My Modern House: Duncan Campbell and Luke Edward Hall’s maximalist Camden flat
INTERVIEWS , My Modern House
Duncan Campbell: “This is a Victorian addition to a Georgian square, but half of it was bombed in the war, so you now have some council flats and a prefab church. It’s quite charming: you can hear an orchestra practising on Tuesday evenings. I bought this place ten years ago and it was a student flat, with a little kitchen in the corner. Most of the flats in this footprint have two bedrooms, with a shorter sitting room and a bathroom squeezed in at the back. This place only has three rooms, but it feels like a generous one-bedroom flat.
“I tend to work here, and Luke has a studio down the road. People often say that it must be hard to work from home, but you have your own little space here; with the French doors open, you don’t feel you’re in the same house.
“I have a business partner, Charlotte Rey, and we work at either one of our houses. She’s in Hong Kong at the moment, being the other half of Campbell-Rey. We used to work as the editors of Acne Paper, Acne Studios’ biannual culture magazine. It was quite a nuanced publication, covering historical elements as well as the modern-day, so it was a good schooling for us. Today our work mostly centres around branding and storytelling projects, particularly for hotels and heritage brands, as well as a new focus on the physical design of objects and furniture. Last year we did an editioned Christmas gift for 1stdibs – little salt and pepper dishes made from Murano glass – and we’re launching our first self-initiated collection at the Milan Furniture Fair, which is three marble tables.
“A lot of the stuff in the flat comes from eBay. We’ve always combined cheap and cheerful furniture with design pieces either from shops or from the internet. The yellow sofa is from sofa.com, upholstered in one of their fabrics. Our other sofa is a bit knackered now, but it turns into a bed – a really uncomfy bed, so you don’t get too many people wanting to stay over!
“Some pieces we found at Ebury Trading. The cabinet comes from Gallery 25; I saw it originally at a fair and couldn’t afford it, but eventually, by some miracle, it was for sale on the Pimlico Road for half the price. I love malachite – there are a few pieces around the house. Luke is an artist, and some of the ceramics are his.”
Luke Edward Hall: “The cushion with the palm tree on it is one of mine. Also the grey one with the classical heads. I’m a big fan of mythology, and I often use Greek and Roman busts and figures as motifs.”
Duncan: “There are a few pieces from Svenskt Tenn as well, which we both really love. Josef Frank is amazing. He designed the candlesticks with the bamboo on our dining table. The palm-tree ones were £10.50 from eBay. There’s an amazing shop in Venice we always go to which has tonnes of ceramics based on fruit and vegetables and animals. The fruit bowl on the dining table is one of my favourite things; it’s by an artist who makes blown glass that always look like fish, called Massimo Lunardon. Quite ridiculous! Luke’s influence is definitely the little spotty greyhounds.”
Luke: “They’re dalmations! I love a classic Staffordshire dog. I’m always looking on eBay to find pairs of Staffordshire figures.”
Duncan: “It makes me very happy to be growing things in the house. There are a couple of plants that haven’t died for a year now, which has been quite rewarding! I just grew lots of tulip pots for the first time, and I love enormous cheese plants.
“The dining table is pink marble, but it’s got a layer of resin on top, which is great because it doesn’t get red-wine stains. The dining chairs are replica ‘Cesca’ chairs by Marcel Breuer – not the real ones, unfortunately. The seat pads used to be blonde, but I replaced all the backs with black.”
Luke: “I think it’s important to have all of your stuff around you. Our ceramics and objects we’ve collected over time all have their own story to them. I can’t imagine living in a white box.”
Duncan: “You sometimes have a dream of living in a John Pawson house where everything’s a push drawer and there are no handles, but that’s not how we live. It’s not about being materialistic, it’s about things that remind you of a personal time, or the way that you acquired them. It’s more about the memories they evoke, I suppose.”
Luke: “I’ve taken a lot of stuff down to my studio, because for work I think it’s important for inspiration, to have all of your books and letters and photographs.”
Duncan: “We’re lucky because we more or less overlap on most things. That’s part of the reason it’s fun to create an interior with someone else, because it becomes a journey you can do together.”
Luke: “Our taste is quite grown-up in some ways. We like Georgian furniture and architecture, but also bright colour and silly bits and pieces.”
Duncan: “I think the mix is so important: not having too much good taste. We like a bit of kitsch and tonnes of colour. We’re in the process of picking new colours.”
Luke: “The blue in the bedroom drives me mad. We’re thinking about maybe a very dark sea green, almost blue, and then putting a patterned carpet down. I love colour palettes from the Seventies colours: oranges and browns. I’m also thinking about a gloss mustard paint for the hall.”
Duncan: “I tend towards a more Forties and Fifties Milan palette. I’m a bit more of a Gio Ponti, whereas Luke is a David Hicks. The living room will probably be Pepto Bismol colour, although I just read a tweet from the New York Magazine, and apparently Millennial Pink is a thing now and it’s put me off it slightly!”
Luke: “My studio is pink as well now, so we might have reached ‘peak pink’.”
Duncan: “I’m a bit agnostic about people who say that you should always use light colours in small rooms. For the bathroom we’ve used a fun Arts & Crafts wallpaper with a pattern by Voysey, which we bought in Massachusetts. Then we put a dado rail in, and the tongue and groove, which is a really cheap way to add detail. Rather annoyingly we get bad water pressure, because we’re up a hill, so we don’t actually use the shower. I put this enormous shower head in, wanting a Babington House rain-shower experience, but it’s a bit of a dribble!”
Duncan, what’s your definition of modern living?
“Even if we had a bigger house, we’d still want it more or less in one room. I think it’s the way people live nowadays. We don’t really need a dining room or a formal sitting room. We do have to keep the kitchen a little bit clean because it’s right in the middle of the space, but it’s so nice to be able to cook and be convivial and have a drink while you’re chopping… give someone a clove of garlic to peel. I think it’s a very nice way to have people over. I like the idea of living in a space that has high ceilings and all the details that you get with an old house, but living in it in a modern way; in a Victorian house you’d never have had a kitchen along one wall, with seating and eating together. I suppose we don’t have a formal existence, with set meal times and entertaining in that way, but a house now serves a different purpose.”
If you were to move, what’s the first thing you’d take with you?
Luke: “I think the art, because that’s something we’ve been building up over the last few years: some of my drawings, the Pablo Bronstein, and the little Cocteau prints. For sentimental value, it might be our collection of ceramics, even though they’re kind of funny … the David figure I got when I first visited Rome aged 18, for example. The rest are all from various trips. My favourite piece is the little yellow Venetian ashtray I got from eBay for Duncan’s Christmas present last year. Oh, and all my books!”
Duncan: “The fish lamp!”
Which property on The Modern House website has particularly caught your eye over the years?
Duncan: “I love the 1960s house in Warwickshire – it feels like an homage to Frank Lloyd Wright in the English countryside!”
Luke: “I think for me it’d have to be one of the houses on Murray Mews. They’re just down the road from us, and there’s a lot of exciting architecture there. There was one recently with a really inventive interior – I love the pitched roof and how light it is inside. It has the vibe of an artist’s studio.”