Book List of the Week

A New Way of Looking: Alexa Hampton’s Book List

By Steve Kroeter January 24, 2012

Alexa Hampton

Interior and product designer Alexa Hampton: Mark Hampton LLC (New York)

Profile   Book List

As head of the interiors firm founded by her legendary father, Mark Hampton, Alexa Hampton carries the lessons of her Brown University education (class of 1993) into her life as a highly sought-after interior designer and a lifelong student and reader. Brown describes the philosophy of its curriculum as “designed to give you the freedom to explore, the freedom to focus, the freedom to take risks, the freedom to fail, and the freedom to succeed.” It encourages its students to be “the architect of your own course of study,” with the exhortation that “your education at Brown will be the foundation from which you engage the world.”

The list of 70 books that Alexa Hampton sent along to Designers & Books shows her to be a reader interested in “exploring, focusing, and taking risks.” Among her selections are two in social theory by Michel Foucault (Discipline and Punish and The History of Sexuality); political history by Winston Churchill (The Second World War); a classic psychology text by Freud (Civilization and Its Discontents: “a huge influence on my academic life”); art criticism (Image/Music/Text by Rolande Barthes); and two 19th-century novels (Pride and Prejudice as well as Crime and Punishment—“I love the story and I feel for Raskolnikov”).

Books devoted to the history and theory of art and design are plentiful. Hampton includes Ways of Seeing (also on the lists of five other Designers & Books contributors: Mark Fox, Milton Glaser, Angus Hyland, Jennifer Morla, and Véronique Vienne) by John Berger, about which she says, “I read this book as a freshman and it introduced me to a new way of looking at images.” John Richardson’s three-volume biography of Picasso is on her list. There are survey and reference books of English, French, Italian, and American interior design—as well as books that focus on the work of specific designers (including David Adler, John Soane, Jean-Michel Frank, and Billy Baldwin). In addition, she notes as the “essential book on design” The Decoration of Houses by Edith Wharton and Ogden Codman Jr. (which is also on the lists of Dominique Browning, David Easton, and William Georgis).

Left to right: Alexa Hampton: The Language of Interior Design by Alexa Hampton, 2010 (Clarkson Potter); Mark Hampton: An American Decorator by Duane Hampton, 2010 (Rizzoli); Legendary Decorators of the Twentieth Century by Mark Hampton, 1992 (Doubleday); and Mark Hampton on Decorating by Mark Hampton, 1989 (Random House).

Hampton herself comes from a family that not only values books but also writes them. In her first book, Alexa Hampton: The Language of Interior Design (2010, Clarkson Potter), she extends a writing tradition that includes two books by her father (Mark Hampton on Decorating and Legendary Decorators of the Twentieth Century) and one by her mother, Duane Hampton (Mark Hampton: An American Decorator). Whether through the pages of the book she has written or in the comments she’s made about the books on her list—there is always a distinctive yet subtle indication of the literary and artful foundation from which she engages the world.

View Alexa Hampton’s Profile     View Alexa Hampton’s Book List

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