Growing up in New York City, Alexa Hampton always knew she'd be a designer. Indeed, she's now president of Mark Hampton Inc., the Madison Avenue firm founded by her late father. But she never dreamed she'd be a TV personality. For the last eight months, she has appeared as the design consultant on two different PBS shows: This Old House, the home-remodeling series, and Find!, which combines antiques and interior design.
"I love both experiences, for totally different reasons," says the thirty-four-year-old, who shares a Manhattan apartment with her husband, Pavlos Papageorgiou. "Find! has given me the opportunity to see and hear firsthand how other designers work. After all," she adds, noting that she started working for her father at the age of sixteen, "I have only ever worked in one office my whole life." Find! gave her the chance to interview such legendary designers as David Easton and Albert Hadley, who with his partner, Sister Parish, decorated the White House.
Hampton joined This Old House last summer, as work began on the show's twenty-fifth anniversary project, an 1849 Greek Revival farmhouse in Carlisle, Massachusetts. She was immediately taken with the show's regulars, a five-man team including master carpenter Norm Abram and general contractor Tom Silva. "Those men are rock stars in the world of building, and here they are having a New York City designer, a woman, flung at them," she says. "They couldn't be more loving and warm."
Hampton approached the house like any other. "You always have two masters when you start a job: the client and the project itself," she says. "I wanted to respect the historical aspects of the house, but also make it comfortable for a modern family, although in this case it was an imaginary one."
Time on-camera is just one aspect of Hampton's very full professional life. In April, Hickory Chair released her first furniture line. Its forty pieces, including desks, dining chairs, and side tables, will be in stores this fall. "Everything I do is classically inspired," says Hampton. Last summer Kravet Fabrics introduced her second fabric line, and this fall it will bring out a trim line with fringes and cords. Carpeting is next.
For the past year Hampton has been working on the interior of Trowbridge House, a 10,000-square-foot, 1859 townhouse in Washington, D.C., that is being renovated for visiting former presidents. It is located on Jackson Place, next to Blair House, the White House's official guest residence. "The project is especially meaningful to me because I can remember my father working on Blair House," Hampton says.
Hampton says historic houses have interested her as long as she can remember. Providence, she says, "was a beautiful setting for someone who cared about houses." And attending Brown turned out to have a personal as well as a professional benefit. "I was all set to go to Georgetown, and at the last minute I switched ," she says. "Thank goodness I did. My husband went to Georgetown, and if I had met him in college it would never have worked. Timing is everything, you know."