Blast from the past

Over-the-top interiors are back

The Guardian - Weekend - - Front Contents -

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)

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