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Home Comforts: Duncan Campbell on the simple, the stylish and the sentimental

The designer might be partial to a sharp suit, but he also knows that the greatest pleasures and treasures in life aren’t always so swish

Grace Helmer
Home Comforts: Duncan Campbell on the simple, the stylish and the sentimental

Can one go in for a bit of nostalgia while avoiding naffness? A glance at the knick-knacks on Duncan Campbell’s mantelpiece suggests so. Here, treasured mementos collected on holiday with his husband, design darling Luke Edward Hall, vie for attention with the trompe-l’oeil decorations they’ve recently zuzhed up their London pad with.

Duncan, as one half of creative consultancy and design partnership Campbell-Rey, knows a thing or two about zuzhing up – it’s why we asked him to be a founding member of our Guild of creatives and thinkers. That his wardrobe is so natty, as you’ll learn, comes as no surprise – but perhaps his clumsiness in the kitchen might. Read on to discover the details of Duncan’s domestic set-up, taking in lethal liqueurs, a fizz-filled fridge and the verdant veg patch of their country bolthole. Supper at Casa Campbell? Count us in.

My most recent home improvement…
Bookshelves. I never seem to have enough, so if an alcove hangs around long enough it will be turned into a bookshelf. We also recently got into tromp l’oeil in a big way in our flat in London, working with the talented decorative artist Magda Gordon to create a mural and lots of faux-marble in the tiny hallway. She also painted some faux porphyry urns in our kitchen and transformed a couple of doors into a pair of shell niches, complete with an urn and a bust of Antinous, the Greek youth beloved of Hadrian.

The latest addition to my wardrobe…
Luke and I got married at the end of May in our garden, so I had a couple of suits made for the occasion. One was from Giuliva Heritage in Rome, using a 1930 fabric in a great pistachio colour; the other was a deep-blue tuxedo made by Drake’s, in a loose weave with grosgrain on the lapels.

The most useful item in my kitchen…
A Mircoplane grater. We get through an inordinate amount of parmesan and lemon zest. I have had a few beautiful kitchen knives before, but I’m quite accident-prone and always end up cutting myself. Now, instead of owning super sharp ones, I have a set of everyday ones that I keep in my trusty Sabatier knife block. They do the job just as well. I also love De Buyer pans, of which we have a few. They’re reassuringly weighty and come in fun colours. Life is truly too short to make an omelette in a non non-stick pan.

What’s always in my fridge…
Butter, capers, parmesan, Dijon mustard, olives, fizz. At this time of year there are also lots of things in our veg patch that you actually want to eat (as opposed to in the winter, when it just feels like turnips galore). We have broad beans, radishes, peas and tons of salad leaves at the moment, with tomatoes and courgettes on the way. The house we rent in the country also came with some mature fruit trees, which was a big bonus as they would have taken a few years to start producing fruit if we’d planted them ourselves. In a few weeks we should have a mountain of plums, cherries, raspberries and pears.

The prize bottle in my drinks cabinet…
Bottles tend not to hang around too long here… Our neighbours have a clutch of walnut trees, which they use to make a lethal but delicious liqueur. It’s the perfect way to get a party going after dinner – and is immediately regrettable the next day.

The knick-knacks on my mantelpiece…
…Are endless. We love bringing tat back from our travels – it might be a ticket stub, an old tile, a shell or a good lump of rock. There are endless vases of every size and shape, ceramics, Murano glass, hotel ashtrays, fridge magnets and matchbooks. Luke and I both think it’s very important to surround ourselves with things that we love and which remind us of a moment or a place.

The books on my shelf right now…
Lots are currently in piles on the floor, waiting for the aforementioned bookshelves to go in. I have many of old design tomes, some out of print. The closest pile to me has some faves, including André Arbus, Josef Hoffmann, René Prou and Maison Jansen. eBay is a useful resource for old design books, as is Abe Books. I find lots of great things on both.

The music on my stereo…
Tunes tend to be Luke’s domain, as he’s far more musically inclined than I am. However, when I’m in charge, it’s mostly classical when I work and bad 1980s music when it’s time for a drink.

Growing in my garden…
Our tulips and narcissi went really well earlier in the year. It’s very exciting when all the clearing and bulb planting you’ve done in the bleakest moments of November and December starts to pay off (if the squirrels don’t get there first). Now it’s summer, everything is in full swing. I now have a cutting patch for dahlias too – if all goes well they should give amazing cut flowers all the way through until the first frosts.

Hidden away in my cupboards…
A million travel adapters, none of which seem to work.

On my to-do list…
Plant more veg. Shelling and eating a pea or a broad bean you’ve grown yourself is one of life’s great pleasures.

Further reading


Duncan Campbell on Instagram


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