INTERVIEW: In Conversation with Simon Hamilton / by Tash South

Last week I had the pleasure of interviewing Interiors expert Simon Hamilton as part of my collaboration with Treniq. I love interviewing people in the industry as it's a chance to quiz the experts on how they got into design, and to share it with my readers.

Simon has over 25 years' experience in the design industry, he has twice been elected to the voluntary role of International Director for the British Institute of Interior Design (BIID) from 2010 - 2014, representing design around the world. He's involved in the design community in a number of ways including teaching and mentoring and has been on the judging panel for the International Property Awards since 2014. He has been running his own interior design company, SHDS, for over a decade.

We sat down for a chat at Decorex so that I could find out more...

How did you come to be a designer?
It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, I studied Interior Design at Nottingham University – a long time ago! After that I worked in commercial, architectural and large interior design practices, so I worked up my experience over 25 years.

So, how did you go about founding your own design business?
That was something that came out of working freelance for a few years and realizing the different ways of designing and running a business, it was very good experience and I wanted to offer my own skills to clients directly- but I wasn’t being given the opportunity to deal with clients. So that’s why I thought about setting up my own company. In some ways it’s a brave thing to do, you learn a lot but you also make mistakes. It’s fun and you get to meet different people as well. So I’ve sort of got an entrepreneurial spirit I suppose! I decided that I would concentrate initially on interiors for residential clients, and then I added commercial projects later on.

In collaboration with the creator Alastair Callender, SHDS were invited to design all the interior spaces of this beautiful and unique concept design. Soliloquy is a Supergreen Superyacht and was exhibited at the Abu Dhabi Superyacht Show to demonstrate its use of solar and wind power to propel itself.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I think like a lot of people, it’s from traveling and the things I do. I go to lots of events, I go to different countries, whether that’s for work or for pleasure and just generally from the things that I read and see. It may not always be direct inspiration, but they are things that you can refer back to.

There are lots of sources of inspiration now, we’re very aware of things like Pinterest and Instagram etc.,
but I’m a person that likes to be aware of other things as well. I go to the cinema a lot, probably twice a week, so films and movies are very important to me because I get lots of inspiration in terms of social comment, composition, lighting and colours... and also cars, I’m really a big car fan. I drive all sorts of cars – classic and modern!

What has been your favourite project that you’ve worked on so far?
In some ways it’s a combination, there was a project I did with a colleague, which was a hotel in Venice, that was a really good project because it was a collaboration.
I’m currently working on a project in Paris with a family that are originally from the UK, but have relocated so that in itself will be really quite exciting as it’s a house in Paris. That’s quite rare to have a house, rather than an apartment. So that’s probably going to be one of the most exciting projects because there is a lot of opportunity, and it’s quite current.

The 947 Rooms Boutique Hotel in Venice was a dream project for Simon, resulting from an 18 month collaboration with Matteo Bianchi Studio

Do you have any tips or advice for someone that wants to get into the industry?
There are so many things that they need to know! Be brave. Follow your passion and your instinct.
Look around you and be aware of what people are doing and carve out your own niche, not necessarily copy people. Understand that design is a process and whether it’s designing a product, or an interior, there are certain stages to it.
I think it’s really important to understand your client, I think that establishing a relationship with your client is probably the best advice I can give. You really should make sure that you know what it is that the brief should deliver and how you get to that point. That’s probably the best advice I can give.

Where is home and how would you describe your style, and is it in the city or in the country?
My current home is in the city, it’s in east London and it’s a Victorian house, it’s a mixture of some original Victorian features and some contemporary, so that in some ways is my style.
When we bought the house it was more contemporary, so we put back some of the character which had been stripped out by the previous owners, which was a shame. It’s very light, there’s a lot of natural light that comes in. The house has painted floorboards and under-floor heating in certain areas.
It’s fairly spacious and simple with a lot of art throughout the house – art is important to me, not just flat art, some of it’s three dimensional.
It’s kind of eclectic, but not too wild – I’d like it to be a bit wilder actually! A bit more rich in colour, it has quite muted tones, but I’m going to change that!

The owners of this 2 bedroom apartment wanted us to create a sanctuary in the heart of thriving Clerkenwell. With a very limited budget we installed new dark wood floors, a new bathroom, kitchen and open plan living area. To acknowledge the existing industrial details of the loft building we used an off-white colour palette accentuated by rich clarets and highly polished timber finishes.  

Simon was also kind enough to answer a few questions from my followers...

Do you have any flooring trend predictions for 2018?
Oh wow! I’m not really sure, but if I go on the information about trends, it’s probably going to be more cork I would say, because that is definitely something that’s become more popular because of what’s happening in the wine industry. I would say that there is also going to be more stained coloured woods. Wood is obviously a great material to use on floors, but I think tiles, ceramic and porcelain are really going to be more interesting as well – but that’s just off the top of my head, I’m not really a floor expert!

Bert & May tiles at Soho House Berlin

What are your colour trends for 2018?
I think they are going to continue as they are. Everyone’s very aware of pink being one of the most popular colours at the moment, especially the dusty, pale pinks and they’re being applied to everything from vases to tables, fashion as well, so I think that’s going to just get stronger.
Green is definitely a colour that is very popular, particularly now that we’re going into autumn, olive greens and sage greens, the more slubby tones, so that’s definitely going to continue – the whole idea of bringing the outside in. I think we’re going to be living with green more and more, there's a movement already where it's going to get richer and deeper and darker.

Greens run through Amode's theme of bringing the outdoors in this year

Then there’s colour from metals such as gold and brass, and that’s certainly going to continue. I'm not sure how many new colours will be coming in, but there’s definitely a richness to the colours that we haven’t seen before.
Then there’s also the pastels – it’s interesting how when we look at some suppliers, we see that some manufacturers are extending their existing ranges with very pale and muted versions of some of their colours, but they are also going very rich and very dark at the same time so that they can compliment each other well.

CTO's popular Heron table lamp in satin brass

We know you judge the International Property awards – what is it you look for when you are judging these awards – what gets your approval?
The thing that I look for when I am judging, and that’s throughout all sectors, is flair, design originality and creativity. You can produce an entry that is competent, but is not very interesting or creative, so I always look for something that has a little bit extra than what the brief had asked for. That can be in all sorts of ways, the way they’d planned it, the colours and materials that were used, the execution, the processes, or the way that it's been built to last for the future - the sustainability of it.
So something extra – that's what I always look for, and if a project has it, it will definitely stand out to me.

Huge thanks to Simon Hamilton for the interview, and also to Treniq for setting it up.



Image Credits:
2, 3 & 4: SHDS
5: Soho House Berlin
6: Amode
7: CTO Lighting