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Duncan Campbell and Charlotte Rey are insouciant forward slashers. Their creative consultancy and design partnership, Campbell-Rey, founded by the design duo in 2014, crosses the fields of creative direction, branding, curation and design. Irreverent elegance is their modus operandi and together they have undertaken commissions for some of the world’s most innovative and desirable brands.
Formerly the co-editors of the bi-annual publication Acne Paper, nowadays the pair divide their time assessing handmade crafts, touring glass factories in Venice and concocting off-kilter blueprints for their next assignments. With projects like Bulgari, 1stdibs and Assouline under their belt, not forgetting notable product launches with Thierry which exhibited at Salone de Mobile last April, their innovative approach and eye-on-the-prize mentality is admirable. Despite their borderline flamboyant aesthetic, there is a pragmatism to this pairs oeuvre and a rambunctious back catalogue of inspiration to sift through…
Where’s your next adventure?
Duncan Campbell: Next week we’re off to Amsterdam with a client to research at The Ritman Library, which is a private library housing manuscripts in the field of Hermeticisim. Truly an adventure of the mind.
What projects are you working on at the moment?
Duncan Campbell: We’re working on a broad range of projects at the moment which is exciting! We’re in the process of designing our first building which is very exciting, then we are working on a boutique hotel interior, the editorial direction and storytelling for Australian real estate developer QIC GRE, a branding project for a fashion label in LA and a design commission for a Milanese jewellery brand.
Charlotte Rey: We’re also guest editing the upcoming issue of Common Thread, the in-house publication of the British menswear label Drake’s, and creating a capsule shirt collection with them to mark the launch, as well as continuing to develop our next range of products and furniture. It may seem like a quite broad output but it all co-exists in the same universe of references, colours, materials, expressions, tones and atmospheres and we believe that the work on each individual project improves on and contributes to the worlds of the others.
What’s the biggest adventure you’ve been on?
DC: I travelled to India for the first time this year and was completely blown away by the beauty, the people, the food, the architecture and the warmth of the welcome we received everywhere we went. I had never experienced love at first sight with a country in the same way. Already counting down until the next visit!
CR: A few years ago, I went to film a documentary in the Himalayas with four spiritual leaders. I travelled with a Brahmin, a healer, a shaman and a guru for a few weeks which not only allowed me to witness the sunset over Mount Everest and the source of Ganges but also experience some incredible things. Words can’t really describe it.
If there was one destination you could go back to immediately, which one would it be?
CR: My parent’s beach house in Falsterbo, in southern Sweden, on a hot summer late afternoon when I was a child and summers were endless.
DC: Straight to lunch at Da Adolfo in the bay next to Positano. Spaghetti alle vongole and a snooze on the tiny beach.
What destinations inspire your creativity?
CR: Italy and some of its customs are often at the centre of what we do. Not only the architecture and design over the centuries but the ways of living, bringing different generations together and the rituals around the centro di tavola, the passegiata or the apperitivo are something we return to.
Tell us about some creative references you return to time and time again…
DC: Whether it’s a piece of furniture, an object or an interior, we love to create moments that feel surprising and playful while still being imbued with a sense of wit or elegance. We often return to motifs like trompe l’oeil, perspective and geometry but our aesthetic is evolving all the time. Having said that, a love of materiality and a desire to create things that are beautiful and useful will always be at the heart of what we do.
List three buildings, anywhere in the world, you wish you had access to…
DC: Villa Sola Cabiati, a perfect slice of 18th-century symmetry on the banks of Lake Como. With interiors largely intact, it wouldn’t be a bad spot for a summer office.
CR: The Chrysler Building – an art-deco masterpiece that the New York skyline would be incomplete without. It’s strange that someone hasn’t done it already, but we would love to redesign the Cloud Club, a legendary dining room that occupied floors 66-68 of the building from 1930 to 1979.
DC: Casa Attelani, the home of one of our biggest inspirations, architect Piero Portaluppi (of Villa Necchi fame), this palazzo in Milan has a fairly nondescript exterior but inside it’s full of his unpredictable and surprising details.
What have been some of your favourite projects to date?
DC: The house we’re working on is completely new adventure for us and working with an architect to define the aesthetic language of the project and conceive everything from the structure to the materials, and the interior schemes to the landscaping has been an incredible experience.
CR: We love taking on a project from start to finish and creating a whole universe and story. The house will be something like that but also our first collection under our own name, which was a collection of octagonal marble tables in two colours joined together almost invisibly that we launched last year at the Salone del Mobile. We created a room that we designed and furnished with some of our dream partners – Svenskt Tenn, Pierre Frey and Iksel wallpapers and that was a really incredible project for us. We also loved working as the creative directors on Bentley Elements for Design Miami a few years ago and the on-going storytelling that we work on for Australian real estate developer QIC GRE – a client who is really shaping how we’ll live and interact on a big scale for decades to come.
Tell me about your collaboration with Murano glass and how its culture inspired your design…
DC: We wrote a book on contemporary craftsmanship for German publisher Gestalten a few years ago which was a kind of distillation of our fascination with the subject. We were introduced to Murano-based company Laguna B when we needed to create some glasses for a design commission and we have worked with them since on a number of commissions, as well as on our own range of glassware. Obviously for us it’s about creating beautiful handmade products that couldn’t come from anywhere else, but it’s also about trying to bring relevance and a new audience to Murano. Murano used to be guarded by its own private police force as the skills of the glass craftsmen working there was so valuable to the trade of the Venetian state and even today, they are unique in the world. In order for those skills to survive they need business. Laguna B has had this as its mission for a number of years and if we can help, even in a small way, then what we’re doing there will be worth it.
Where is the best place to shop for handmade interiors?
DC: India without a doubt. The craftspeople there can make anything you can dream of.
CR: Bali for wooden things and Carrara for marble.
Does travel breed creativity?
CR: Of course it does. Anything that makes your mind travel feeds you creativity.
DC: Travel is probably the biggest source of inspiration for us. Whether it’s architecture, typography, design, gardens, art or food, taking the time to really look at a place is the best way to feel inspired.
What do you think makes a good hotel?
CR: A transportive and warmly welcoming experience encompassing intuitive and appropriate service, beautiful and surprising interiors, thoughtful food and drinks, and wonderful convivial atmosphere.
DC: Atmosphere is everything. You can tell from the moment you walk in a hotel whether the people running it get it or not – great design, food, service and location are not enough on their own, they have to work together to create something truly magical. I also think you have to judge a hotel based on what it’s trying to do – a palazzo in Venice will not set itself the same criteria as a safari lodge so it’s important to remember that everything is relative.
One piece of travel advice…
DC: Pack light. You can probably find it when you get there.
CR: Such a boy’s answer! My advice is to always pack a long evening dress, you never know where you’ll end up…
And finally, what’s in your SUITCASE?
CR: Veja sneakers for exploring, Stubbs and Wooton slippers for evenings, personalised stationary for thank you cards, Isa Arfen anything, Away pocket charger, a long cashmere scarf for covering up or cold nights and a Rhode Resort dress. Never without my laptop and phone.
DC: Linen shirts, a good pen, Stubbs and Wooton slippers for the evening and even though I hate to admit it, my laptop.
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