Principles of Design – Mark Hampton Part 1

Hellosie Design Aficionados!

When you really love something, don’t you just want to know everything about it?!  I realize that this need to know everything is not always the best way to go about a love affair, but when it comes to design, yes, go all single white female on that B. (And when it comes to lovin’ your significant other, maybe tread lightly when you’re studying the inner depths of their psyche.)

I’ve come to believe that learning about the history and principles of design is just as important as actually practicing them.  It will ultimately make us better at what we love and (bonus!) we’ll sound very smarty-pants at parties.  For that reason, I’d love to share some tidbits that I’ve found interesting in books that are currently on my nightstand.  Today, I’m just finishing up Mark Hampton Decorates, which actually began as a collection of essays that he put together for a magazine and later turned into a relaxing, insightful read.  And although I can’t say that I favor his traditionalism, I have found some nuggets in there to take to heart.

Mark firmly believed that decorating is fun and that it should be enjoyed; The thrill of the hunt for the perfect piece is the best part.  Agreed!!  Here is a space he designed which looks like it just came out of Architectural Digest!


Hampton also heavily advocated small sitting areas within larger spaces.  He says that it’s more comfortable for guests when they can have a variety of seating options (like higher chairs for older people, or deeper seating for lazing) and have the ability to move seats around to create pockets of conversation.  One thing that got me, was that he recommended using those “off-limit” rooms to make them more, shall I say, enticing.  Once a year for the holidays is not enough!  I have a living room that rarely gets used by guests, probably because it seems restricted – we don’t use it on the daily, so why would our guests go in there?  The kids run all over it, so there’s nothing too fancy schmancy in there (well, not anymore!) but Mark’s commentary made me see that when a room is not used it looks/feels stagnant and lifeless.

*Homework for me – Use my living room to see what I can do to make her more inviting!  Crudités anyone?!


“The single greatest vulgarity in interior decoration is pretentiousness.  Understatement is a pain in the neck sometimes, but it is a good thing to keep in mind even when you are contemplating some ravishing excess.  Where rich materials are concerned, good judgement is required.”  Mark Hampton

The dining room is from 1989, so clearly Marky-mark knew what he was talking about.  Good design, stands the test of time.  Have fun, enjoy your spaces!  But don’t be all pretentious about it, sheesh!

So, let’s us pour a glass of whatever in our forbidden rooms to him.  He certainly made traditional cool.

What’s under my hood? And a neat gift idea.

It’s the humpty hump day!  I meant Wednesday, you sickos!!

I’m sure you’re all dying to know what I’m cookin with over here?  What’s under my hood?  Or, in plain ol’ terms, what kind of sewing machine I’ve got?  Well, I upgraded a few months ago to the Brother SE4oo, which is a combo sewing and embroidery machine.

For any of you that have ventured into the world of embroidery, you know those machines are not cheap.  In fact, Damn, Gina!  They are ex-pen-sive!!  I’m talking 2k at the lower end.  Did your jaw just drop?!?

That’s why I ended up with this machine.  It does embroidery on a 4×4 hoop (that’s pretty small) but, it does a pretty good job for a machine that’s in the 300 range.  (Love that movie, btw – We are Sparta!!)

As a father’s day gift for my uncle that literally has everything, I decided I would embroider some stuff.  I figured dish towels are always a necessity.  Snagged these at TJ Maxx for under 10.


I knew I wanted to do an M monogram, so I marked off the middle with pencil.


Are you freaking out because I used pencil?!  I only did that because I knew I was going to wash the towels after to remove the stabilizer.  Which brings me to a super duper key part – the stabilizer.  It’s a must.  But who wants some cardboard chunk on the back of their towel?  No one, that’s who.  So get this stuff… it dissolves in water and is very fancy.


I actually bought this on when I had a coupon and needed to spend a few more bucks to redeem it – so free for me!

Then I carefully sandwiched the fabric in the hoop and made sure the needle lined up with my markings so everything was straight.  (Sounds easy, but take your time on this.)  I used some basic settings… two frames and a letter.  Cute, I think.


So, is my machine top-o-the-line.  No, not really.  But she does get the job done and since I’ve only embroidered a few things, I’m happy I didn’t shell out the 2k… although, one day, I just might.  Buaaahhhhaaahhhaaa!

PS Look at me Mom, no pencil marks =)

Finished the Couch – or did I?!

TGIM.  Sometimes I’m relieved it’s Monday so I can go into the office and just have a few hours of uninterrupted quiet time…not that it’s quiet in the office, but just for that time, I’m focused.  At home, even when I’m being productive, I’m thinking about the other 10 things I could be doing and the kiddos are adding their own list of Mommy-to-do’s.  You know what I’m talking about, right?!  So after the Father’s Day festivities, yeah, TGIM.

But on with the show!  Here is my couch, sans covers…



12 cushions and 1 ottoman… doesn’t seem so daunting, until you’re on #5 and there’s still a long way to go.  But totally doable in 10-20 minute increments (which is what I did since if I even touched the sofa, the boys would immediately start doing gymnastic karate moves on it).

From this far back, the cushions look like they’re in fairly good shape… why even cover them?  To you and I, couch means “a place to sit on,” but to the munchkins it’s “where I wipe my hands and boogers, where I set my mashed up banana, where it’s best to test the reliability of a sippy cup.”  For the record they’re not all that reliable.

Please don’t judge me too much (deep breath) but here’s why covers were VERY needed…


And cleaning ain’t cheap – $350 a go ’round.  I went to downtown LA and ended up buying 10 yards of $2 dollar fabric.  I made the ottoman cover and then lived with it for about 2 weeks.  Washed it, man handled it, changed diapers on it – really tested ‘er out.  That discount fabric held up, so I went back and NOOOOO!!, they only had 20 more yards.  I figured that I would just mix some fabrics; Shouldn’t be too hard to find something fun, right?  I also got 10 yards of flexible vinyl that I put under the fabric to protect the cushions from spills.

My inspiration is something like this… I love, love the way the designer mixed the fabric colors and textures.  Of course, this sofa is cute and small and mine is huge, but it’s inspiration.


My problem always has been, where to stop.  When I’m buying fabric I always gravitate toward crazy colors and patterns – they’re just so much more fun to buy and sew!!  But for the couch I tried to urge my inner self to go neutral – I tried!

Step one – The actual cushions


Step 2 – The OutersDSCN1320

Step 3 – Pillows for Sure and A Revamp??

I’m not entirely happy with how the covers are looking.  Ironing and pinning might be the play (but ironing makes me angry), and then the red fabric… well, I’m not sold on it.  Ed says it’s too Morroccan…and he’s not wrong.  Maybe just take off the outers?  Any thoughts Amigos?

I won’t bore you with all the how-to’s but basically I cut the fabric to size + 0.5″ for the seam and pinned it in place to fully match the shape of the cushions and frame.  That way I would be sure the cover would be fitted (since some of the cushions are worn more in one area than another).  I numbered them on the back to keep track of which goes where.  I also added super long zippers, ’cause who wants to tug and pull these puppies on?  Not I!!  I know I’ll be washing them weekly, so the easier the better.  (PS  These have already been washed about 3 times.)  Got the zippers on Amazon for cheapo and they work great!  All said and done, I ended up using about 40 yards of fabric.  Wowee.

There you have it!  The fruits of my labors, I’m talking about the cushions although those boys qualify too!  Didn’t I say they could resist this darn couch?!?!

Hope you get some rest from your weekend today =)