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Understated luxury

19.10.20

Blending textures and natural materials whilst injecting understated glamour and a nod to history, Fiona Barratt-Campbell’s cool contemporary style, certainly hits the mark. Julia Millen spoke to the inspirational designer

What got you interested in interior design?

I was heading for a career in fashion, which began with an art foundation course at Chelsea School of Art. I particularly enjoyed the architecture component of the course, especially the interiors side, so I decided to stay on for the interior and spatial design degree. It’s funny how you set out to do one thing and end up doing something entirely different. I’m very lucky with my work which enables me to blend the best of both worlds; mixing architectural elements with interior design.

I’ve always been interested in buildings – my grandfather was my mentor and inspiration (Fiona’s grandfather was the founder of Barratt homes). I like the physical side and the opportunity to create something tangible. We’re not just altering a room, we’re looking at all the essential touch-point details that go into creating a space and bringing the design together. We work with a number of artisans and craftsmen to produce these special items and we really enjoy learning about other trades to understand what goes into making these unique pieces.

How has your style evolved over the years?

Style evolves with age and where you are in your life. I have three children and that certainly shapes everything we do, as everything has to be super practical. Previously I worked in a studio and I was very much influenced by the brand and the studio owner I worked with who had a strong sense of style (Fiona’s first job was working with Kelly Hoppen). I think it took me two years to switch up my approach and find my own design identity. I also think your style evolves when you travel and you’re exposed to different cultures and environments.

Where do you find inspiration?

Travel and nature are hugely inspirational. Our furniture brand, FBC London is very much inspired by nature – the shapes, the textures and the colours. That’s what we’re known for as a studio. For the furniture brand, I take a lot of inspiration from Roman history, architecture and vernacular features. I grew up around world heritage sites in Northumberland, which have shaped and inspired my designs. As a civilisation, they were so ahead of their time. I love everything they did and that spills over into my work. I believe it’s important to reference history in design because you can reinvent and source ideas. It gives the design more resonance and grounding.

How do you differentiate between designing for residential and commercial?

I love the challenge of both and we’re very lucky as a studio to have that balance. Residential design is much more focused. You have a client with a vision and you have a goal, but it’s also extremely time consuming because it’s so personal. Building a close rapport with a client is one of the main reasons I love what I do, because you’re working with people and I like that connectivity. You’re essentially taking a vision from their head and interpreting it. When the client steps inside their home and says that’s exactly what they wanted, you know all the hard work has been worth it.

Commercial projects are more cut and dried - it’s about timings and budget, but you have more free reign so I like that. You don’t have a specific client, you’re designing for a larger audience. We’ve just finished working on a hotel - a penthouse in Hong Kong and it’s very much about having a strong design ethos yourself, but also drawing on the location - the heritage and culture. These elements influence the materials we choose – again, labouring the character of space through utilising what’s already there, so you’re giving the design a grounding. You’re not creating a city pad in a ski resort, you’re designing what’s right for that location and hopefully it will be enjoyed by a broad demographic.

Which style trend would you could bring back?

Restoring original Georgian wooden panelling or installing plaster mouldings transforms a space and creates interest on bare walls. We’ve just completed a house in North Yorkshire, which fully embraces wooden panelling and it looks absolutely stunning. The character it adds to the room is quite breathtaking.

The way in which you can reinvent a style with a contemporary twist, using the same philosophy but bringing it into the modern era is satisfying. That’s what I love about that creative process.

 What projects are you working on at the moment?

We have a chalet in Chamonix, a Victorian country house that I’ve just bought in Berkshire, a bi-lateral flat in Kensington, which is a complete refurb, a five storey townhouse - which will be great as it will be branded with our interiors – our furniture line FBC London. And we’re also working for Chelsea Power Station on a very exciting commission, that’s largely under wraps at the moment.

How do you keep your designs fresh?

I spend a lot of time reading international magazines and researching online - perusing Pinterest for example. International magazines give me an insight into what’s going on overseas and a knowledge of local companies. It’s important to know what’s going on outside of the UK and what other designers are doing, so I also go to a range of trade shows and markets - that’s where you discover new ideas and emerging trends.

What’s the best global getaway for design inspiration?

I enjoy travelling to cities to soak up the culture and equally, I love immersing myself in nature. I’ve been lucky enough to go on some wonderful safaris, experiencing the savannahs and wildlife and I’ve recently been to Maldives, where I had the opportunity to go diving and experience the beautiful colours and formations of the coral. I think anything that’s so far removed from daily life provides a totally fresh outlook.

What’s your advice for reconfiguring a home post lockdown?

I don’t think anyone in the world has spent as much time at home as they have in the last few months. It’s been incredibly interesting to access if the way you currently live actually works, especially when you have to blend work, rest and play. I think people have been very creative, I even saw someone online working on their laptop on an ironing board. It’s also given many people the opportunity to declutter– clearing out cupboards and drawers and questioning whether they need so many possessions. We’re quite a materialistic society and I think since the pandemic struck, people have pared back their lifestyles and that’s really good – it’s always a positive step to sit back and think is this working? Also, you can move furniture from room to room – I’ve done this so many times. You invest in a piece of furniture, specifically for a room and you get it in there and it doesn’t work. I think it’s really important not to be afraid to make changes. Design is about evolution, there’s no right or wrong, you can keep tweaking, which is what I do at home. If I find something on my travels, I make space for it.

What’s next for you?

With the furniture brand, we’re opening a new showroom in NYC in September. We’re also doubling the size of our furniture shop on Pimlico road – we’ve bought the shop next door, too. As for the interiors side of the business, we continue to attract a diverse range of projects which will keep me busy and challenged. I can’t wait.

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