Q&A with Victoria Hampshire, Interior and Fashion Designer

“There is no brilliance in being average...average is just not appealing to me.”

Updated on June 09, 2017 11:06 am

Xiangyun Lim (Alexa)

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“There is no brilliance in being average...average is just not appealing to me.”

This principle is, while unapologetically discerning, revealing of a drive not to settle for less. And indeed, interior and fashion designer Victoria Hampshire is for quality and the pushing of boundaries, not slip-shod compromises. How else can one find fine Italian marble used even in the humbler bathroom of a restaurant?

These detailing are only part of a complex design concept for Luxe Singapore, a restaurant originating from Australia. “I wanted to create a very unique space that was tailor-made for Luxe and not commonly found anywhere in Singapore, while, at the same time, establishing the Luxe brand in a new market,” Victoria explains.

“I also tried to make it globally appealing but still relevant. There is primarily a Mediterranean influence in a Singaporean setting, but I also incorporated open plan dining, a welcoming atmosphere, the right mood, and a bit of the unexpected.”

Textured Italian marble in its original form was chosen, as well as brass that will retain its history of tarnish.

The result is an interior that is modern yet welcoming, rich with fine details and clean geometry. Furniture pieces were imported from all over the world―Italy, Sweden, Spain, Belgium, Australia―while materials were chosen for their natural properties and inherent value. An open-kitchen concept also serves to increase intimacy between diners and chefs, as Victoria wanted to highlight Luxe’s desire for interactive service and focus on fresh produce.

Unlike its counterpart in Sydney, which as functions only in the day as a café and bakery, Luxe Singapore was designed to interchange seamlessly for both day and night―and onto the global scene. Balancing global appeal with local accessibility can be tricky, but a background in designing for hospitality-focused projects is well-suited to incorporate similar concepts into F&B spaces. “My experience lies in restaurants, bars, and hotels, so I was chosen to bring them to this level of hospitality, and offer a more sophisticated feel that was still very accessible and welcoming,” Victoria says.

After all, she’s almost a global patron herself, having travelled extensively and lived in two entirely opposite cultures, Australia and Italy, where she is based now―a homecoming of sorts. “Strangely, my preference for design/architecture style was always Mediterranean with the influence of Arabic/Moroccan design,” she muses. “This is exactly the style you find around the Amalfi Coast, Capri, and a little of Sorrento which can be more traditional in Italian architecture.”

Victoria has designed hospitality and domestic spaces in different countries.

Armed with a voracious appetite to learn, Victoria’s wealth of experiences certainly reflects in her evolving designing work. A lesson that particularly stuck with her came from her mother, who taught her the inherent value in everything: “You just need to see things from your perspective. You can always improve what you are offered by introducing a distinctive look that is true to your own style,” Victoria says. “If you have style and taste, it remains with you forever.”

How has your childhood influences and education/work experience shaped your design journey, and your principles today?

I have grown up in a family of interior designers and creative types really, with the exception of my father who was a stockbroker. My mother is an interior designer and has owned very well-known shops named Hampshire & Lowndes in Sydney, so her style has influenced me from the very beginning. My parents also lived in houses that I loved.

I always felt very in touch with the interiors we lived in and would spend [my free time] working with my mum who would shop for clients and source things. I also spent many afternoons in her own shop and was very interested in organising stock and serving customers.

From a very young age, I could also be found rearranging my bedroom, adding lamps, borrowing blankets or photo frames from another room and just generally making it the way I liked in a furnishing sense.

You grew up in Sydney, but now live in Italy. How has the change impacted your perspectives and work?

It is fascinating to have lived in two entirely opposite cultures. The Italian way of life really sits in contrast to the Australian way, and I am very lucky to have influences and understanding of both. I am very grateful of this and therefore do my very best to learn the Italian culture, history, and geography as it is so extensive and intriguing to me.

Is this your first time to Singapore? Any thoughts on the environment, space, and architecture?

I came to Singapore six years ago only for a few days as a tourist, it was a stopover from Sydney to Rome. I enjoyed it hugely and have now returned specifically for the Luxe project.

It is very exciting―there is a great energy and a lot of movement with so much construction at every turn. Clearly there are a huge number of venues opening, which, as an interior designer is a cool prospect and a positive industry to be within. I was very impressed by the number of venues opening in the Keong Saik Road and Duxton Hill area alone during the five weeks that we have been in Singapore.

Obviously, in Singapore, the architecture is hugely impressive in terms of scale and innovation. I personally am more taken with the traditional aspects of Singapore though, and the juxtaposition you see now between the modern and traditional―what progress!

There is no specific interior style here, and I think there is a huge gap in the market for the kind of environment we created at Luxe and a more Mediterranean influence, but you need to remain true to the context, so it is a fine balance.

I am used to working in different landscapes and cultures so you begin to really closely study the clients and surroundings. By being unfamiliar, you must teach yourself more.

What is the most memorable space you designed?

Without a doubt, the Relais Blu Boutique Hotel which falls on the tip of the Amalfi and Sorrento Coast. This place is incredibly positioned, unforgettable, and now holds a Michelin Star, which is a huge achievement.

Where do you get inspiration from?

My travels to hotels and ancient monuments and a mixture of architecture and crafts from around the world. I am mostly attracted to and inspired by Mediterranean architecture and Classic Italian architecture, and I enjoy a crossover towards Moroccan and Turkish Architecture. I like to fuse these elements.

I am fascinated by classic, lineal, and geometric design as well as embellished and more elaborate and intricate details, so I am inspired to fuse these ideas.

Any comfort food when designing?

Coffee.

City or country?

City.

Traditional or contemporary?

A good balance of both, but if I have to lean one way, traditional.

Morning or evening person?

Happy at all times of the day but I have the capacity to stay awake all night too, so perhaps an evening person. I can’t see how people manage to go to bed early. The day is not long enough!

Favourite place(s)?

Sorrento, Capri, Sardinia–Porto Cervo.

Favourite furniture piece in your home?

A white marble table, with black cast iron base

If you could live in a famous person's home, whose would it be and why?

I have never wished to live in a famous person’s home or even thought about this question, but I could easily accept the home that was once owned by Franco Zeffirelli (Italian Film Director), today named Villa Tre Ville and which is now a luxury hotel just outside of Positano. It is ideal to create from and have guests over (I like to entertain), and you would have your own private beach and the world’s best coastline at your feet.

If I could offer my children and my husband their own beach, I would be hugely satisfied. This is where quality time happens and I have always lived my life very close to or right by the sea.

If you would be reborn in another country, where would it be and why?

Italy. I am passionate about Italian people and culture. The lifestyle in Italy is the best I have experienced and their priorities are wholesome.

Three must-haves in every home:

A family in love, quality furnishings, and artwork/photographs.

Check out Victoria's work both in interior design and her line of hand-crafted Italian sandals. You can also enjoy her work here in Singapore at Luxe Singapore, along with well-executed fresh food and a good tipple.

Photos courtesy of Victoria Hampshire and Luxe Singapore.

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