Q&A: Award-winning interior designer Fiona Barratt Campbell

Posted in Interior Design

Though most design boffins will recognise her considerable body of work throughout Europe, Fiona Barratt Campbell is making rapid headway here in Asia. The Northumbrian designer — who has headed her own interiors firm in London for well over a decade — is best known locally for collaborating with The Upper House, and recently completed work on one of K11 Artus’s 3,703 sq. ft. penthouses — bastions of stylish living, nestled high above the revitalised Victoria Dockside development. With her first regional project in the bag, we thought now would be the perfect time to grab Barratt’s hot takes on all things design: from her love of historic architecture to challenges facing the industry in 2020.

First up, tell us how you got into the industry — it’s well-known that you initially studied at the Chelsea College of Art and Parsons School of Design. Did you always suspect you would end up designing interiors?

Fiona Barratt Campbell

As a child I enjoyed creating and building things. I’d originally planned to study architecture at university, however I quickly realised that my passion lay within the home. After graduation, my first job was for a well-known design firm in London. I gained about three years of invaluable experience there, before going on to establish my own firm — that was 14 years ago now. I’m very much a people person, so the main object of my practice as a designer is to understand and interpret someone else’s vision. The personal journey and evolutionary process you go through with each project is something that I’ll never tire of — every client is unique.

You always credit Sir Lawrie Barratt as a significant mentor and influence on your work. Tell us a little about how he nurtured your talent and/or supported you when you made the decision to start your own studio in 2006?

My grandfather [founder of Barratt Homes] was a major inspiration. I always enjoyed the fact that his job yielded something physical, and that he was creating opportunities for people to actually own a home (he was instrumental in creating the first affordable housing of its time). He was incredibly supportive of my passion for design. Point in fact: he helped me secure placement for work experience at a London-based architecture firm. That said, he had a pretty tough philosophy that every generation of our family must begin their own business without help — as he had done.

You often speak about how historic and naturally occurring phenomena has been a strong theme throughout much of your work. What about it speaks to you?

Fiona Barratt Campbell

I grew up in Northern England — where we’re fortunate to be surrounded by a variety of wonderful, very inspiring World Heritage sites that can be dated to the Roman era. I was fascinated by how progressive their building style was for their time period. That inspiration is everywhere: from the shape and pattern of their drinking vessels to the columns they used in temples and choice in building materials. In particular, I gravitate to how the Romans used natural wood. It’s a material that’s in a state of constant evolution and there are an abundance of different textures, colours and materiality — often within a single species. There’s also something very comforting about it: wood is literally grounded in nature, so there’s some aspect that’s relatable to everyone.

As somebody who works on numerous residential projects, what’s your biggest challenge when it comes to practically realising the desires of a client?

The first rule of thumb is always to foster a strong sense of mutual trust: the client has agreed to let you create their home; and so it has to reflect their own ideas and living requirements. That’s not to say there’s no underlying philosophy threading its way through every project: it’s just manifested in a unique way depending on the client. A ‘good’ interior is one that enhances, not dictates, the way in which you live. For the K11 Penthouse, I worked closely with Adrian [Cheng] to deliver on his vision for a showcase that was very artisanal, yet at the same time, capable of co-existing alongside all the unique artwork he’d sourced for K11. So the challenge was to tell the story of British craft in Hong Kong, albeit through my own philosophy of design and experience.

Just expanding on that: what were some of the unique challenges and advantages associated with the K11 Penthouse project?

Actually, the main challenge associated emerged right at the beginning. We took several months to do spatial planning, as K11 were highly specific about what amenities — storage being a key one — needed to be incorporated within the space. We managed to create a fantastic fluid layout, incorporating a view from every room. For me, the latter element was fundamental to the project because its location is so unique. On the one hand, you’re basically on the water but also have unbelievable views of Central and lush green mountains beyond. As [Fiona Barrett Interiors] are known for our unique use of texture, it was obviously crucial to include a selection of specialist finishes within the space too.

In the master bedroom, the wall flanking the steam room/shower was actually clad in antique barn wood that’s 100 years old. The wood has been tinted with silver paint that is then coated in resin, in order to make it waterproof. Whenever we sample wall finishes or joinery, we work very closely with local craftsmen — communication at every level is really key whenever you’re translating such a meticulous detail into reality.  

If we can get overly critical for a moment, what are some of the biggest challenges that have developed in the design industry over these past few years?

For me, it’s the blatant plagiarism of a brand’s products — typically furniture pieces and lighting. I have my own furniture brand [FBC London] and we’ve seen many of our own designs plagiarised in other projects. Also, in a way the deluge of information on the internet (e.g. Pinterest, Instagram) that we’re exposed to on a daily basis has made it increasingly difficult for clients to be decisive — they’ve been overexposed to so much choice.

You’ve described the object of your design philosophy as being “to enhance, not dictate, the way [clients] live”. Care to expand on that?

Homes are one of the most important spaces you’ll inhabit throughout your life. They are shelter; comfort; and an incubator of memories made amongst family and friends. Ultimately, home should be a place where you can recuperate from the toil of everyday life. So naturally, there are a lot of factors that go into creating a unique living space. I firmly believe that the interior should always enhance a building’s external elements and take the surrounding location, heritage and materiality into account. In a previous project in Mallorca — a private villa — we took some of the sand and small stones from the surrounding beach and incorporated them into a specialised plaster that we used to finish the walls of the home. We also used woods like iroko and teak, selecting those materials for their suitability and relevance to the project.

Now for something a bit more personal: what’s one indispensable trick/tool that you use to boost productivity during your work day?

I don’t eat breakfast. Everyday I fast until lunchtime and that keeps my mind sharp (along with several cups of black coffee). I also allocate blocks of time to the completion of specific tasks and try to stay vigilant about these.

Finally, if you could travel back in time and give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would that be?

Fiona Barratt Campbell

I’m reminded of Oscar Wilde. “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” That advice is particularly resonant for this day and age — when everyone and everything’s business is so very visible. Better to stay true to your core beliefs and vision.

Randy Lai

Buy a New Apartment at Embassy Gardens in London

Posted in Sponsored Content

Who cares about Brexit? Despite widespread uncertainty regarding the UK’s future departure from the European Union, London’s luxury property market has remained resilient, with prices continuing to rise and new high-end developments opening all over the British capital. London’s most ambitious and exciting property development of the moment is none other than Embassy Gardens, an expansive 15-acre riverside project on the South Bank of the River Thames that’s anchored by the new U.S. Embassy. 

Located in the fast-transforming Nine Elms district, home to the iconic Battersea Power Station, Embassy Gardens is a landmark development which, when completed, will include nearly 2,000 new homes, stunningly landscaped gardens, offices and flexible work spaces, leisure facilities, and 130,000 square feet of bar, restaurant and retail space, including a new Waitrose supermarket. In addition to being the final chapter in the remarkable story of the South Bank’s revitalisation, Nine Elms will also become better connected to the rest of the city with the extension of the London Underground’s Nothern line to include stations at Nine Elms and Battersea.

Opening in three phases, Embassy Gardens has just completed its second phase (also known as the Legacy Buildings), which means that developer EcoWorld Ballymore is set to release a new collection of 2-bedroom apartments in Legacy 1 and Legacy 3, two buildings that overlook the US Embassy and the meticulously landscaped gardens in Embassy Square. Fortunately for Hong Kong buyers, the launch of these new apartments will take place during a two-day exhibition (16 and 17 November 2019) held at Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong. 

Both standing 22 storeys tall, Legacy 1 and Legacy have an architectural feature you won’t find anywhere else: the Sky Pool, a world-first in swimming pool design that connects the two buildings on the 10th storey. The interiors are just as impressive, having been designed by Benningen Lloyd and Luis Bustamente to offer residents the best in contemporary luxury living. 

Inspired by Soho lofts, the new 2-bedroom apartments coming to market feature an open-plan design that maximises space and makes the most of the natural that light that comes in through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Light-coloured oak, marble worktops, black granite, luxurious leather, richly woven fabrics, polished steel and handcrafted Spanish porcelain tiles and amongst the beautiful materials used throughout each apartment. 

Being a 21st-century luxury development, Embassy Gardens offers residents a dazzling assortment of amenities: the Eg:le Club, a private residents’ club for work, relaxation and entertaining; a rooftop bar with breathtaking views; a private gym with a yoga studio, boxing ring, and top-tier equipment; a business centre with two dedicated meeting rooms; a full-service health spa; a private cinema and more. Robin Gill, Good Food Guide Chef of the Year, is behind not one but two restaurants here: Darby’s, a ground-floor eatery focussed on immersive Irish cuisine; and a forthcoming 10-floor restaurant exclusively open to residents.

All this is in addition to Embassy Gardens’ ample dining, shopping and entertainment options, proving that this development is fast becoming a dynamic hub of London and a community in its own right. With its combination of great design, incredible amenities, beautiful green spaces and so much more, this wonderfully rejuvenated district is shaping up to be one of the most desirable places to live in London, one that’s worthy of your consideration whether you’re seeking a pied-a-terre or a permanent relocation.

If you’re interested to learn more about Embassy Gardens, be sure to attend the upcoming exhibition on 16 & 17 November 2019 from 11am-7pm at Edinburgh Room, 2/F, Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, 5 Connaught Road Central, Hong Kong. If you’re curious to learn more about this burgeoning district of London, don’t miss the “Transforming London-Nine Elms Regeneration” presentation, which will be held Friday, 15 November at 7pm; Saturday, 16 November and Sunday, 17 November at 2pm.

For further information, or to register your interest, please contact Cushman & Wakefield at +852 2507 0578 or ipm.hk@cushwake.com.

Michael Alan Connelly
A Chicagoan by birth and a New Yorker by habit, Michael has more than a decade of experience in digital publishing at leading titles in the U.S. and Asia. When he's not checking out Hong Kong's newest restaurants and bars or jet setting around the globe, you'll find him hanging out with his dog Buster and enjoying an Aperol Spritz.

London Rising: 6 Notable New Developments in the British Capital

Posted in What to Buy

Despite the uncertainty of Brexit, it it apparent that investment in the UK’s residential property is still on a high and was seen to go up 150% in 2018 (as reported by broker JLL London), thanks to the lures and luxury of London. But with so many new developments in all stretches of the capital, where does one even begin to scout property? From brand new buildings to historical transformations, these are the most intriguing developments in London to follow, visit and perhaps invest in right now.

Chelsea Barracks, Belgravia

Formerly the British Army barracks, which was out of public reach for over 150 years, the Chelsea Barracks has been something of a controversial talking point since real estate investment company Qatari Diar paid a record breaking record amount for British land, GBP 959 million (approx. HK$9.2 million), in 2007. But now, over 12 years on and the first residents have finally moved in, while new penthouses and townhouses go on sale and more phases are in construction for eventual completion. Other elements to open up include landscaped public green spaces that have a distinct theme. Today, Chelsea Barracks continue to offer luxury British living at its finest, making it evident that they will still be one of London’s newest and most esteemed enclaves. 

The Mansion, Mayfair

Boasting 23 luxury residences, The Mansion is Clivedale London’s boutique development of unique apartments. By enlisting German-based firm NBK Terracotta, a bespoke terracotta façade warms the building’s exterior while also paying homage to other Edwardian-style homes in the area. Officially complete, the residences range from studio apartments to penthouses, all of which feature a modern yet timeless elegance. Residents of The Mansion will of course, also benefit from amenities and services including a private residents’ lounge, spa, fitness centre, and Marylebone’s longest private indoor swimming pool. Bonus services such as the chauffeur-driven Bentley house car doesn’t hurt either. 

10 Park Drive, Canary Wharf

Down in the Docklands is the first of Canary Wharf Group’s residential developments: Ten Park Drive. Overlooking the South Dock, the development is just opposite of the Herzog and de Meuron development — One Park Drive — and encompasses two towers. The 42-storey and 13-storey buildings offers 345 one, two and three-bedroom apartments in the centre of Canary Wharf’s residential area Wood Wharf. Residents will benefit from the building’s concierge team, sky terrace, private club, and state-of-the-art health club. Inside, the interiors boast the design marks of celebrated interior designers Stanton Williams, and is fitted with a colour palette that complements the building’s surrounding, with natural woods and clean lines to further enhance natural light into the space. Set to complete in the first quarter of 2020, this property is worth keeping your eye on.

1 Ashley Road, Tottenham Hale

Tottenham Hale, said to be one of London’s next great neighbourhoods, is getting something of a facelift with 1 Ashley Road as its first development in the centre of it all. Sitting in a bustling hub for international transport, the area is easy to get to and from. It’s also designed by the team behind the regeneration of King’s Cross, Alison Brooks Architects, and they have created what could be a landmark building with a warm brick façade, street-level shops and garden terraces. Anticipated for completion in 2022, the offering ranges from studios to three-bedroom apartments, all of which have been given interiors of mixed textures and finishings in bright but warm neutrals materials.

The Atlas Building, Old Street

The Atlas Building, London

Standing 152 metres tall over the rest of the Old Street area in London’s Tech City is mixed-use scheme The Atlas Building, which saw its first residents move in this month. With just a handful of the 302 apartments remaining, this new development is hot property and one to keep a watchful eye on. Designed by MAKE Architects, which was funded by Foster + Partners architect alum Ken Shuttleworth, the building is said to embody the area’s creativity, culture, energy and entrepreneurship. This can also be seen in the office spaces, urban farming and a restaurant that occupy some of the other floors. Meanwhile The Atlas residences can also benefit from lifestyle amenities such as a gym, swimming pool, spa, cinema room and private lounge. 

Principal Tower, Hackney

When Foster + Partners, who also transformed The Murray hotel in Hong Kong, designed their first London residential tower, it was obvious that both architecture and design would be exceptional. This rings true for Principal Tower, which combines residential, office, and retail space alongside a half-acre public piazza. Rising 175 meters above the city of London and Shoreditch, the building is Central London’s tallest and has views looking towards Canary Wharf in the East and the Houses of Parliament in the West. 

Fontaine Cheng
Born and bred in London, Fontaine is a self-proclaimed foodie with extensive experience in the luxury lifestyle landscape. When not exploring the world — discovering cultures and tasting new dishes — she can be found sipping a nice cup of tea (or G&T) hoping to adopt a puppy.

London’s High-End Property Market Is on the Rise Again

Posted in Market Report

London’s high-end real estate market is showing continuing signs of recovery, according to the latest property index from Coutts. Prime property prices in the city crept up again in the second quarter, leaving them 3.1% higher than they were at the end of last year, said the private bank and wealth manager in last week’s report. 

Helping to support prices is a lack of supply and increasing demand. Sales activity was up 21.4% in the second quarter compared to the previous three-month period. 

Despite the recent uptick, prime prices are still 14.5% lower than they were in 2014, making high-end properties in the city good value to buyers. But those same low prices are also discouraging sellers from listing their homes. The number of prime properties on the market in London is down 12.5% compared to the same period last year. 

“Fewer properties on offer means that competition can be intense among buyers for desirable properties when they come up, and it’s not surprising to see gazumping on the rise,” Katherine O’Shea, of Coutts real estate investment services, said in the report. 

Gazumping refers to the unfavorable practice of accepting a higher bid on a property at the last minute despite having already accepted a verbal offer. 

Prime supply has dropped most in the neighborhoods of Kensington, Notting Hill and Holland Park, where inventory across the three areas is down roughly 25% compared to the second quarter in 2018, the report said.  It’s up most in the neighborhoods of Kings Cross and Islington, where there has been an almost 15% increase in supply in the same time. 

Staff Writer