Nina Campbell portrait © Simon Brown
As one of the world’s most respected interior designers, Nina Campbell has an unparalleled list of clients, including the Duchess of York.
She trained with the doyen of British décor, John Fowler, in the ’60s, and her first job was tackling the interiors of Mark Birley’s fashionable nightclub Annabel’s. Renowned for her brilliant sense of style and bold use of colour, she set up shop (and studio) in Walton Street, Knightsbridge, in the 1980s, expanding her repertoire into prints, furniture and decorative items. She produces an annual range of fabrics and wallpapers for Osborne & Little (this year’s range has just been launched) as well as her own furniture line at London’s Chelsea Harbour. Nina lives in Chelsea and has three grown up children, Rita, Max and Alice, and several grandchildren.
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What are your first thoughts when you walk into a room?
The first consideration is what the space is going to be used for and how the client wants to live. Then you consider which way the house faces and the volume of the rooms. Then you have to figure out how to make the spaces, including the corridors and hallways, work, and that can be exciting. You may have to find ways of making a low ceiling look higher for instance – and that is the Rubik’s Cube of interior design.
Why do you find your work so fulfilling?
Building a home for someone is wonderful. It’s so flattering that anyone would think you could make their lives better and more comfortable.
Do you prefer clients to have their own furniture?
I prefer it when the client has some of their own furniture because it has a personal reference, whether it comes from someone in the family or is something they have chosen along the way. I have had instances where there has been nothing though and I have had to start from scratch. It has to look as if it has been collected over many years.
Where do you look?
I will go to antique shows like the Battersea Antiques Textiles show which has furniture, textiles and glass and I often go to Guinevere Antiques on the Kings Road and other antique shops around the country. Then if I want things newly made, I will go to the Design Centre at Chelsea Harbour.
What is your home like?
It’s a former artist’s studio in Chelsea and has two little courtyard gardens, which I like because I am constantly looking at greenery. It is on three floors: in the basement are the guest rooms, bathroom and laundry; the first floor is the living room and kitchen and then my bedroom is at the top. I think every house needs to have a certain flow, but I redecorate a lot as I like to try out my own fabrics.
And your kitchen?
Since my children have gone, I have always had a rather small kitchen and therefore it has to be very streamlined otherwise it is a mess. It is all French grey lacquer and because it is small the entire thing has been done in the same surface. There are no handles on the doors and at the top, and because I can’t bear the gap between the cupboards and the ceiling, I have put a piece of mirror so that it is a streamlined wall and that makes the ceiling float. If I were to do my kitchen again though, I would have a Miele steam oven. You can steam everything, and the best thing about them is that they are so easy to clean.
What are your prized pieces in your home?