The five things travel has taught me: Thomas Hamel, interior designer


Travelling to places like Bhutan, Africa, and south-east Asia sparked my interest in collecting ethnic pieces and opened my eyes to how adding interesting crafts creates layers in what might otherwise be a more formal room. Living in Australia, with its long history of Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders, spurned my love of honest and simple pieces from these rich cultures. It makes for such interesting conversation when a guest asks about a certain object or work of art, and it leads to great travel storytelling.


I have learned so much about style through travel. For all things sartorial, it may be the simple, tailored look that the Italians and French do so well. With interiors, a love of relaxed American style, albeit with a touch of contemporary edge, was garnered from my time travelling across America and working in New York City under the legendary guidance of Albert Hadley and Sister Parish at Parish-Hadley. And from my years in Australia, the wonderful "indoor-outdoor" living that we do so well here has truly taught me what a nice way of living that really is.


We all have our "happy places" and mine just might have to be Capri. I travel there in June/July every year, and have done for more than 20 years. The easy life and the effortless chic that is Capri has taught me something about happiness. No matter how crazy life becomes, I know I have Capri to look forward to. Not only am I truly happy and relaxed when I am there, but just knowing the travel dates are etched into my annual calendar keeps me happy all year long.


There is a saying that goes along the lines of, "It is not possible to have a full passport and a closed mind". That truly resonates with me. Travel teaches us so much about our fellow human beings and opens our eyes to our similarities as people, rather than our differences. Learning this important truth is an important step towards a more harmonious and peaceful world.


As an interior designer, travel is often about shopping. Whether I am filling a container in Los Angeles for a new home in Australia, scouring the markets in Istanbul for interesting design pieces, or wandering in remote Indonesian villages on the hunt for ikats and hand-crafted objects, I have learned that it just isn't possible to buy everything you love. I suppose it is best to leave something for a return visit anyway.

American-born and internationally recognised interior designer Thomas Hamel is at the helm of celebrated Sydney-based design firm, Thomas Hamel & Associates. Along with garden designer Paul Bangay, Hamel will host Garden + Design Weekend at The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand, from September 27 to 29. SeeĀ