Michael Hampton on interior design | Home Front

Mar 06, 2014

Michael Hampton is the principal of D.C.-based Michael Hampton Design, which specializes in residential projects on both the East and West Coasts. As a California native, Michael grew up appreciating the qualities of natural light and the outdoors, understanding their integral role in the mood of a space. His designs marry this reverence for natural light and the spirit of the West Coast with the traditions and classicism of the East Coast, creating interiors with a uniquely relaxed yet refined and modern feel. Hampton is also an accomplished painter who specializes in architectural watercolors. His paintings have been featured in Elle Magazine and House Beautiful.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. Got a question about decorating? She's happy to whip out her paint chips and suggest the perfect hue, call a retailer to help track down a hard-to-find accent piece or offer some do-it-yourself. Built on years of reporting experience, Home Front is an online conversation about the best way to feather the nest. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and, yes, the occasional complaint.

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Hi there! On a previous chat, it was recommended that I strip the original wood flooring in our lake cottage...I was all set to tackle the job!...but found out it has at least three, and looks more like four, coats of industrial-type gray paint. Ugh!!!! I'm just not sure I want to go through all this mess. I don't mind the work, but I don't really want to use solutions that have harmful fumes, and I just don't know if the other types of strippers would take up that much/tough paint. Your thoughts? Alternatives? Thanks!

Im not sure of what the condition is of the floor now but waht if you repainted it with an interesting pattern. I love painted floors. Espeically the kind you often see in Sweden. 

Check out Home Goods or TJ Maxx, if there's one near you. I bought a fantastic flat weave wool rug from there. I'm in love with it and it was $200 for a 7x9 rug! Great quality, too.

Good idea!

Good morning everyone! I am delighted to be chatting with all of you this morning and look forward to answering your design questions. 

Michael, a native of California, is now a Washington based designer. He has designed homes all over the country. He was a senior designer at Thomas Pheasant before starting his own firm in 2009. We're happy to have him on the chat today.

Good morning! I have been reading this chat for years -- thanks for doing it! It has given me a lot of great advice and food for thought. I know you get a lot of paint questions, so I wanted to pass along some advice on painting after you have moved to a new area. I have lived in 8 states, from Texas to Maryland to Massachusetts and have learned a lot about working with the natural light of a region. Most recently, I moved from Texas to Illinois. I painted the kitchen and den in our new house with an aqua that would have looked fabulous in Texas. Up north, it looked fine in the summer, but turned out to be incredibly depressing in the weak winter light. If you have the luxury of some time after you move into a new place, put up your samples on the walls -- and live with it for several weeks, if not months. My story does have a happy ending -- I repainted the entire downstairs in an understated, pale green that looks wonderful in any season and works well with my furniture's upholstery. (I'm sure all that exercise did me no harm, either!)

Thank you. It was nice of you to write up your experiences and share them with us. Good ideas.

Michael, can you tell me which designers, either in DC or elsewhere, you think are doing the most interesting work?

Without playing favroites to anyone, I think Nestor Santa Cruz is an amazing designer to watch. I think his rooms are highly original and beautifully curated. I of course think my former Boss, Thomas Pheasant is doing incredible work too. 

Michael, I loved your room at the 2013 Designer Show House. It was my favorite room in the whole house, and I felt like I could have moved right in. Can you tell me what your inspiration was when you put together that room, and what you thought the most important elements were?

Thanks so much. I had a great time doing it. I approached the room almost like a small New York apartment. I wanted you to be able to a little bit of everything from entertaining, dining, lounging and a library. I felt the most impiortant elements were the faux bois paper on the walls which I cut into squares and alternated the direction. The daybed I designed for the center of the rooom also anchored the space and allowed seating groupls on both sides.

Hi! I have a question for Mr. Hampton. What are some of your favorite lights/chandeliers to use in a dining room? The rooms on your website have such a nice balance of traditional elements and modern/light elements. Thank you.

Depending on the style you are looking for I always like to find vintage or antique pieces. But I love the fixtures from Dessin Fournir and Circa Lighting.

Can you still by shag carpeting and wood paneling? My wife wants a retro 70s look for our finished basement. Any other recommendations to get that 70s feel?

You certainly can! Rosecore and Carpet Impressions in McClean would be good places to look. Keep in mind that they are not the easiest to clean and vacuum.

Michael, I've been following your work for several years and think you are one of the most talented designers in Washington. I remember your room at the 2010 Designer Show House on Bradley Avenue and loved what you did with that room. I was particularly impressed that you covered up the large window behind the bed with a beautiful fabric. Since most of us are trying to get more natural light into our bedrooms, not less, what led you to take this very unusual step?

Thank you! Yes I resisted covering up a window. But it was the only place where I could place the bed and make it the focal piece of the room. It would have been lost in the corner. Plus its a bedroom where it can be a little cozier and more cacoon like. 

I'm looking for sturdy yet stylish twin bed frames and headboards. These aren't for a child's room, rather for guest beds to be used by guests of all ages. I'm looking for something affordable - maybe in the $100 range per bed. Any ideas? Thanks!

You might go the vintage route here, at a used furniture store, thrift shop, barn sale or flea. I bought a sturdy maple twin bed years ago at Ruff & Ready, now at 4722 14th St. NW.  You could also find old wood twin beds and paint them in the color you want. You could also do upholstered headboards, which could cost less.

I am having my kitchen renovated and opened up to the living/dining room area which gets bright light all day long. My granite is Verde Laura and the cabinets are off white. There is parquet floor in the living/dining room. Please suggest a paint color for the living/dining room. I like BM paints. Thanks.

Im not sure what the Verde Laura looks like exactly but Im assuming its iin the green family. What if you did the walls in a pretty, soft green like Peaceful Garden or Pistachio ice cream by Benjamin Moores Color Stories line.

I'm looking for a kid-friendly sectional that looks great and won't cost more than a small car. Any suggestions of where to start my search?

West Elm or Pottery Barn would be my fist stops

I'm looking for ideas on decorating a rental beach house. I'm looking to update the look but not spend too much money (of course, right?!). The house gets a lot of wear and tear so durable decorating ideas would be best. Painting is not an option, unfortunately, but lamps, pictures, etc. would be good. Thanks!

There are so many incredible outdoor fabrics available on the market now for upholstering, making pillows, etc. Think of materials that will take the abuse. Metals, durable woods such as oak. I love the outdoor sisals that are available through Sisal Direct. They look almost like real sisal and you can hose them off!

What are your favorite places to shop for home furnishings in Washington? Do you like any of the flea markets or vintage stores?

Theres so many great resources in DC although I wish we had more of them! I always hit Wisconsin to visit Marston Luce, David Bell, Cote Jardin and John Rosselli. I also love my frend Daren Millers store, And Beige on Florida. Timothy Paul and Lori Graham on 14th are also favorites. I dont go to many flea markets though. But maybe I should

Several years ago I bought a beautiful urn shape nickel lamp manufactured by Virginia Metalcrafters, which has since gone out of business. Even though I dust it with a microfiber cloth, no cleaning products, it has developed a "smeery" look, not shiny. The lamp was part of a design group in memory of Princess Diana. Does anyone know how I could return it to it's clear shiny finish?

You might take it to Artisan Lamps in Clevelend Park or my absolute go to person for lighting repair, Miltons Chandeliers in Kensington. He's the best!!

Hi! We have a moss green sofa and a muted cream/burgundy/navy/green tapestry armchair in the living room. Light hardwood floors, light wood coffee table. I would like an area rug to anchor that part of the room but I am not sure if I should look for something solid-colored or if a patterned rug would be OK with the armchair. How can you tell if different patterns are working together or fighting each other?

Its important in this case to consider the scale of the patterns. If the scale of the pattern on the chair is larger you might look at doing a more neutral colored rug in a soft green and cream thats in a smaller scale pattern. To connect the colors on the sofa and chair perhaps you could bring some pillows on the sofa that pick up colors from the chair.  

What are your favorite white and off white paint colors? What's your favorite trim paint?

Benjamin Moore's Ivory White 925 and White dove. 

Do you think sisal is looking old these days? Is there anything as affordable and casual looking for floors?

I think sisal will always be a timeless classic but realize that its not for everyone. Try a wool sisal or wool flat weave rugs. I am loving the patterned flat weaves right now. 

What's a good place to find affordable rugs in Washington?

I am not sure what your budget or style is but you could check out consignment shops or auction houses like Potomac Company. If you want new then you could check out West Elm or Restoration Hardware. Random Harvest sometimes has some nice rugs that wont break the bank too. 

Hi Michael, any tips for small spaces? I have a really tiny bedroom, and a pretty tiny budget. What should I invest in?

When designing a small space I always look for multi pupose type pieces. A daybed that double as a sofa, a desk that doubles as a dining table when you want to have friends for dinner. 

Today's local living had a story about wallpaper. I'm still not sure I'm sold on it. I rarely see it in anyone's home. What do you think? Can it be low budget?

You're asking someone who absolutely loves wallpapers. I know that they can conjure up images of fussy interiors of the fifties or the crazy bold prints we saw in the 70's but there are so many beautiful and interesting papers out there now. Its such an easy way to transform a space. Check out Philip Jeffries. Their line of papers redfines wallpaper. 

Hi and thanks for taking my question. I live in a new construction home, with 12 foot ceilings. We need large wall art for some big walls, but we can't afford paying 5K per canvas. I am not a fan of reproductions. Any suggestions where to look for affordable original art? Thanks.

Thats a tough one. You might check out Merritt Gallery in Chevy Chase. I also encourage you to check out local art schools to see what their students are doing. They often have shows that feature their work and usually theyre for sale. Theres some great talent out there. 

Is there a good place locally to find lots of wallpaper patterns available at retail?

I dont typically use retail papers but I believe Calico Corners sells wallpaper. There is a paper line by Thibaut that sells retail I believe. 

Do you think stainless steel appliances are still the way to go? I don't want my kitchen to look dated in five years.

I think stainless steel aplliances will always look good and dont think your kitchen would look dated. If you were to have one stainless steel appliance in the room it would be your range or cooktop. Fridges and dishwashers also look great integrated. 

I would like to paint my guest room in a mustard yellow, but I am not sure what other color should be introduce to the room? What pairs with this tone. Any other suggestions?

Shades of greens immediately come to mind. 

I just looked at your website. Your work is beautiful. The art in the first photo for "Residence for a modern family" - is exactly the work we are hoping to find for our home. Where do you recommend looking for art? Any favorite galleries? Any resources you recommend for more affordable art? Thank you!

Thanks so much for your nice comment. Long View Gallery here in DC is great. I have a home in Santa Fe as well so I am spoiled by all of the great galleries there. If you dont mind prints check out Singular Editions or Natural Curiosities. Theres also a number of great new galleries that are opening on 14th St. 

I have some amazing pieces of work I'd like to hang, but they just seam so heavy. How do you like to display this kind of stuff? Put on a table? Hang up a shelf and then place them on it? The mantel?

If you prefer to hang them I would definitely consult a professional installer such as Andy Art and Mirror. If you want to lean them I would be sure to somehow secure them to the wall. You never know if we have another earthquake here in DC. 

Looking for ideas for redecorating my teen son's room. He really needs some organization help. Any tips/tricks or stores we should try?

I love the Container Store. I love being organized so whenever I go in there I know that everything will be alright in the world! Ikea has so many great storage solutions too. I like to use baskets and storgae boxes with labels for everything. 

How do you decide on a flooring color? I like dark flooring but what color furniture does it work well with? And does it depend on the room. I was thinking for my kitchen. It is in need of a revamp.

I love dark floors too! Classic and dramatic. Think of creating an interesting contrast between the dark floors and lighter upholstery pieces. Look at a black and white photograph too see the interesting lights and darks. I would avoid bleached or real pale woods. Try and go with darker finishes for the wood but they could still have a little contrast from the floors. Just remember that dark floors will show more then a lighter floor so you just have to keep the vacuum handy a little more. 

Thank you for the shout-out for Milton's. He is simply stellar... any lamp, any chandelier will be fixed, repaired, restored - he is passionately devoted to doing it right. He's particularly good at modifying European fixtures to US standards... and I doubt there's a spare part that's not somewhere in the depths of that shop.

And he is such a nice guy to boot!

Thanks for having me on the chat today Jura. I enjoyed hearing and answering everyones questions. I hope they were helpful.

You really shared a lot of great local sources with us. And thanks for the paint advice as always. Next week, we have professional organizer Rachel Strisik Rosenthal chatting with us about getting our closets, kitchens and home offices organized for spring. See you then.

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

Home Q&A archive
Michael Hampton
Michael Hampton is the principal of D.C.-based Michael Hampton Design, which specializes in residential projects on both the East and West Coasts. As a California native, Michael grew up appreciating the qualities of natural light and the outdoors, understanding their integral role in the mood of a space. His designs marry this reverence for natural light and the spirit of the West Coast with the traditions and classicism of the East Coast, creating interiors with a uniquely relaxed yet refined and modern feel. Hampton is also an accomplished painter who specializes in architectural watercolors. His paintings have been featured in Elle Magazine and House Beautiful.
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