Blast from the past
Over-the-top interiors are back
A pair of young designers, self-confessed ‘old souls’, are busy bringing the past bang up to date. And there’s not a figurine in sight. Tom Dyckhoff meets them. Photographs by Suki Dhanda
Luke Edward Hall, 29, and Duncan Campbell, 31, are not troubled by minimalism. Could you get away with a leopard-print carpet – even in the bedroom? Or a pink living room beside an egg-yolk hall? The couple’s one-bedroom flat in a vast, Victorian brick townhouse in the scruffier reaches of Camden, north London, is a hurricane of pattern, and so crammed with stuff you’d call the producers of Britain’s Biggest Hoarders – were it not so artfully directed.
Prints swarm across walls: Eduardo Paolozzi, Matisse, Pablo Bronstein. Chairs peep out, breathless, beneath piles of cushions and collaged patterns. Houseplants sprout bountifully. There’s not just one pair of spectacles on Hall’s bedside table, but five. And books, books, books, squashed into any available nook: Annie Leibovitz, Cecil Beaton, Nigel Slater. Pity the soul who does the dusting. “We do rather like things,” Hall says. “We just need more surfaces.” Collecting stuff, like writing his blog or posting on Instagram, is to Hall about memory: “Everything here has a story.” Each object conveys its own history, and that of him and Campbell. Their home is a scrapbook of their decade together.
Their flat is small – just a living room with a built-in kitchen, a cubby-hole-cum-office off to one side, a bedroom, bathroom and an entrance hall – but its high ceilings and the sheer amount of stuff make it appear labyrinthine. The couple changed their living room walls from dark green to pale pink a few months ago. “We originally used a Pepto-Bismol pink – we wanted a bright, intense shade. But in the evenings our lamps made it look really alarming. It lasted three days before we gave up and repainted the room paler. It’s where everything happens: we cook, eat, live and work in this room. It’s the biggest and brightest, with a view of treetops.”
A glance in any direction takes you to 1970s Italy one minute and to the Aegean the next. The pair are human magpies. “We have similar tastes,” Hall says, “but there are ways where we’re” – he chooses his words tactfully – “different.” Hall is quieter and more painterly: “I go a bit Bloomsbury group, 1970s,” he admits. You might add Rex Whistler, Bright Young Things, Jean Cocteau, Ancient Greece. “You could call it a queer aesthetic,” he told one interviewer. “You tend to go more art deco,” he tells Campbell, who says, “Yeah, I like a lot of 20th-century design, modern Italian architecture.” Campbell is louder and not overly fond of Hall’s penchant for Staffordshire figurines. They do not enter the flat.
Both Hall and Campbell are making names for themselves in the design world. Campbell runs Campbell-Rey with Charlotte Rey – a design agency turning its hand to anything from corporate branding to making tables or designing a trophy for the Elton John Aids Foundation. Hall, working solo, is equally mercurial, designing for Burberry one minute, working with Jonathan Adler for a hotel in Palm Springs the next, then creating objects such as pink-spotted, faux-bamboo-legged tables. Hall has begun cropping up in those “celebrity” party photoshoots you see in magazines. Vogue called him a “wunderkind”. Both are becoming young figureheads of →
“maximalism”, a return to dizzying colours, prints and playfulness in interior design, after two decades of Ikea and muted mid-century nostalgia. You didn’t get the memo?
Don’t chuck out that chintz: love it.
The pair are, Campbell says, “old souls”; 30 years ago, we’d have called them Young Fogeys. It’s understandable from Campbell, the son of lawyers (“with an exotic side”), who grew up in Georgian Edinburgh, history on every street corner. Hall’s childhood, though, took place in an 80s house in Basingstoke, dad an accountant, mum a home-maker: “Lots of concrete, roundabouts, bypasses.” Not exactly Rome. This, though, fuelled his appetite for romance, he thinks. He and his “odd friends escaped into our little bedroom universes”, only “my universes were a bit more extreme: purple walls, with shelves of Star Wars Lego that I’d take down every week for dusting”. A Saturday job at a local National Trust house, the Vyne, opened the door to that other magical universe: the past.
The art of a designer, though, is not just accumulating stuff; it’s doing something with it. What distinguishes Hall and Campbell from fogeys is the creativity with which they reassemble the past. They are, after all, children of the internet: they screengrab history; they are permanently “on”; work and home “bleed together”, on social media especially. “I art-direct my life very much,” Hall says. “We don’t post pictures of us sprawled on the sofa, eating burgers,” Campbell adds.
People should be braver decorating their home, Hall says: “What’s the worst that can happen?”
“We get it wrong all the time,” Campbell says. “But if it doesn’t fit, throw it out.” It’s all about editing. And if all else fails? “Storage.”
This page, clockwise from top: the dining area, with its art deco-inspired furniture and accessories (for similar vintage dining chairs, try 1stdibs.co.uk); a flamingo print in the bathroom; the mustardyellow hallway; Vitruvius slippers, by Hall, on the leopard-print carpet in the bedroom
Previous pages: in the living room, Luke Edward Hall (on right) and Duncan Campbell with Diane von Furstenberg rug (therug company.com). In the bathroom, Apothecary’s Garden wallpaper by Voysey (trustworth.com)
Above: Hall in front of the bedroom’s Pheasant wallpaper from Twigs (twigs wallpaperandfabric.com)