Legendary interior designer Nina Campbell shares the stories of her beautiful Chelsea home and talks to Rosalind Sack about her design tricks, her most treasured pieces and the secret to a welcoming home
NINA CAMPBELL IN HER LIVING ROOM AT HER CHELSEA HOME. IMAGE: PAUL MASSEY FOR CREATE ACADEMY
Where do you live and who do you share your home with?
I live in Chelsea in a former artist’s studio which I share with my dog, Twicks (or any other dog that happens to come by) and also lots of friends who decide I have the best guest room in London and they’d like to come and stay! My house is a moveable feast in terms of occupants.
How would you describe your home?
I hope it’s relaxed and welcoming; that’s all I really want out of my house. I love walking in, because when I walk through my front door I see a couple of pictures that I love and then I have two rather well-placed mirrors in which I can see both my gardens, so I just see greenery which is rather nice, especially in London. It makes your life easier and quicker if everything is in the right place, although I don’t always win that battle!
How does your home make you feel?
As you walk in the front door you should feel uplifted in one moment and equally relaxed in the other. And grateful to be home, of course. Your entrance hall is very important, it’s the first view you get of a house and you need to pay attention to it. In my case, it’s London so it’s part of my living room in a way. You have to think about if people come for dinner; it’s quite unnerving if you arrive in a house and you are wearing a soaking wet raincoat with a dripping umbrella and everyone else is looking gorgeous and dressed nicely for dinner and you’re left looking pathetic. It happened to me just the other night! So I think it’s nice if there’s a space to get rid of all that, a place where you can just stop.
Can you describe your front door…
Because of where I live it’s meant to look a bit like a door in a garden wall; I think we call it butt and bead. And it’s painted a colour called Tyringham Blue from my niece Vanessa Konig of Konig Colours. It’s a proper brightish blue; you can say to the taxi driver when you’re at the end of the street that it’s the house with the blue door.
What’s on your bedside table?
A tray with Petra Palumbo’s glass water carafe and tumbler with heather painted on it; piles of books that get taller and taller, usually novels and autobiographies; a little icon and hand cream. That’s about all because my bedside table is quite small, so the light is on the wall for that reason.
NINA HAS USED MIRRORED PANELS IN HER GARDEN TO CREATE THE ILLUSION OF SPACE. IMAGE: PAUL MASSEY FOR CREATE ACADEMY
What’s at the bottom of your garden?
Well, it’s not very far to the bottom of my garden, I have to say! The whole of the bottom is mirrored because I wanted to make the garden look bigger. It’s actually mirrored in plastic mirror, which is safe, not heavy and isn’t like a shiny new mirror. And against that is an old wrought iron gate that I bought and against that is a flower container. The flowers have all grown up over the mirror, so it’s much more oblique, but it still does reflect and make the garden look longer. And I think there are a couple of robins lurking in there too, I think there is a nest. I like roses and geraniums and I have a scented jasmine which is wonderful when it’s a warm evening.
What’s the most surprising thing in your home, or something that people might not expect of you?
I have all these salt and pepper pots that I’ve been collecting for quite some time. I started with a monkey and I’ve now got elephants and a violin, a couple of dogs, a donkey, a camel, and a car which I had my number plate engraved on the front. I love them and collect them wherever I see them – they’re quite fun and have become a part of every dinner that I have!
NINA’S NEW BANQUETTE SEATING IN HER LIVING ROOM, USED FOR SMALL DINNERS, CARD GAMES, READING AND HAS PROVEN A POPULAR SPOT AT PARTIES. IMAGE: PAUL MASSEY FOR CREATE ACADEMY
Where are you happiest in your home?
I’ve just built a corner banquette in my living room because I wanted to stop it from being a fireplace with a piece of furniture either side sort of look. It’s extremely useful because I can get four to six people sitting on it, so I can do a small dinner there or play cards on it, and then sometimes I just sit on it and read. I can see both gardens from it, so I feel very tucked away in my own private area. If I have a bridge table there I have one person on each bit of it and bring up two chairs, or if I’m having a party there are often four or five people squashed onto it. And it’s a good height; when you get to a certain point in life people don’t want to sink into a comfortable sofa, because they know they’ll never get out of it! It’s upholstered in a Pierre Frey fabric specially woven in these colours. I was doing a house in Greece for a friend of mine and we had samples of a red and white version and a white and red version. One was more suitable for her and the other one I thought, gosh, I rather like this. So I used that. My home is often evolving; I rather like change. I like to keep up.
What’s the next update or purchase you are planning for your home?
There’s not much room for anything more! I went to The Treasure House Fair the other day and there was an exhibitor there called Tom Rooth, who had created an extraordinary wall which looked like honeycomb hung with his ceramic hexagons with hand drawn bees etched on them. I bought four; one with one bee on its own which is me, then one with three bees which is my three children, then I bought three others which are my three sets of grandchildren. I thought they were fun to have and I’m going to hang them in a sort of strange way, so they look a bit like a bee hive.
If the objects in your home could speak, which would have the best story to tell?
Either side of my china cabinet I have a pair of wall sconces which were probably one of the first things I bought; they’ve now been in about eight houses. I bought them from Guinevere when (the founder) Genevieve was still alive. I love them because I was very fond of her. I was younger than her and she could be quite difficult if she didn’t like you, but I met her criteria and we became friends. As a result, I’m friends of her children and her business and those remind me of her. In one house, I actually had to build a wall to put them on because I couldn’t be parted from them! So they hold something special for me.
NINA’S TREASURED ANTIQUE WALL SCONCE SITS BESIDE HER WILLIAM YEOWARD MIRRORED CHINA CABINET IN THE DINING ROOM. IMAGE: PAUL MASSEY FOR CREATE ACADEMY
You live not far from your daughter, interior designer Rita Konig. How does the style of your homes differ and do you feel at home at her house too?
I do feel a sense of home at her house because actually she’s got quite a lot of furniture that I’ve given her; it’s quite cosy to put my drink down on a table that I used to have! She also has the same home values as me; that your home is for enjoying. She has a child so there’s a bit more child stuff about. I’ve now got to the point where I can contain my child stuff for my grandchildren in one room. The toys that are out in my house are the dog’s toys, so they sometimes get spread across the room. My current dog is a rescue, so there’s one favourite teddy that he bought from his previous home which he loves, so we keep that very special and, with great difficulty, wash it every so often.
You moved a lot as a child, albeit always in Belgravia. What were your childhood homes like?
It was just after the war so you couldn’t just go and buy new curtains and things like that, so we took everything with us. It was quite comforting because, basically, the drawing room was always the same and the staircase was pretty much always the same. Then when I got older I was allowed to choose my wallpaper from Coles wallpaper shop. I enjoyed it and enjoyed going around houses and imagining how they could be; so interior design was rather bred into me. And I remember there were endless dinner parties because in those days you didn’t really go to restaurants as much; it was quite an event to go to a restaurant. Although we would go out for Sunday lunch. We had a couple who looked after us at home and they were off on Sundays, so we would have starved if we hadn’t gone out to a restaurant because my mother couldn’t cook!
Some years later, you were approached to redesign one of your childhood homes on Chapel Street. How was that experience?
I rather enjoyed it because I was well gone by that time – I’d married and moved three or four times myself – so I hadn’t got any emotional attachment to it. But it was an extraordinary house and it was interesting going in and doing it as a grown up for grown ups. Whereas when I’d lived in it, I’d had a child’s bedroom. Strangely, another friend of mine had owned it for about 20 years between us and the new people buying it, so I’d known it on its journey and it was like an old friend.
You were 20 when you opened your first shop on Pimlico Road and you have just returned to open your new flagship store there. Does that feel a little like coming home?
It does rather! It feels like the other day that I was there in one way, although of course lots of the people there have left. (Decorator and antiques dealer) Geoffrey Bennison had the shop across the road from me and I used to go there pretty much every day for lunch. He’d have these lunches downstairs and we’d all sit around chatting and generally having fun. Or the restaurant across the road used to deliver, well they didn’t really deliver, but if they saw that I hadn’t gone out for lunch they’d suddenly walk across the road with a bowl of pasta. So there was a very cosy atmosphere. And while it’s all become a bit grown up now, everybody in this street are friends of mine really. And everybody’s different enough that you’re not stealing trade from the person next door, you’re enhancing it.
For more, visit ninacampbell.com. Nina’s new course, A Definitive Guide to Decorating with Nina Campbell, is now available to purchase on Create Academy here.
NINA USES MIRRORED AND HIGH SHINE SURFACES TO BOUNCE THE LIGHT AROUND THE ROOM IN HER LIVING ROOM. IMAGE: PAUL MASSEY FOR CREATE ACADEMY
NINA’S LIVING ROOM HOUSES MANY TREASURED ARTWORKS AND COLLECTABLES AS WELL AS HER RED ‘RITA’ CHAIRS AND OVAL GLASS COFFEE TABLE FROM HER OWN FURNITURE COLLECTION. IMAGE: PAUL MASSEY FOR CREATE ACADEMY
NINA’S ENTRACEWAY LINED WITH BOOKS AND A WELL-APPOINTED BAR TABLE. NINA HAS USED A SCREEN TO THE LFT TO SEPARATE THE SPACE FROM THE LIVING ROOM. IMAGE: PAUL MASSEY FOR CREATE ACADEMY
NINA’S CONTEMPORARY STYLE KITCHEN LEADS ON TO THE DINING ROOM IN ONE DIRECTION AND HAS HIGH WINDOWS ON TO THE GARDEN IN THE OTHER. IMAGE: PAUL MASSEY FOR CREATE ACADEMY
NINA’S BATHROOM WITH A PORTRAIT OF HER DAUGHTER, DESIGNER RITA KONIG, HANGING ABOVE THE BATH. IMAGE: PAUL MASSEY FOR CREATE ACADEMY
NINA HAS CREATED A COMFORTABLE AND INFORMAL SITTING ROOM IN THE BASEMENT WITH CURTAINS IN HER DAPOORIE FABRIC. IMAGE: PAUL MASSEY FOR CREATE ACADEMY
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