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Melvin Hamilton


At a Glance

Class Year: 1971

Award Year: 2012

Degree: Bachelor of Building Construction, Master of Interior Space Design

Profession: Interior Designer

Biography

Melvin Hamilton, who became one of the United States’ top interior designers, earned a Bachelor of Construction Management degree in 1971 and a Master of Interior Space Design degree in 1973. Hamilton designed the interiors of more than 100 corporate headquarters, law firms and banking institutions throughout the U.S. and won several of the field’s most coveted awards before his death in 1992. Hamilton joined the Houston office of ISD Inc., a Chicago-based firm, in 1978. In 1985, he was in the firm’s Chicago headquarters after a promotion to senior vice president and director of design quality, winning numerous, major design contracts for large law firms across the U.S. In a 1992 Houston Chronicle article, Hamilton recalled how he won a commission from a prestigious Atlanta law firm. “I knew I’d have to do more than just show my portfolio to those Georgia lawyers to get them to hire a Texan working in Chicago,” he said. He hired a private jet for the day on his corporate credit card and flew the prospective clients around the country so they could see, in person, some of his best projects. “I got the job,” he said, “and it’s a good thing, because I probably would have lost my own job if I hadn’t!” In 1989, Hamilton was inducted into Interior Design magazine’s Hall of Fame. In 1992 the magazine named him Designer of the Year; Hamilton is one of the few designers to earn both honors. That year, he collaborated with famed architect Michael Graves to design interiors for Walt Disney Studios’ international headquarters in Burbank, Calif. Near the end of his life, Hamilton won the gold medal award at NeoCon, North America’s largest commercial furnishings conference, for a line of small metal tables he designed.