In an industry where the pendulum of male influence can swing from severely masculine to overtly flamboyant, Hudson & Mercer’s interiors have the discreet good looks of a well-tailored suit. At the helm is Sam Chapman. Quiet and extremely knowledgeable, he has worked with the architects, developers, agents and interior designers who have shaped the look of the capital for the last 20 years. Little that has happened in prime Central London has passed him by. Yet he doesn’t shout about his success. Instead, tucked away in a Chelsea studio, Chapman’s company has been making a name for itself amongst an informed band of development partners, landowners and private clients.
Drawing together a team of established architectural and interior designers, Hudson & Mercer use the influence of their global backgrounds to create a collaborative approach, offering up fresh thinking in a niche market where an obvious overspend
on interiors is fast becoming the emperor’s new clothes. If the recent recession did any good at all, it has been to redress the balance between good taste and money, and allow companies like Hudson & Mercer to re-educate us on the finer matters of elegant and tasteful living, tempering the formulaic approach that many big design houses suffer from.
How would you describe the ethos of Hudson and Mercer?
Creative, collaborative, honest, informed and discreet. It’s about ‘we’ rather than ‘me’. Design is always a collaboration but too often it ends up being all about one persons ego.
What are you doing that’s different?
I’m sure that all designers consider themselves to be different and, in the main, we all are but I never see the point in trying to be different just for the sake of it. I think the market is changing but for a long time the pendulum of fashion seems to have been swinging between the overly ostentatious and a strange combination of luxe and industrial. ‘Comfort’ sometimes seems to be a dirty word but we like it and we strive to deliver it through our work, comfort begins with the eye and is created by the subtle combination of proportion, light and material, when anyone describes our work as ‘comfortable’, we know that we have delivered.
There is an honesty and integrity to our work and we like people to be able to ‘read’ our designs with no elaborate tricks. We don’t overtly sell ourselves or our ideas, people come to us because they like what we do and who we are. We don’t pitch for work in a competitive way as we think it’s a lazy and inaccurate way of procuring design.
Who is your team?
Our team is as diverse as our clients and projects and very multi-national, a true reflection of the city we live and work in. We have a core team of architectural and interior designers who communicate our style but we also like to collaborate with many others outside our immediate group, it generates fresh thinking, new ideas and helps to temper the formulaic approach that many big design houses suffer from. We are a combination of English, French, Italian, Uruguayan, Australian, American… Basically European, South American, North American, Australasian. We’re missing an African and Asian contingent and then we have global representation.
What projects have you completed that you think best illustrate what you do?
We have recently completed the interior design concept for several heritage buildings in The City and Covent Garden, all of these buildings have various degrees of historic interest and most are Grade II listed at the least. Buildings such as these form the fabric of our city, hugely important but now requiring a new life, a new history, it’s a challenge and an honour to be asked to bring these buildings back into regular use.
We have recently completed the interior for an apartment within such a building, overlooking The Piazza in Covent Garden. The Victorian building was once a grand hotel but the first floor was most likely used for storage of luggage, it is strangely industrial which, architecturally, provided us with a very enigmatic space, full of original features, not least the half crescent, floor-up, windows. The interior is a wonderful mixture of custom-made furniture, antiques and found pieces, the owner is a collector and the mix of pieces provides an interesting backdrop for a wide range of art and sculpture. It’s a very engaging space but above all, it’s a home and it’s comfortable.
Give us five words to describe Hudson and Mercer?
Discreet, Honest, Informed, Ego-Free!
What are you currently working on?
We were lucky enough to be chosen by the team behind the re-generation of King’s Cross to develop interiors for the public spaces within Gasholders, the apartment buildings inside the ‘Siamese’ triplet frames. It is a much anticipated phase of the development, as well as the lobby reception we are working on a library and residents club, a screening room and the spa.
We are also designing a bespoke promotional gallery and showcase on the edge of The Regents Canal for the same client. We always have a wide range of private commissions both in terms of scope and scale, it’s one of the fascinations of what we do, never quite knowing what is coming next.
Within the studio at the moment are projects as far afield as Chamonix, Bogota and Edinburgh.
What would you like to have designed?
I think that The Case Study Houses along the Pacific Coast represented something very special, unique to that period of time when technology met brave design and produced extraordinary, global architecture. My favorite is Pierre Koenig’s Stahl House.
What is your inspiration?
There are lots of things that inspire, none more so than everyday stories. Everything and everyone has a story to tell and it’s worth taking the time and trouble to listen, it makes what we do a little bit more meaningful and gives our work more relevance. We work with a number of very talented artisans and craftsmen, they are usually extremely humble people but we always encourage them to share the stories and experiences that make their work unique.
Which designers do you admire?
Anyone who has managed to stick to their principles and make a living. At the moment there is a virulent scene in Paris of like-minded architects and designers such as Joseph Dirand, Gilles et Boissier and Christophe Delcourt – the modern modernists who are showing people that minimalism isn’t about big white boxes! No one will be surprised that I also love the wonderful work of Tel-Aviv based Pitsou Kedem Architects.
Where do you live?
My neighborhood is Notting Hill, has been for a long time and I think always will be as long as I live in London. It’s diverse, maybe not as much as it used to be but I like to wander and it’s still a good place to do that.
What would be on your personal itinerary of London?
I’m fascinated by the history of London and the Royal Parks, you see and feel it in Greenwich [Royal Observatory and National Maritime Museum], in Spitalfields [Princelet Street, Fournier Street, Hawksmoor’s Christ Church] and Smithfield and Bloomsbury [British Museum, Sir John Soane Museum] The Wallace Collection in Marylebone All are endless, endless treasures.
What were your last purchases?
A Jorge Zalszupin designed tea trolley from Espasso.
What would you like to discover at the back of an antique shop?
Anything that I wasn’t expecting to find! We don’t look for labels, We look for things that we like that we know our clients will like. We love those ‘happy-accidents’ that you get when you’re out roaming Church Street.
Which living or deceased designers would you invite to dinner?
Isambard Kingdom Brunel – a life and legacy that the modern world should continually give thanks for.
What’s your favourite city?
I love different cities for different reasons but frankly, on balance, it’s pretty difficult to beat London. I’ve spent most of my life here and never got remotely bored. There is always something new to engage with, it’s fascinating, hypnotic and an obvious magnet for the world’s talented.
Where do you go to escape?
I was very lucky to be brought up on an idyllic farm in the West Country, when I go back it feels like taking a deep breath. used to be purely for relaxation but increasingly work related, it has always been a hotbed of artists, craftsmen and small studios, many of whom we work with and all of whom I enjoy spending time with. I grew up watching my father hand-make everything and anything, so I have a love of workshops and the art of fabrication.
View Hudson & Mercer on the Domus Nova Design Guide
Hudson & Mercer, Worlds End Studios, 132 – 134 Lots Road, London SW10; hudsonandmercer.com