Jo Hamilton, resident interior designer for Grand Designs Live, on styling some of the most affluent properties in London, signature styles and chandelier shopping in Notting Hill
Words: Bethan Andrews
From a young age, Jo Hamilton always thought she would be an artist and dreamed of creating big canvasses. But things don’t always turn out the way you thought as a child. Instead, Hamilton turned her creative passions into using a canvas much bigger than those she initially dreamed of: today, she is a renowned high-end interior designer whose love of art transformed into a career she loves.
‘I fell into interior design by accident. My big love is art and painting, so I always thought I’d be painting canvasses in my spare time,’ says Hamilton. ‘But when you have to start earning money, my motivation became focused upon something that could be a good career, but that I could challenge myself creatively in everyday, so I chose interior design. Being able to indulge your creativity is a wonderful privilege – especially when you get to do it as your work every day.’
It’s important to Hamilton that this art foundation is still integral to her work. ‘Every home is like a blank canvas, as you’re starting afresh with a different challenge every time,’ she explains. ‘You’re working with different people from one moment to the next, and different buildings too. You can build a wonderful story and paint a fabulous picture for each. It is very similar to developing a canvas from scratch.’
Inspiration often comes from the clients for Hamilton, which isn’t always the case with designers. ‘I find people and their stories so interesting. I definitely have a signature style, but I’m not interested in stamping this on every project,’ she says. ‘I’m working with a client at the moment who has travelled the world and has been an expat for their entire adult life, so they’ve got the most incredible story and journey. It would be a crime to go to their home and create a neutral, sterile environment.’
As an ambassador for Grand Designs, Hamilton has worked extensively with Kevin McCloud and George Clark, though she is very humble about this career achievement. ‘I do public speaking while working on the Grand Designs Live shows,’ she explains. ‘I’ve been approached by the BBC to put together a pilot for my own show, which was a surprise and very exciting!’
I definitely have a signature style, but I’m not interested in stamping this on every project
Which leads us onto her recent achievement of being asked to be a judge for the prestigious WhatHouse? Awards. Another passion of Hamilton’s is helping those who are starting small – just like she did. ‘I used to go to the awards when I was nominated in the early days of my career, and I have always held great respect for it,’ she says.
‘It really helps people and has a lot to offer the industry. It brings people into the limelight that wouldn’t get there otherwise. It’s an honour to be asked and I jumped at it, because I’ve seen the other side of it.’
As an artist, Hamilton chose to live and work in west London due to the abundance of inspiration on her doorstep. ‘I love that we’ve got these completely unique areas that don’t feel like London, but like little villages,’ she says. ‘Notting Hill is great for something special with a bit of a buzz, such as quirky pieces and chandeliers. Maida Vale is great for taking some time out.’
Notting Hill is great for something special with a bit of a buzz, such as quirky pieces and chandeliers. Maida Vale is great for taking some time out
And where does Hamilton feel has the best examples of design in the area? ‘It’s slightly off track, but just so close, so I have to mention the fabulous Magazine restaurant at The Serpentine,’ she says. ‘I love that we allowed that piece of sculpture in the heart of the city.’
The passion that Hamilton exudes is hard to ignore, and I could talk to her for hours about interior design. She’s proof that some dreams do indeed come true.