Top Interior Designers: Pamela Babey of BAMO
We had the honor of getting up close and personal with one of the industry’s top interior designers, Pamela Babey founding principal of the San Francisco based interior design firm BAMO, at this week’s BOLD Summit (Business of Luxury Design) in Chicago. Pamela was awarded the honor of serving as one of the BOLD Masters during the summit, and she is without a doubt a master of the business of luxury design! A true visionary in the world of luxury interiors, Pamela emits a gentle confidant demeanor and boasts a portfolio filled with stunning designs composed of exquisite materials and luxury furniture!
Pamela was born in Brooklyn, but moved to Las Cruces, NM at age 5 when her physician father and medical technologist mother decided to move to an area where doctors were in high demand. Her parents had a keen interest in Native American artifacts, Mexican folk art, and European Antiques and traveled extensively in pursuit of these arts which instilled a love of art, antiques and fashion in Pamela from a young age. A love for luxury also came into Pamela’s sphere early on. When asked by Interior Design magazine about what first sparked her interest in luxury design, Pamela replied,
“As a child, I was terribly impressed when we stayed at the Waldorf Astoria. I remember having my picture taken next to the clock on the stairway, and I remember rubbing my hands on the tallboys in the bedroom. I was attracted to those things, and I thought, “Oh, this is really some hotel. This is really fabulous.”
My parents also had a really good friend who was born and raised in Florence. She introduced me to a European sense of luxury. Her entire house was furnished with antiques and things she brought from Florence to New Mexico, and her garden was very wild and natural. I would always watch her. There was a different way of dressing. There was a different way of treating your furniture. Things weren’t precious. They were used. That’s something I practice today. You don’t furnish a home or a hotel to stand back and not touch anything. It’s all about living with the things that you own.”
A career in luxury design was not a lifelong dream, at first Pamela wanted to be a civil engineer, but after being told this was impossible because she was a girl by a 5th grade teacher she sadly let this dream go. Although not entirely, instead she shifted her focus and attended U.C. Berkeley where she earned a degree in architecture. After graduating, Pamela went on to build a highly notable resume designing for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, James Stewart Polshek & Partners, and Pfister Partnership before co-founding BAMO in 1991 with former Pfister co-workers David Moulton, Michael Booth and Gerry Jue after Charlie Pfister passed away.
Today BAMO is world-renowned for its luxurious hotels and residences, and Pamela is one of the industry’s top interior designers. She travels extensively creating beautiful spaces such as the Four Season Hotels in Milan and Bora Bora, The Grand Hotel a Villa Feltrinelli, a residential compound in Beijing, several homes on The Peak in Hong Kong, and a superyacht built by Benetti. Pamela’s boundless talent has been substantiated by Interior Design magazine who acknowledged her indelible legacy by adding her to its Hall of Fame in 1996 and by Hospitality Design magazine who made her a member of their Platinum Circle.
“Carta bianca, a blank page. It’s how I begin every project,” says Pamela. The designer explains her design philosophy further to Interior Design magazine,
“I really like to dig into the client, and see where they can take you. Sometimes they don’t take you there very quickly, but that is how you get to the story. You never know what your challenge is going to be, and that’s the beauty being flexible.
At BAMO, we’re thinking about location; we’re thinking about the client; we like to discover what’s available locally. So all of those things that we enjoy doing, we try to apply to how we actually design. We don’t have an image in our office in terms of what our design looks like. For us, that’s what gives our hotels more of an individual identity. You don’t walk in and say, “Oh, this a BAMO project.” There are designers who are hired for a particular look, and that’s not our strength.”
Unexpected combinations of color and pattern, unique artisan crafted pieces, and elegance, expression, functionality and enjoyment define the comfortable understated luxury Pamela brings to each of her interiors. When asked by Interior Design magazine what she sees as the secret to designing a luxury residence that really feels like a home, Pamela replied,
“Possibly under-designing is the secret. One of the things about BAMO’s work and my work is that it doesn’t look decorated. There’s a sense that you can actually live in and feel comfortable in the space. Partly, it’s that idea that it’s not a museum. You don’t have to antiques. You don’t have to have valuable things. You just have to have things you like.”
She also noted the importance of lighting, “One trick is to light a home with lamp shades, so people look pretty, and you have light that’s good for reading.”
Pamela is also known for her love of the luxury textiles line Fortuny and all things Venetian, loves we so share!
“I fell in love with Fortuny because of its understated elegance. It’s chicly casual. It’s a special cotton, painted in many layers. And because of its fresh colors, it’s a perfect for California–casually elegant and perfectly practical. It’s expensive, but I wouldn’t make a client buy anything I wouldn’t buy. That’s why my bedroom is upholstered in Fortuny. When I get up and the sun is coming up, my room has a glow that’s reminiscent of Venetian sunlight,” Pamela tells The Luxury Marketing Council of San Francisco of her love affair with Fortuny.
RELATED ARTICLE: Home Textiles Inspired by Cultures Around the World
We are huge fans of Pamela and BAMO and we so look forward to seeing their next design creations!
For more profiles and inspirations by the world’s top interior designers visit our Designers page!