Manhattan living room; I think the chintz scheme was more successful than the beige. Thanks for your comments.

  3. I have his books and just borrowed Alexa's from the library. She certainly didn't fall far from the tree.

    Our new guest room's wall are painted in that dark brown with everything else in white. I inherited the color and decided to work around it rather than repaint. It is turning out tres chic. He was always my favorite. I had never seen the Southamptom house...what a gem!

    1. The brown walls can work very successfully as a backdrop, as they do here, when the furnishings contrast. The fabric under the slipcovers is "La Portugaise" chintz which has big colorful bands of flowers and leaves on a light background bordered by brown. (There are other colorways as well). And it always helps when the room is big. Thanks, Julieta.

  4. I too am a big fan of the chocolate brown paint, which is especially successful with the almost dazzling white of the bookcase, the skirting and the cornices. And of course the fabric choice for the furniture.

    1. Columnist, clearly having enough daylight was not an issue in this room with the long wall facing south and a lack of big trees for shade, so a reflective wall color was not needed to give the room life. Thank you for commenting.

  5. Do you think the bedroom desk chair could be painted trompe l'oeil? Surely. bas relief carving would be un-comfortable to sit against and would wear away rather quickly. Do you agree that Mark Hampton (like David Hicks) did his best work for himself and own homes?

    1. These are two good questions, Herts.
      For the chair, I wondered the same thing. I could be mistaken, but I do think the decoration on the back is dimensional. Although painted decoration is more common for the back of a klismos-form chair, I have seen examples that were carved or decorated with a composition relief. In ideal circumstances, this would be the type of chair placed against the wall rather than lining a dining table, no?
      As for decorators' own homes, that is a subject that interests me. While I might be convinced that David Hicks did his best work for his own residences, I would not be so quick to say the same for Mark Hampton. Mark's success was so great in financial terms that he could certainly afford handsome decoration for his own pleasure, but his wealth did not come close to that of his clients who usually gave him free rein to do whatever he wanted. That is, his clients often let him decorate as if for himself, but they paid the tab, freeing him from the restrictions he might have for himself.
      Perhaps other Devoted Readers would like to voice their opinions on both of these topics.

  6. A delicious post. I have been an admirer of Mr. Hampton's work for many, many years, and treasure his books. I return to his "On Decorating" often, and consider it to be one of the very best of the books on this endlessly fascinating (to some of us at least) subject. RD

    1. Thanks, Reggie. It is especially appreciated, knowing your head is still spinning from all the swell places you've seen in Paris!

  7. Not sure whether that bedroom chair is trompe or actual relief--yet I can say with
    certainly that the Hampton apartment in New York was vastly improved in its 1990
    redecoration/remodeling. The chintz scheme was an excellent demonstration of
    a romantic trend in design and extremely charming as such, but it is easy to imagine
    that it would grow tiresome after a decade. The real impact of the second scheme
    was architectural--the screen of columns and pilasters diving the rooms, the refinements to the chimney piece and its flanking bookcases--all of it providing an authoritative background to subtle tones in fabrics. The room was made calmer, but by no means was it dull or dry. And the progression between that room and the rich reds of
    the dining room was very satisfying.

    1. Toby, I think Mark Hampton's appreciation of architecture showed in his decorating work and it was better for it. Thank you for commenting.


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