Country View 2020: Come Design with Me

This interview with British Interior Designer Nina Campbell has been taken from Country View 2020, Knight Frank’s definitive guide to the finest country property across the UK. In the interview, Campbell discusses her love for restoring country homes, the challenges faced and advice for those looking to approach interior projects themselves. Find the interview in Country View 2020 on p. 17. 

Nina Campbell has been at the forefront of British interior design for more than half a century, enjoying an illustrious career that has become best known for use of rich colour palettes, her own wallpaper designs and signature range of furnishings, all of which place emphasis on utilising classic British design. “You have to try to use British as much as possible,” Campbell tells us. “Especially in our current climate.” Having grown to some repute during the 1980s and 1990s, Campbell still leads a tremendously busy schedule, both from her Walton Street shop in Chelsea, and on the road when she consults on any given number of design projects around the world. While Campbell’s projects can be as a big or small as they are varied, designing within traditional British country spaces still has real appeal for her. Here, Campbell has very kindly shared her philosophies on designing country house interiors, and what continues to inspire her own work.

What do you love the most about designing interiors for country houses?

I love the act of restoration. I enjoy nothing more than taking on a house that needs restoring and bringing it back to where it should be. There can be so many surprises you find in beautiful, old country homes, especially when you take them back to their bare bones. You find out where old rooms have been divided, or where original features need some love to bring them back to life. It’s a wonderful thing to wake up a home that’s been asleep for 30 years.

What advice will you give clients approaching interior projects within such a property?

I will always advise my clients that the simple approach is the best. Don’t over-decorate or exaggerate elements so they look picked out. Beautiful plasterwork can really go a long way, especially when it’s painted well. Using shades of white can help you do this effectively. In a country home, really consider how the inside of a house mixes with the outdoors; you want to balance a warm, comfortable interior with the practicalities of living in the countryside. There’s no point having a pale carpet in certain spaces if you’re going to be traipsing muddy boots in and out!

What are the biggest challenges when designing for old or listed buildings?

When you come across things that no longer serve a purpose or need to be redesigned to work. For example, adding new bathrooms in new places, means you have to think about how new plumbing systems will work throughout the entire home – essential, but not exciting. You also have to consider how you make a house safe. I’ve had clients wanting to renovate an entire home but keep the electrics that are over 25-years-old. You simply can’t neglect these things even if they’re not the focal point of a project.

How does it differ from designing for spaces in the city? what are the similarities?

I like to think about how you live in different spaces. Like in many townhouses, big kitchens and living spaces have arguably become the most important rooms within a house. You want to think about how you add elements that make it comfortable to live in them, but that also gives you greater licence to create – or even recreate – spaces within your home, especially those that are not considered particularly popular by today’s standards, such as the dining room. Making this kind of room a dual-purpose space by making it a library room as well can have a rather dramatic effect.

Are there any key interior trends we should be looking out for over the next year?

I think the way to keep design stable is to not follow trends at all. I personally really dislike the word ‘trend’ – it’s quite scary because they come and go. I think it’s really pleasing when design evolves.

Read the interview in Country View 2020 on p. 17.