Even before seeing the work of designer Thomas Hamel, I was intrigued by his background. Both a Virginia native and a Parish-Hadley alum, Hamel moved around the world to Australia in 1990 where he started his own design firm. Twenty some odd years later, Hamel is still entrenched in Australia and doing quite well. I find that not just impressive, but brave too.
I recently finished reading a monograph of Hamel's work titled Residence. It's an interesting book that captures the range of the designer's work. In the introduction, Hamel writes that "In America, for example, where the market is huge, interior designers tend to be known for one look, and offer up that one particular style of design or point of view." It's something that Hamel believes doesn't work in Australia where the market is much smaller. And based on the book's photos, it seems that his Australian clients have given him free rein to work in a multitude of styles. (You can see for yourself in the photos below.)
While I can see the influence that Hamel's adopted country has had on him, his Southern roots are still very much in evidence. Even in the most contemporary of his interiors, there is a comfort and a graciousness to the homes that I suspect can be traced back to his Virginia upbringing. And one more thing that I think is worth noting: Hamel mentions in the book that his favorite book as a child was one about the Thorne miniature rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago. I'm sure there are those people who might find that a strange choice for a child, but if anyone can understand his childhood fascination with that book, it is definitely you and me!
All photos from "Residence", Hardie Grant Books publisher, 2011, Matt Lowden photographer.