Campion Platt

At first the architect and designer, Campion Platt seemed to want to hide behind long, brainy answers to our questions (we cut quite a lot of them) but he loosened up and he’s such a nice man—has an endearing love of dark chocolate and thriller movies, created the most gorgeous non-saccharine pink bedroom in New York for his wife—and, one of these little surprises we get when we ask the right question—loves cutting people’s hair.

Campion Platt: Made to Order. Click to order.
His new book, Campion Platt: Made to Order (The Monacelli Press) showcases his assured modern take on interiors and we winkled out of him some of what he meant by his belief that a ‘storyline’ should guide the ideas behind a project.

The first thing I wanted to talk to you about is your quote on your website about luxury and materiality [“Luxury is about materiality and context”] What is that about? What does that mean?

Oh … you’re putting me on the spot here. It means that when you step away and you’re talking about luxury in itself, luxury can be defined by many things—it’s about the best product, the highest style.

When we’re designing for clients, it’s not about the cost of an object, it’s much more about the quality of the experience. It is about the context. At the end of the day, when the client comes their own living space, they should feel comfortable.

So what are your most failsafe techniques for figuring out what a client wants?

…. I’ve had lots of experience not doing it the right way. But you know the phrase: “My architect, my shrink.”? I know more about them than their best friends do.
A delicate pink-and-clear Swarovski Crystal chandelier floats above a dining table and chairs designed by Campion. The painting is by Hunt Slonem,
The self-contained white lacquered, kitchen, ‘effectively a box within a box: a diaphanous kitchen pavilion,’ explains Campion.
Illuminated shelves display carefully edited objects and photography.
Are you direct about asking who is going to be in charge of the money?

In a way, yes, because I want to have very clear cut ways to get from A to B. And you know, they have to sign all the drawings, so everything they’re approving along the way is something they’re agreeing to … I’m always very budget-minded from the beginning. I usually present a few options for something within the parameters of the overall story we’re trying to tell and once they sign on to that story, then it’s very easy for them to say if the story is this, then it follows that these are the only two options that work in this space. I’m very pragmatic about it. I try to stay to that storyline so that the theme runs all the way through. That’s not to say it’s kind of matchy-matchy.
An oversized painting by artist Hunt Slonem hangs on a wall behind a Swarovski Crystal chandelier suspended from the dining room ceiling. A LED lighting system diffuses a soft purple hue across the dining space of the loft. Reflections of the Hunt Slonem painting and dining table from a floor-to-ceiling hall mirror.
Alabaster vessels from a trip to Egypt line the loft windowsills.
A backlit, monolithic fireplace designed by Campion is the focal point of the living area of the loft. A plush sheepskin rug and soft purple and cream fabrics flow together to create an inviting and cozy sitting area.
The loft’s massive 15-foot-high-celings in the main floor offer a voluminous space with which to work. To organize the space Campion divided it into ‘virtual rooms’ that have distinct functions.
Secret storage spaces are tucked into the massive ebony fireplace mantel, which also holds the flat screen TV. An ancient Chinese river stone stands in front of an Art Deco style mirror in a corner of the living area.
Orchids give a bit of pop to the coffee table.
The word ‘theme’ is a bit scary … you don’t want it to look ‘theme-y’.

Exactly, that’s what I’m saying … I want them to say, “Where does this piece come from and where is this piece from?” I’m into fractal geometry.

What’s that?

It’s like a snowflake.
A separate lounge area with a custom L-shaped banquette was carved out of a front corner of the main floor living space.
Built-in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves in the corner lounge area display books and sculptural objects from nature. Looking uptown from Campion and Tatiana’s Soho loft. Campion’s wife, Tatiana Platt, runs the FameGame.com, a social networking start-up.
I haven’t heard this, about having to have ‘story’ for an interior design project. What’s the difference between a ‘story’ and inspiration?

You have to have a story before you can become inspired.

So this is all very cerebral—how receptive are people to this?

Well, one of the reasons I wanted to do a book was [to express] those parts of a conversation at a cerebral level, a conversation I might not exactly have with a client. Here was my opportunity to describe a process. I mean those conversations with the clients are more natural. Those conversations are about trying to draw them out, listening to what they say and tagging them to create this ‘storyline’ at the beginning.
Ebony bookshelves, storage cabinets and the family flat-screen TV cover a wall of the library. A sepia tone montage of Buddhist monk, Ajahn Chah gives a hint of color to the brown tones of the library. The curved-curtain wall rounds off the walls squared corners and gives the room a sense of space.
Campion converted a former guest room into a pink-accented bedroom for his daughter, Xenia.
So what was your ‘story’ in this apartment?

Well, my wife who came from D.C., always wanted the white loft downtown—that meant exposed radiators and pipes everywhere. I said, that’s all well and good but let’s do something a little more ‘with it’. So she wanted the white walls and white floors but then basically said you go do what you want after that. She actually didn’t come to the apartment for eight months—until we moved in.

God, weren’t you nervous?

We moved in July 4th and I cooked dinner for her and we had dinner out on the terrace. We watched the fireworks--you could see them on both sides … and she loved it. So we slept there that night and the next night there was a torrential downpour … about 200 gallons of water came in through that light fixture [in the main living area] and destroyed everything here. We had to move out for four months. We got one night …
The loft’s original staircase was reversed to take advantage of the view and open up the master bedroom space. Prints by Sigmar Polke and James Houston’s MOVE book series hang on the stairwell wall.
The light-filled sitting area of the master bedroom is a mixture of feminine pinks and streamlined, modern furniture.
Tatiana’s desktop.
The splendid second-floor master suite combines bedroom, lounge, dressing rooms and a spacious outdoor terrace.
Looking across the master bedroom.
An upholstered pink linen-velvet wall creates a romantic, cocoon-like feeling in the bedroom area of the master-suite. Looking across the master bedroom.
The lines of a built-in closet wall are broken up with a bench and recessed TV.
Views across the lounge area towards the outdoor terrace. The rug is by Fort Street Studio.
The luminescent dressing area was painted by artist Ricardo Brizzola.
Silver baby presents fill an acrylic table in the dressing room hall.
Tatiana’s dressing room.
The master bath is sheathed in pink onyx. More family photos hang on a wall in the master bath.
Which part of your job do you enjoy the most?

Well, it’s ten percent design and ninety percent execution. But I like sketching, the very beginning.

How about the feeling on completion? Is it anti-climactic?

Yes. Completion is an inevitability and hopefully goes as well as possible but I’m much more concerned with the front end.
The bedroom terrace.
Stunning views over downtown Manhattan from the master bedroom terrace.
Are you a spender?

No, it’s funny, all the magazines call me and ask me what I’m collecting right now but I don’t really collect anything. I’d rather not have anything. You know, we have a few houses, a few kids, all these objects, insurances and everything—it all becomes a drain. I’d rather not focus on that.

Does the responsibility of being the one who generates most of the income get to you? Are you a worrier?

No, I don’t worry at all. It is what it is and worrying about it is not going to change anything. But I’ve been cutting my twenty-year-old son’s hair since he was zero, and I end up cutting hair for a lot of friends. I always figure whatever happens, I can always go work in the barbershop. I love cutting hair—it’s instantly gratifying.
• Sian Ballen & Lesley Hauge
• Photographs by Jeffrey Hirsch