When their landlord suddenly decided to sell the Logan Circle apartment they were renting a year and a half ago, designer Michael Hampton and his husband David Kantor had to find a move-in-ready place quickly. Fortuitously, a newly renovated floor-through in an 1885 Dupont Circle row house had just come on the market. The location, just three blocks from Hampton’s office, was perfect—and so were the bones of the two-bedroom, two-bathroom condominium. The finishes, cabinetry and soft-gray walls appealed to the designer, who determined that carefully curated, elegant furnishings (and a lot of crown molding) could make up for what the narrow, 1,700-square-foot space lacked in architecture.
Entering Hampton’s home, it is immediately clear that the designer is a big fan of neoclassicism, especially French Empire influences. “Modern classicism is an overused term, but that is my style and vision,” he says. “I’m inspired by the past but looking for ways to reinterpret it, mixing old and new.”
Hampton was born and raised in Northern California’s Bay area. He attended the Academy of Art University in San Francisco with the intention of becoming a fashion designer, but a class in architectural history changed his course. He earned a degree in interior design in 1994.
Two designers were particularly influential mentors: Steven Volpe, for whom Hampton worked in San Francisco for 10 years, and Thomas Pheasant, whose offer of a senior designer position compelled Hampton to move to Washington in 2004. “Steve took me to Paris and Rome and exposed me to things that continue to inform and inspire me. And I learned from Thomas how to manage large-scale projects, but also to pare things down to their essence,” explains Hampton, who launched his own firm in 2009.
His living room combines comfort, élan and practicality. The central seating area, in various shades of taupe and beige, is defined by a patterned sisal rug, on top of which lies a smaller Oriental reproduction by Stark. “I like to layer a rug that’s too small for a room on top of a larger one,” Hampton explains. A velvet-covered davenport is flanked by two stately columns serving as pedestals for French urns that contain tole agave plants. Behind the sofa hangs a stunning William Curtis Rolf black-and-white photograph of a 17th-century André le Nôtre garden at a chateau near Paris. After purchasing the photo for the library he created in the 2015 DC Design House, Hampton wound up keeping it himself.
Evidence of the designer’s admitted chair obsession includes 18th-century French Empire chairs with carved caryatid heads, 18th-century Italian walnut side chairs with exquisite caning and four late-19th-century Klismos chairs set around an André Arbus-style mahogany dining table near the home’s large front window. Other favorite pieces gracing the living room are a French Empire console table (c. 1810) and a late 18th-century mantel clock and French mirror.
Hampton has cleverly maximized space throughout the home. He can easily seat 16 when entertaining in the main living area, which includes an open kitchen with four aluminum stools lining a sleek counter. “I like to create a buffet in the kitchen, put out some little plates and let everyone graze. That’s my favorite way of entertaining,” he says.
Behind the kitchen is the guest bathroom. There, as well in the master bath, Hampton installed crown molding, stopping short of the shower so he could mount a curtain on a track. “It looks like proper drapery,” he explains, “and gives a nice softness to the room so you don’t just walk in and see ‘shower!’” Other appointments include vinyl Phillip Jeffries wallpaper in a herringbone pattern and 19th-century prints found at GoodWood on U Street.
A guest room, with a comfy sofa that converts to a bed, does double duty as a cozy sitting room. Hampton and Kantor, an investment advisor, like to read and relax in the space. Ecru grass cloth on the walls lends warmth, as do draperies made of printed Elizabeth Hamilton fabric edged with trim by Samuel & Sons. Behind the sofa hang antique postcards depicting Roman emperors, which Hampton discovered on eBay and framed. Architectural watercolors, including some by Hampton himself, adorn the room, which also features a black Paul László chest and an early 19th-century English Regency convex mirror with ebony detailing.
In the master bedroom, a wooden Buddha resting on a Plexiglas pedestal enhances the sense of Zen that the room’s peaceful light-gray and taupe palette imbues. The bedroom and master bath feature Phillip Jeffries textured wall covering applied in a subtle basketweave pattern made by cutting the paper in squares and installing them in alternating directions. “It’s kind of becoming my signature,” Hampton admits.
For a touch of drama, the designer opted for an architectural canopy bed in natural steel from Room & Board. To make it feel more luxurious, he had an upholsterer fabricate an insert to fill one end of the frame (actually the foot of the bed), creating a custom headboard. Thick, ripple-fold window draperies impart a cocoon-like atmosphere when closed. “Here I am in the middle of the city,” Hampton marvels, “but when I’m in this soft, enveloping room, I don’t feel like I am.”
Writer David Hagedorn is based in Washington, DC. John Cole is a photographer in Silver Spring.
INTERIOR DESIGN: MICHAEL HAMPTON, Michael Hampton, Inc., Washington, DC.
LIVING ROOM Sofa: Custom. Sofa Fabric: calvinfabrics.com. Coffee Table & Armchair: kelloggcollection.com. Chair Fabric: perennialsfabric.com. Greek Key Ottomans: Michael Hampton Collection for salvationssaf.com. Columns, Urns, Console, Gilt-Framed Mirror, Console Clock, Wood-Framed Chair, Klismos Chairs: Antique. Photograph over Sofa: williamcurtisrolf.com. Rug: starkcarpet.com. Sisal: carpetimpressions.com. Decorative Objects on Coffee Table: Contemporary marble specimen obelisks. Throw Pillows: clarencehouse.com, larsenfabrics.com. Drapery Fabric: cowtan.com. André Arbus-Style Round Dining Table: Custom through Antonio’s Antiques; 415-781-1737. Floor Lamps: restorationhardware.com. Brass Occasional Table: maisonmeilleur.com. Bookshelves: lillianaugust.com.
SITTING/GUEST ROOM Sofa: crateandbarrel.com. Coffee Table/Chest: marstonluce.com. Rug: Moroccan. Sisal: carpetimpressions.com. Drapery Fabric: elizabethhamiltoncollection.com. Drapery Trim: samuelandsons.com. Shades: conrad.com. Zebra Art: williamcurtisrolf.com. Art over Sofa: Framed postcards. Architectural Art Propped on Floor: michaelhamptoninc.com. Wood-Framed Chairs & Convex Mirror: Antique. Black Cupboard: Paul Laszlo through 1stdips.com.
MASTER BEDROOM Bedstead: roomandboard.com. Upholstered Headboard: Travers through zimmer-rohde.com: Headboard Fabrication: TK. Nightstand: hickorychair.com. Table Lamp: mrbrownhome.com. Bedding: restorationhardware.com. Rug: carpetimpressions.com. Wall covering: phillipjeffries.com. Wood-Framed Chair & Wall Brackets: Antique. Chair Fabric: markalexander.com. Occasional Table: Jean Michel Frank. Wardrobe: julianchichester.com.