Nine years ago, Nina Campbell saw the potential of what was then an unloved house tucked away in south-west London. Today, it is unrecognisable; an airy, open-plan drawing room and dining room make the perfect entertaining space, while down-stairs there is a basement with lofty ceilings that provides space for a guest bedroom, bathroom and a room where her visiting grandchildren can stay.
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It was built in about 1890, as a studio for the sculptor who owned the house that it backs on to, and it was converted into a house in the 1970s. 'There was very little light and it was extremely pokey but, when I walked upstairs, I looked through the window and saw this magnificent magnolia tree in full bloom and thought,' explains Nina Campbell.
She added a basement to house the guest bedroom and bathroom, television room and laundry room, which freed up the ground floor so it could be used purely as a living space. It was important the basement be deeper than usual, as I didn’t want it to feel small and dark.
Clever use of light-reflecting lacquer on the ceiling gives this room an illusion of height. Another dimension is added by a ﬂoor-to-ceiling screen of mirrored panels inset with a striking ﬁreplace, which was bought from an antiques shop in Atlantic Avenue, New York, and is ﬁlled with rock crystals.
For a cosy feel, engraved glass doors can be closed to separate this space from the drawing room. The chairs, which Nina has had for years, are often updated with new covers.
As the room has wooden floors, Nina chose to line the walls with linen rather than paint them, as she felt it would improve the acoustics. The chairs, in a rich shade of coral, were bought at the Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair in Battersea.
This pared-back scheme is enlivened with pretty glassware, including ice buckets, which Nina has collected over the years, and a drawing by her friend, the artist Henry Koehler.
Ever the consummate hostess, Nina has a well-stocked drinks trolley in the entrance hall so she can offer refreshments to guests as soon as they arrive.
Nina’s bedroom has views of the magnolia tree that prompted her to buy the house. “It is so frustrating, I never seem to be here the week it is in bloom,” she says, but a fabric wallcovering featuring cut garden flowers offersyear-round compensation.
Push open the mirrored doors and you enter Nina’s bathroom, where the pale-rose lacquer-finish walls combined with mirrors and mirrored furniture create a light and spacious feel without compromising its sense of privacy.
Photography/ Paul Raeside
Interior design/ Nina Campbell