There are those who think the world of interior design is stuffy, humorless and uptight—and there are those who have met Alexa Hampton. An industry veteran with countless accolades, showhouses and product lines under her belt, Hampton is well known for her design expertise and her irreverent perspective. Now she’s looking to bring both to a new venue: the small screen. She is in the process of shopping a pilot for a new show, Style With Alexa Hampton, that highlights craftsmanship, design and, well, style.
“I thought it would be fun to do a redux of Elsa Klensch [the host of CNN’s weekly fashion and design segment from 1980 until 2001],” says Hampton. “I’ve talked to fashion designers, craftsmen, artisans—I think there’s much more heartfelt respect for people who are out there making things and creating things and toiling away to make something beautiful.”
The format for the show is simple. In each episode, Hampton will visit with a guest (a teaser features jewelry designer Ariana Boussard-Reifel and interior designer Markham Roberts) and go in-depth into the process and thought behind their craft. The tone is genuine but not self-serious (Hampton cites “the late, great Anthony Bourdain” as an influence). Expect discussions of texture, provenance and history—plus jokes.
“I think it’s nice to know that appreciation and knowledge of design doesn’t have to have a snobbish attitude. I want to have fun!” says Hampton. “It doesn’t have to be some gross, materialistic intimidating category—it is one of joy.”
For Hampton, the show has been a long-germinating idea. The recent spate of “process” shows that take viewers behind the scenes of a creative profession lit the spark and convinced her to go ahead. “I watch cooking shows, but I don’t cook—at all,” she says. “I don’t know how to cook, but I watch these shows and I’m so inspired. Some people might say, ‘What is the point?’ I just ignore that.”
Of course, as with everything else, COVID-19 has thrown a wrench in the works. Hampton, who was on 20 flights in the month of January alone, had been planning to weave filming into her normal hectic business travel schedule this year; now, that travel is all on pause. But the pandemic has also given the subject of home a new relevance, she says—one that will free up guests to talk more openly and honestly about why they do what they do.
“It’s an opportunity for us to have conversations we’ve been thinking about for a while,” says Hampton. “I think we’ve all been reflecting more on what we do and what it means in our communities, and I think the conversations will be better [now]. [Creatives] have been thinking, ‘Holy shit, what does this all mean? What can I do? What am I paying to the universe? What am I doing that’s good for the universe, how am I adding? Am I adding? Should I add?’ It’s not like calling somebody in the middle of their busy universe.”
Of course, there’s the matter of turning what’s currently a pilot into a full-blown show. In this day and age, there are myriad ways to distribute digital content. (Elsa Klensch only had cable; for Hampton, there are countless networks and streaming services to reach out to—not to mention the idea of simply uploading episodes to YouTube directly.)
Hampton says she’s currently talking with sponsors, as well as shopping the pilot through connections. “[Streaming services and networks] need content, and you know that they need good content, but you can’t reach out to them,” she says. “There’s no way to just call up Netflix. It’s really just talking to people and getting recommendations, trying to reach out to production companies. On the one hand, everyone wants content; on the other hand, it’s a closed loop. It’s hard, but it’s fascinating.”
However, even if the show does take off, Hampton has no plans to quit her day job. “It’s not like I thought I’d retire and just do television,” she quips. “I just think it’ll be a great addition—we have the cooks and the travelogues, but it’s been a long time since we’ve had something like this. [We all] need a little pocket of joy, and I think that’s of value and of service.”
Homepage photo: A still from the teaser for Style | Courtesy of Alexa Hampton Inc.