Bringing Homes to Life - Amanda Hamilton
Amanda is one of a kind. She is an award wining interior designer and entrepreneur in Calgary but is renowned throughout Canada for her bold commercial and residential designs. She sat down with us to talk about the design process, why you might want to hire a designer for your next project and what goes into creating the perfect mood in your home.
How did you get started in interior design?
Despite having an eye for design, interior design wasn’t something Amanda got into right away:
“I actually didn’t know about interior design when I first started. I was actually in visual arts, music and theatre growing up. It was two years into university, and was not doing so well in my classes. The studies were just so general. I sat down one day and started trolling the internet one day, as one does, and went down a rabbit hole and found out about interior design. I had never heard about it before. I was living in Edmonton at the time, had done some research and really wanted to go and get a degree.”
The rest is history, despite some unsure parents when Amanda decided to move from Edmonton to Calgary to attend Mount Royal University.
How do you get started with a complicated new project like a home renovation or commercial space?
Amanda recommends starting fresh and have inspiration at hand, but make no assumptions.
“I like to approach every client with a fresh start and an open mind. Clients and designers alike want to dig in to a project. They want to start talking about finishes and materials, and plumbing and lighting right away. But there are so many more important steps that have to happen before that. We sit down and do a design discovery meeting. From there we assess what a client needs. We have a rule in the office that we don’t copy anyone else but we also don’t copy ourselves. I don’t like to reuse the same light fixture or plumbing fixture or sofa or finished material because I want all of our spaces to be a reflection of the client and not a reflection of us.”
When it comes time to start the project, it all starts with the space itself.
“I love space planning. It’s my favourite part of the process. I grew up doing puzzles with my grandpa. There are rules around doing puzzles, there’s a strategy and a process. You start with the edge pieces and work your way in. That comes into design. There’s a process there.”
One of the first things is to figure out the different areas and how to arrange the different elements in a pleasing and functional way.
How do you educate clients?
“We educate our clients from start to finish in the design process and we do that through challenging them. Clients will come in with an idea; a rough idea on their Pinterest boards or images pulled out of a magazine. Our job is to take their vision and make it better than what they could have imagined. Otherwise, what’s our value if we’re just giving you what you came with? It’s our responsibility to introduce clients to different brands, concepts and ideas.”
How do you know when a space is finished?
“There’s a lot of psychology behind how space affects people. When you walk into a space, it just feels right. The reality is that behind the scenes, the designer has considered every single detail. It goes beyond design. For example, in a restaurant, it’s the music, the design of the menu, the branding and creative — everything down to what the server is wearing and the verbiage they are using. It gives you an overall picture of the experience. There are literally thousands of details that got you to feel that way”
But she wouldn’t say that it’s complete at that point:
“A space is never complete. A space that is well designed continues to evolve”
The important thing is to make it your own, and use the space as a springboard for making it fit your life.
What makes or breaks a space?
The top elements that contribute to the feel and liveability of a space are the furniture and lighting fixtures.
“Those are the “character” pieces. They are the ‘jewels’ that give the home character and brings it to life.”
Each of the elements in the home bring something different to the table.
With lighting, it’s not just the decorative aspect but the mood that these elements create.
According to Amanda, “Emotion and mood is created by lighting.”
Plumbing and hardware is also one of the more unappreciated categories:
“There’s something about when you touch and feel a really great quality faucet. That’s something you’re doing on a daily basis. If you’re just using something flimsy, you can feel that.”
What do you look for when finding a vendor to supply those products?
For a top designer like Amanda Hamilton, finding the right products easily is very important, given the demands put on a designer under a tight timeline.
“When working with a vendor it’s important that they have product lines that have depth. Quality is really big for us. I like working with Robinson Lighting & Bath because they have so many great products. They have great products with great quality and price point, and those individual product lines have so much depth — from traditional to transitional to contemporary. It’s nice to go to one place and be able to specify everything rather than all over the place.”
It also comes down to finding someone easy to work with who understands the breakneck speed of the design process.
“Customer service is really important to us. All of the vendors we work with, we think of them as extensions of our company. We have chosen them as part of our family and recommended them to clients. We want to make sure that everything is working smoothly
Choosing the right vendor makes our job easier because they do a lot of footwork in the background. They know how much interior designers have to specify and deal with in a day, so they make it easy by ensuring that it’s quick and easy. They need a fantastic website, and if we call, there’s someone to speak to. If we need a price, they’ll get back to us.”