Eclectic interiors: 3 designers on mixing old and new
We talk to the interior designers putting antiques at the forefront of their projects, and find out why a mix of old and new helps to create spaces with soul
‘There is a sense of soul that you can only find in objects that have lived a life,’ explains Duncan Campbell, who met his design soulmate, Charlotte Rey, in 2006, when the pair were working for Swedish fashion label Acne Studios. ‘We came to design in a slightly roundabout way, as initially our company was a creative consultancy working on branding for legacy and heritage brands,’ says Charlotte, who jointly launched Campbell-Rey with Duncan at the beginning of 2014. ‘Eventually a few roads convened and we started designing objects and furniture,’ explains Duncan. ‘We have always been fascinated by materiality, and the allure of the handmade, so it felt like a natural progression for us to take what we had learned working for brands and apply it to designing for ourselves.’
While interior design is largely new ground for Campbell-Rey, the pair already have several large projects under their belts. ‘We’re working on a flat in Mayfair, a restaurant in Marylebone, a new house in the countryside and an apartment in Rome,’ says Duncan, who describes their interiors as ‘refined, joyful and a bit sexy’.
The duo have a penchant for creating a dialogue between past and present, always placing antiques at the core of their projects. ‘Everything is inspired by something and [a historic object] adds layers of culture, time and emotion to a space,’ says Charlotte. It’s a belief they jointly share when sourcing antiques from the likes of Ebury Trading in London, Les Puces flea market in Paris and even online auction sites such as eBay. ‘The trick is in the search words,’ she laughs.
Campbell-Rey spaces are vivacious and unusual: think sensual textiles, trompe-l’oeil, surrealist art and statement furniture such as lacquered chinoiserie cabinets and bold mid-century lighting. ‘So much of the design world is obsessed with good taste and doing what’s proper,’ Duncan continues. ‘I think you need something with a bit of spice to make a room feel exciting.’ It’s a sentiment that Charlotte echoes and, when listing her eclectic inspirations, she muses on her love for mid-century Milanese architecture, the colours of Tropical Modernism and the laid-back, romantic atmosphere of iconic Sunset Boulevard hotel, Chateau Marmont.
‘We both travel a lot, visit beautiful houses and enjoy art galleries,’ says Charlotte. ‘We’re both infinitely nosy too – Duncan almost got in proper trouble while peeking into a modernist house in Palm Springs, despite massive signs warning of trespassing! We have different tastes, but we see them through a similar lens. That’s what keeps us both inspired.’ Above all, they both appreciate spaces that bring people together. Even their studio – the top floor of a Georgian terrace in Fitzrovia – is a lesson in creative comfort. Painted in blue gloss and peppered with prints by Yves Klein and Matisse, client meetings take place on a 70s-style yellow sofa. ‘I love the idea that good design can enhance even the most day-to-day experience,’ she says.
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Frank & Faber
For Sarah Ellison of London-based design practice Frank & Faber, interior design is all about storytelling. Exploring both the story of the client, and how they wish the space to feel, and the story of the building itself – whether that’s a residential space, a business or a boutique hotel. Her most recent project, Somerset hotel Number One Bruton, is a sensitive study of Georgian architecture that tells the tale of the building’s eclectic past.
‘The listed hotel is an old ironmongery and forge with history seeping out of every scuffed floorboard and cracked wall,’ explains Sarah, who sees the renovation (the first phase of which was completed this year) as one of her dream projects. ‘Every room is different and designed in sympathy with the heritage and style of the building,’ she says. Though the space is crammed with original features, antique furniture and old wallpapers, it’s not devoid of colour: walls are painted in soft, welcoming hues, while contemporary upholstery, lighting and vintage artwork ensures each room is fresh and inviting.
‘We create unique, character-led interiors with a personal touch,’ Sarah explains. ‘Inherently comfortable and inviting spaces that people want to spend time in.’ Working across residential and commercial projects, including a high-end hair salon, a luxe members’ gym and a number of private homes, Sarah’s spaces are those of intentional contrasts. ‘I like a blend of textures, styles, periods and always a mix of old and new,’ she says. Her passion for interior design grew from renovating her own period property several years ago, which she filled with reclaimed finds sourced at vintage markets and online auctions. ‘Interiors should be interesting and have an element of surprise – sometimes there’s a quality of workmanship that can’t be replicated with a new piece. Like most designers, I love a 5am start to get to the Kempton or Ardingly antiques fairs!’ she laughs.
Next on Sarah’s list, after phase two of the Bruton hotel renovation, is a number of private houses, plus an office for a casting director. ‘My job is to filter out the white noise, get to the heart of what the client wants, and create a space that’s a physical representation of them,’ she smiles.
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‘My grandmother explained to me at a very young age that she had chosen to cover her entrance room with pineapple motif wallpaper as it was a symbol of welcome,’ explains interior designer Rachel Chudley, who is known for her distinctive use of colour, texture and pattern. ‘This ignited a lifelong love of interiors, and the narratives of the people who have lived in them.’
After a childhood spent redesigning the layout of her family home – ‘We lived in a glorious amount of clutter and a mismatch of styles,’ she says – Rachel completed a History of Art degree at The Courtauld Institute of Art, before moving to California where she interned with several influential designers and studied at the Interior Designers Institute. ‘Getting experience in different countries informs my work: I believe travel greatly influences the creative process for the better,’ she says.
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Eclecticism is integral to Rachel’s work – blending antiques of all eras with beautifully upholstered furniture, original artworks and unexpected touches that explore her clients’ quirks and personalities. ‘I love to see many styles and periods together in one home,’ she says. ‘I like to look for defining features in seemingly disparate items to pull everything together and create a lived-in interior.’
When approaching a project, Rachel likes to work with a client’s existing furniture to get a sense of their style, before sourcing other pieces from specialist dealers and auctions. This historic Bloomsbury house embodies Rachel’s signature look: ‘The client had many Asian antiques, including the vase-lamps either side of the bed. I took inspiration from this and chose fabulous fabric from Clarence House with Tibetan tigers dancing across it.’
In terms of inspiration, Rachel is fascinated by historic houses, which she refers to as ‘treasure troves of delightful objects’, and enjoys the mix between traditional and avant-garde. Alongside working on a listed London townhouse, an apartment in Manhattan and a shop in Covent Garden, Rachel is currently creating hues in collaboration with colourist Donald Kaufman to produce custom paint shades for her clients.
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