Mark Humphrey

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 March, 2004, 12:00am

Who? Well-known homeware stylist and interior designer to the rich and famous, the talented Mr Humphrey is a rising star in the design world and a name to watch.

Why is he so special? Luxury brands Fendi Casa and LVMH regularly commission him to design exclusive products for their home collections. Hip British label, The Rug Company, often asks for his services and he's done sanitaryware for CP Hart. Although he can't reveal the names of most of his private clients, he kitted out the pad of former Beatle Ringo Starr several years ago. The British designer also works on projects for commercial clients and designs and makes his own 'haute couture' furniture and home accessories.

How can homeware be haute couture? Humphrey has four collections that could fall into this category: antiquity, art deco, modern classic and urban glamour, and a fifth collection on the boil. With a nod to traditional techniques, his contemporary designs are executed by master craftsmen and often Humphrey selects the materials himself. Most of his work - from bathroom fixtures and fittings to cabinets, coffee tables and chairs - is jewellery quality and considered art. Think hand basins lined in red agate, leather flooring inset with semi-precious stones, rock crystal door handles and glass shower doors etched with details from a Leonardo Da Vinci painting. 'I like a piece to be artful. Everything I make looks good but has a definite function,' he says.

So only for the well-heeled then? His work won't be found in Ikea but although Humphrey is at the top end of the scale, it is possible to commission individual items from his London showroom. Also, you can buy a design in its original incarnation or modify it with different materials, textures and colours, which will affect the cost. A visit to his showroom is by appointment only so call 44 870 240 5867 or e-mail: [email protected].

Are his creations available in Hong Kong? Kind of. Humphrey recently completed a project with property development company Grosvenor to deck out its show suite in a new Repulse Bay apartment block called Grosvenor Place (left). Although a slightly watered-down version of what he is capable of and might ordinarily do, its style is classic with a contemporary twist, with a touch of James Bond glamour and kitschy fun (such as a remote-controlled drinks cabinet) thrown in for good measure. Not a run-of-the-mill show flat and, aimed at Hong Kong's cosmopolitan connoisseurs with eclectic tastes in art and furniture, not for the average person either. But anyone can visit the the show flat and commission work. Call FPD Savills on 2842 4430 to make an appointment.

How did he start out? After graduating in architectural interior and product design from Middlesex University in Britain, Humphrey spent two years in Stuttgart, Germany, getting to grips with modern design and freelancing for clients such as Audi and Allianz. He returned to Britain to work with well-known interior designer Nicky Haslam. His first big break came in 1997 when Ringo Starr commissioned him to design 'something cool' for the interior of his London home. 'He was a creative person himself, a forward thinker with money and vision,' Humphrey says of Starr. 'That's where it really all started - the chance to go for it and give it my best.' He set up his own label and hasn't looked back.

What next? Humphrey is developing his fifth and perhaps most fabulous range: a New Age collection (pictured far left; candle sticks and coffee table), a futuristic range made from a type of carbon fibre. To his knowledge, he is the only designer in the world developing and working with this material, which is allowing him to create ultra-modern concepts and shapes and push design boundaries.

Last words from the designer? 'Whatever I do, I try to be right at the top.'