Designer Sami Hayek finds his spark back where it all began
“I was super happy in Mexico. I had the best girl in town, I was making a $#*! lot of money…I never thought I was going to be a designer,” says Sami Hayek on how it all came to be. Growing up in the vibrant coastal of town Coatzacoalcos, Hayek graduated from high school and started supplying American grocery goods (canned soda, cheese spray, shampoo) to his parents’ friends and, eventually, the whole area. His sister, Salma, then an up-and-coming actress in L.A., encouraged him to explore his entrepreneurial ambitions at Pepperdine’s business administration program. He was studying abroad at the University’s campus in Florence a year later when, inspired by the Uffizi masterworks and Florentine craftsmen, he realized his life’s calling in the middle of a statistics class. He called his father to say he was going to be a painter, sculptor or architect. “My dad said, ‘Listen, I don’t know what kind of girls you are meeting out there, but I think it’s a mistake.’”
Undeterred, Hayek transferred to Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design in 1992 and now runs Espacio Sami Hayek out of a home studio he shares with wife, jewelry designer Daniela Villegas, in Hollywood. He travels to Mexico twice monthly to monitor projects being made by 16 indigenous families in Oaxaca. Featuring intricate beadwork and hand-carved clay, the pieces are carried at Twentieth in L.A. and Erin Martin Design in St. Helena—as well as by special order. “I don’t know how to measure this yet, but I am convinced that a piece that is done with all this passion must affect you differently than a piece spit out by a machine in China.” In 2008, he tested that theory by designing a collection for Target, which sold out within days. Having exhibited at numerous galleries (including twice at Art Basel Miami), the 39-year-old furniture, interior and residential designer has produced everything from bedding and tabletop to single family homes and two private planes. Clients include Lenny Kravitz, Robert Vetica and, of course, his sister and brother-in-law, François-Henri Pinault; he dreams of one day outfitting an entire hotel. “The idea for everything is to combine the best aspects of U.S. and Mexican cultures. In other words, I love how the U.S. works. It’s very structural. Mexicans—we’re more relaxed and don’t care if we are late for a meeting because we’re having tequila. To have structure allows you to have a lot of freedom.” espaciosamihayek.com.
Written and edited by Kelsey McKinnon
Photographed by Sami Hayek