07 September 2018

Elegance & Ease- Nina Campbell

Interior designer Nina Campbell came to my attention in the late 80's when she was tapped to do the interior decoration for the Duke and Duchess of York. She appeared on the cover of House & Garden dressed in red and holding a porcelain apple. She had "arrived" in terms of her introduction to the States. My admiration for the designer began with that cover.
Beautiful, British, and ready to swath the royal residence of Sunninghill Park in passementerie.

Campell is still attuned to the fine details almost thirty years later. NINA CAMPBELL INTERIOR DECORATION ELEGANCE AND EASE, written by Giles Kimeis a fresh glimpse of her past and present personal residences in London, illustrating the arc of her work —work steeped in tradition, elegance, & ease.

With her love of fabric covered walls, use of passementerie, and her mastery of the ingrained beauty of English decorating, Campbell has opened the doors to her private spaces, revealing interiors that as fresh as ever, and thoroughly English. Other interiors from Campell's oeuvre revealed in the book include a hotel in Germany, pieds-à-terre in New York, Rome, & a townhouse in London.

In New York

Whimsy— a bit.
This is Campbell at her most eclectic. Two special and different chairs are covered in a Scalamandre silk velvet, and Cole and Son's wallpaper, Gondola, covers the wall. The Foyer is reminiscent of the glamorous rooms of the 1930's—one imagines a bias cut silk charmeuse gown trailing across the ebony floors—glamour a la film star Constance Bennett.

Below Campbell's own fabric Cantabria for Osborne and Little covers a sofa tucked neatly into the Study. A graphic Pierre Frey rug adorns the floor. Luxury & comfort (elegance & ease) are essential when Campbell decorates. The smaller space makes possibilities endless rather than limiting.

In Rome

This drawing room in Rome is signature Campbell. The fabric covered walls are intricately detailed with a braid outlining the doors, corners of the room, and windows. An extensive collection of Giovanni Battista Piranesi etchings of Rome and other Italian views highlight the walls of this room and the dining room. The entire apartment is filled with the same elements that Campbell incorporated in the drawing room—sophistocation, Classicism, every i dotted, every t crossed; her instincts always right.

In London

Built during the age of William Morris & William De Morgan, Nina Campbell decorated the house by repeating shades of peacock and cobalt throughout. Colors indicative of the era, Campbell uses it subtly—and with abandon. Her knowledge of periods and styles allows her to deftly introduce these details, never using cliched overt references that might dominate rooms that are first and foremost meant to be lived in.

In addition, an essay and pictures following the life of Ms. Campell are included in the book. A born Londoner & worldwide traveler, the decorator has never lived anywhere but the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Her career began at Colefax and Fowler—where better to be schooled, and later she was sought out to design a collection of papers and textiles for Osborne and Little. Reinterpreting themes from dated patterns and archives, many of Campbell's fresh wallpapers have adorned the walls of my client's homes over the years. In fact, I recall doing one house strictly in Nina Campbell papers alone—the results amped up the client's traditional furniture & antiques, making a traditional 40's colonial come to life. One could say—filled with elegance & ease.

 © Nina Campbell by Giles Kime, Rizzoli New York, 2018

15 August 2018


First Published April 15, 2014
Surrounded by her beloved airedales, Baldur, Undine, and Siren-at first glance Christian Waller looks like a fairy princess. Her life -less so. An artist in her own right, she married fellow student Napier Waller, and both studied at Melbourne's National Gallery School.

 "Christian Waller with Baldur, Undine and Siren at Fairy Hills" 1932 by husband Napier Waller
oil and tempera on canvas mounted on composition board 121.5 x 205.5 cm 
She was 38 at the time.

Hanging over a massive fireplace in the Waller's Melbourne dining room, the painting is her husband's only major canvas work and mural size (4 feet x almost 7 feet wide). Experts interpret the painting's composition in hindsight, noting five years after the portrait was completed Christian had a breakdown and the couple's marriage suffered estrangement though the pair remained married til Christian's death in 1954.

There must have been moments of sweetness though when Christian was sitting on the lawn of her Arts and Crafts bungalow, fashionably dressed in white, amongst her dogs and some of her own illustrated books. She fidgets with her coral beads -a habit or a possible response to Baldur's barking. The other two airedales are at rest and at attention-completing the framework of the portrait. A heavy draping of willow leaves cools the scene-perhaps casting a shadow on unnamed auguries .

A Study of Christian Waller for the painting

"There is often greater martyrdom to live for the love of, whether man or an ideal, than to die" 

 Christian Waller's "Destiny", 1916

Christian's own work was influenced by the Pre-Raphaelite and Art Nouveau in the early 1920's. She studied both Classical and Medieval works as a student- all contributors to her maturing style. In the 1930's Art Deco dominated her work-her prints, book designs and stained glass. After her breakdown, she turned deeper into Theosophy-shutting herself off from the world at large.  

Napier Waller was a World War I war hero -giving his right arm on the Western Front to the cause. Self taught afterwards-with his left hand, the city of Melbourne has been described as "a gallery of Napier Waller’s work." Working in stained glass and mosaics, Waller completed works for the Hall of Memory at the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, completed in 1958. Along with these compelling works there are eleven monumental Waller murals in the central business district in Melbourne and at the University.

Mosaic and Stained Glass at the War Memorial by Napier Waller

From the naming of their dogs-to Christian's deeply personal work, she devoted herself to Theosophy for the most part her doctrine held to its turn of the century spiritual leader Helena Blavatsky.  Blavatsky's basic tenets are: 

There is an omnipresent, eternal, boundless, and immutable reality of which spirit and matter are complementary aspects.

There is a universal law of periodicity or evolution through cyclic change.

All souls are identical with the universal oversoul which is itself an aspect of the unknown reality.

While critics have proven Blavatsky was part a charlatan and her supposed experiences with the paranormal faked- in the world Christian Waller inhabited they were real.

Christian's book The great breath; A Book of Seven Designs (1932), is testament to her beliefs.

the entire book can be viewed here

"Everything lives and perishes through magnetism; one thing affects another one, even at great distances, and its "congenitals" may be influenced to health and disease by the power of this sympathy, at any time, and notwithstanding the intervening space." Helena Blavatsky

The charms of the Waller bungalow are only hinted at in Waller's portrait of Christian, but we can imagine it must be so-and are compelled to wander just beyond the willows inside the house...

Designed by the Wallers as home and studio, Napier Waller lived in the house fifty years and examples of his art and work, Christian's work, that of his second wife, and Christian's niece, famous studio potter Klytie Pate, remain suspended in time-just as Napier left them. Today the house is a private residence maintained and lived in by a Melbourne antique dealer.

detail of Waller's airedale's from his portrait of Christian

From Steven Miller's book Dogs in Australian Art, we are told visitors to the Waller home remember the first thing they heard was 'Baldur's deep bark and the scuttering of claws on the polished wood floor.' Napier Waller would feature his Airedale in several allegorical murals- the breed seemed to lend itself to Waller's Art Deco palette-so with the Waller's home.

 "Pastoral Pursuits of Australia"
 Mural was originally commissioned for the Menzies Hotel, Melbourne (now demolished). 
 (more here)

Waller's "The Labours of Hercules" a mural with a self portrait of the artist
in The Blue Room of the Waller House, a guest room with built in glass topped furniture. 

Study for “The Five Lamps of Learning" by Napier Waller

Once acting as their Studio when the house was built, the living room holds Waller's Study for “The Five Lamps of Learning" and  "Peace After Victory." The room is panelled and floored in Tasmanian hardwood, the walls are plastered and finished in a combed wood pattern, and the raftered ceiling is in a marble pattern of gold leaf. There is a musician's gallery overlooking the whole. A coolness pervades in the house-the dark timbers, well worn leather and simple crewelwork curtains echo the Art Deco palette of both Napier and Christian.

"Peace After Victory"- A Study by Napier Waller

(interior photographs for the most part from an extensive tour of the house linked below)

Christian Waller's Morgan Le Fay
colour linocut on brown card

Like Christian's Morgan Le Fay, her life is veiled in conjecture. That they were alike-not so much, but today both remain fixed by the artist in magical worlds unlikely to be disturbed by the hand of humankind.

Resources and interesting articles.
There are extensive and detailed photographs of the Waller home and an in depth bio of the couple and the house-highly recommended HERE. Several of the images of the interiors can be found there.
more about the house HERE
Steven Miller's Dogs in Australian Art HERE
Christian Waller bio HERE
Napier Waller bio HERE
Napier Waller's mural HERE
The Australian War Memorial HERE
Napier Waller's murals on Pinterest HERE

30 July 2018

requiscat in pace

 Christopher Gibbs
mercurial aesthete
(July 29, 1938- July 28,2018)

in his rooms—Albany, London

in Tangier
photograph by Miguel Flores Vianna from Haute Bohemians

"I rather like the idea of a whole new phase of life, with fewer possessions.''-Christopher Gibbs

26 July 2018

requiscat in pace

may she begin to rest in peace

I am certain of nothing but the holiness of the Heart's affections and the truth of the Imagination.-John Keats*

Lucy Helmore Birley

* a favorite poet of Lucy Birley
photograph by Robert Mapplethorpe of the then Lucy Ferry

The Times here
Hamish Bowles poetic remembrance at Vogue here


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