Duncan Campbell and Charlotte Rey

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Breed – talking to Duncan Campbell and Charlotte Rey

A chat with Duncan Campbell and Charlotte Rey, co-founders of Campbell-Rey

Duncan Campbell and Charlotte Rey met while working at Acne Paper, the cult-ish magazine put out by fashion house Acne Studios. That was back in 2007, with Duncan fresh from reading Law and Charlotte, who hails from Sweden, having studied Fashion History and Theory at Central Saint Martins. They rose quickly to become co-editors of the magazine and eventually decided to set up their own creative consultancy – Campbell-Rey – together in 2014.

Campbell-Rey’s original brief was telling the stories of legacy and lifestyle brands including Bulgari and Bentley. They found this work often saw them examining architecture, interior and product design, something they felt they had a natural aptitude for. It wasn’t long before they started working on major design commissions for the likes of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, Kartell, Christie’s, Kitri, Away and more. And their work soon encompassed interior design, creative direction, furniture, and product design.

Their playful, colourful aesthetic and love of craft began attracting attention and plaudits, seeing Campbell-Rey named as one of Country & Townhouse magazine’s Top 50 Interior Designers and winning Newcomer to Watch at the 2019 Homes & Gardens Design Awards. They’ve also won praise from such prestigious publications as The Wall Street Journal, The World of Interiors, American, British and Turkish Vogue, and Architectural Digest (US, Germany & France).

We caught up with them to find out what they’ve been up to during the pandemic and what they have planned for the future.

Duncan, how did you go from studying Law to working in the fashion industry?

Duncan: As part of my degree course in London, I had a year abroad in Paris studying French Law at the Sorbonne and I worked out pretty quickly that it wasn’t where I was supposed to be. Coincidentally, I came across Acne Paper, the culture biannual of Swedish fashion label Acne Studios and was lucky enough to be offered an internship there. It was an incredibly formative time where I learnt so much about art, architecture, fashion, journalism, photography and interiors.

Did you both always have an ambition to get into design from a young age?

Charlotte: Yes, I wanted to be a fashion designer from a very young age. I was always very drawn to form and colour. But it wasn’t until much later I realised that I enjoyed the transportive experience of furniture and interiors much more. I think we had both always been aesthetically inclined, but working together on the magazine which delved deeply into so many rich cultural themes was definitely a new beginning for us both.

Was there an immediate spark between the two of you when you first met?

Duncan: I think when everyone tells you you’re going to love someone before you meet them, a part of you is obviously thinking, what if we don’t get on?! In fact, we were very lucky, we more or less clicked straight away and have been incredibly lucky to work together almost every day for the past 15 years.

What made you decide to go into business together?

Charlotte: After working as co-editors of Acne Paper for a number of years, when the magazine closed, we felt we had same interesting points of view and an approach that would be valuable to the kinds of brands that we loved most. We’ve both always been fascinated by history and how things are made, and our work on the magazine stood us in good stead to take on creative and design projects, so we decided to set up the company in 2014. It seemed like a very natural progression, in the beginning we were working mostly in art direction and creative direction and with time we took on design projects, with that eventually becoming the main focus of our practice about two years ago. We’ve always been very drawn to beautiful spaces, how they come together and what one can do with and within them.

Would you say Campbell-Rey has its own distinct aesthetic?

Duncan: Yes, I think so, but it’s something that’s constantly evolving. We like to create spaces that are transportive, joyful, layered and refined – glass half-full beauty with a sense of conviviality. There’s an abundance of colour, pattern, unexpected materials and pieces with history and patina – objects and furniture where you can feel the skill in the execution and the sense of a life well lived.

Charlotte: We’re both very drawn to the well-made and beautifully crafted, often in gorgeous and unexpected colours. We’re also very excited about the mix and dialogue between contemporary and antique pieces, and we love surprising details like a trompe l’oeil moment or a hidden bar behind a jib door. 

How do your clients find you?

Duncan: We’ve been very lucky with the clients that have found us so far. They’re likely to be young collectors with international lives and a strong interest in culture. Often, they hear about us through friends or sometimes we even get a DM on Instagram. We tend to work with people who love the process, who find it exciting and worthwhile to commission exceptional things from skilled artisans, who are interested in building collections and who seek out experiences and travel, and who have the approach of a patron in trusting our vision. We feel it’s very important that each project is an enjoyable one for the client and it’s essential to remember to stay playful and open. Interior design is always a dialogue and process and not just an end goal. 

Do you have a dream client you’d like to work with some day?

Duncan: We have a few dream clients already, but in terms of projects, I think we would both love to work more in hotels and hospitality. We also love working in architecturally beautiful spaces because they often ‘tell’ us what they want to have done with them. In that vein, a few of the dreams would be a commission in Venice, a Georgian house in the English countryside, a Long Island estate, and perhaps a chalet in the Alps!

What are your own personal favourites among the projects you’ve worked on?

Charlotte:  It tends to be the last thing we’re finishing and whatever we’re about to begin. We’re working on the final phase of a pre-War apartment on the Upper East Side which we’re both very excited about. And we’re just kicking off on the renovation of a Belle Époque villa near San Remo, which is a complete dream.

What effect did the last 18 months of lockdowns and uncertainty have on the business?

Duncan: I think everyone has found the uncertainty of the last 18 months challenging. We have been lucky in the sense that our projects tend to be very involved and usually take a number of years, so even though 18 months is a long time, we have been able to keep them rolling.

What do you have lined up next?

Charlotte: We’re kicking off on our Italian villa, a new townhouse in London, and concluding projects in NYC and Utrecht. We’re also excited to grow our furniture collections which sell on The Invisible Collection, and expand our wholesale homeware business.