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Patrick J. Hamilton: Making the Mix Work

Interior designer Patrick J. Hamilton is a master of the mix. Specializing in New York spaces, he’s become adept at what he calls “the game of inches,” maximizing limited square footage while balancing an eclectic blend of styles.

“The blessing and curse of living and working in New York is that space is always an issue,” he says. “I use Asian pieces and antiques as much as I possibly can, because the scale and versatility is so good for Manhattan living. Cabinetry always works well, because it’s generally on the shallow side, so it gives you places to stash stuff without eating up your floor plan.”

Patrick began working with PAGODA RED through Design on a Dime, a charity event he’s participated in for the past seven years. Founded in 2004 by designer James Huniford, the annual Manhattan event challenges interior designers to create room vignettes using only donations from artists and design brands. Event attendees shop the rooms, and all sales are donated to Housing Works’ mission to end the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS.

A past Design on a Dime vignette by Patrick Hamilton, featuring a PAGODA RED meditation stone.

The first year, PAGODA RED provided Patrick with a Chinese elm altar table. The next, a meditation stone. Another year, jade bi discs graced the vignette’s coffee and side tables. This year, an Ashanti Stool will make an appearance. Each time, Patrick has found a way to show PAGODA RED pieces in a new light.

“The patina sings in a modern space,” he explains. “Simple shapes make it all about the material and the patina. Asian pieces are versatile. They can sit next to something ornate or something simple, and they’re going to create a beautiful conversation together.”

Stylistically, Patrick describes his work as “traditional with a twist.” No two rooms are ever the same, but color and narrative are common denominators. For Design on a Dime, there’s the additional challenge of making disparate donated pieces work together.

A past Design on a Dime vignette by Patrick Hamilton, featuring PAGODA RED bi discs.

Patrick often uses art to “give the room a personality and starting point.” Dan Romer’s “Rocky Seas,” an expressionistic portrait of a sailor, inspired a layered blue-and-white living room. For a richly textured study, Drew Doggett’s photograph of large-scale lips inspired Patrick’s “Small, Dark, and Handsome” concept. The process of starting with art extends to Patrick’s client projects as well.

“I’m always delighted when people are willing to go to a gallery and buy directly from an artist,” he says. “A lot of time, clients choose art at the end, which is really unfortunate because it has the power to elevate an already-great room.”

Every project is different, and Patrick values an organic process in which the outcome reflects the client, rather than the designer. “The clients who find me are very diverse,” he says, “so it’s new every time.” A clean slate is a rare thing. One client might begin with an antique rug they love, another might use a mood or feeling as a starting point.

A past Design on a Dime vignette by Patrick Hamilton, featuring a PAGODA RED meditation stone.

For many clients, the limitations of a small Manhattan space dictate the design. In an age of open-plan living, creativity is required to create a space that balances square footage with function.

“I often get, ‘There’s two of us, but twice a year we need to seat 17.’ So, I’ll use dining chairs that can hide in other places while providing overflow seating in the living room. Good chairs—the right scale, that don’t look like kitchen chairs—are pressed into service fairly often.”

To get the most style, service and purpose for your money, Patrick recommends working with a designer. It’s an investment that can save funds by allocating allotted budgets towards pieces that last, serve multiple functions, and work together elegantly.

A past design for New York’s Holiday House by Patrick Hamilton.

A designer brings experience in where and how to add value. A well-built and timeless sofa, for example, will last as long as you’re willing to reupholster it. “My 25-year sofa is out for reupholstery right now,” says Patrick. A designer also manages the many moving pieces of project, so it’s completed on time and on budget.

“To the design hobbyist, the process seems fun—and I love what I do—but there are so many more decisions than people realize,” Patrick explains. “I encourage my clients to invest, splurge, and  save—every room should be a mixture.”

The key is making the mix look like it was meant to be. Easier said than done, but—in the hands of the right designer—balance is achievable.

Interior designer Patrick Hamilton.

Check out Patrick’s 2018 designs at the upcoming Design on a Dime gala at the Metropolitan Pavilion on April 26 and 27, 2018. To learn more about Design on a Dime’s annual events in New York and Miami, visit housingworks.com.

All images courtesy of Patrick Hamilton.

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