Distinguished Speaker Series
Campion Platt, a renowned interior designer and principal of the award-winning New York interior design firm of the same name, has become a leader in boutique hotel design and is notorious for his highly customized interiors. Architectural Digest has named him to its AD100 list of top designers, and New York Magazine pronounced him one of “The City’s Best Architects and Decorators.” His work is featured regularly in Elle Décor, Esquire, Gotham, Travel + Leisure, Wallpaper, and other leading design magazines.
A week ago today, I was able to meet Campion Platt in person as he presented his new book “Made to Order” and discussed “A Bespoke Approach to Design”. During his engaging presentation and visual demonstration, Campion Platt revealed his creative process, inspiration and some valuable tips. I bet I don’t need to express to you how thrilled I was (and still am).
Campion is all about the story with design. Every single project he presented to us had been awarded a title in its early stages of development. Architectural Digest’s November 2010 edition featured a series where AD 100 designers share their secrets on what goes into a stylish, well-crafted home. Campion shared his secret on telling a story. Everyone’s had the experience of telling a story, whether to a child at bedtime, a bunch of friends over a glass of wine or in some other context. But what does it mean to “tell a story” with design?
According to Campion, whether you are a homeowner or a professional, finding a compelling story (i.e. a theme or concept) enables you to consider every decision with what amounts to a dependable true/false meter. At the largest scale, it helps to establish the architectural principles that will organize the design—a courtyard house, for example, has certain signature elements upon which to draw. But having a story also helps with the details. Is this chair, wallcovering or rug contributing to the tale I want to tell? Or does it somehow strike a wrong note (even though it’s beautiful or “important”)? If you’ve developed a strong concept, you’ll make fewer mistakes, create interiors that are more original, imaginative and authentically your own—and you’ll practice the craft of interior design, rather than decoration as application.
In this article, Campion goes on to explain that the prospect of coming up with something that will drive all of a project’s design decisions can be daunting. The flip side of the equation is that every space has a story to tell—and so finding a story, at least in part, involves discovering what your home wants to be. If you’re at a loss, try jump-starting the process by taking your cues from the architecture. Once you’ve got a dialogue going, everything that flows from it will be functional, beautiful and welcoming. Having said all this, let me add a caveat: If your theme doesn’t seem to be working after a few tries, don’t be afraid to move on. There’s a Buddhist saying: “The only way out is in.” Immerse yourself in the process—and you’ll come out with the right story to tell.
The photos I have shared with you are a few of my favorite “stories” designed by Platt. I am so grateful that Campion’s favorite part of presenting is the question and answer series that proceeds. I took advantage and couldn’t wait to ask him how someone of his caliber became who he is today. Not only did he answer my question during the presentation but he took time during his book signing event afterwards to converse with me further.
I found another article featured in Architectural Digest titled “The Big Picture” published in April of 2005. According to the article as well as his experience described to me, the moment of truth for Campion came when he was a teenager in Switzerland. His mother, he says, “wanted to move to Florence to do art. I was kind of left behind in Zurich. I felt like I needed to find a vocation. So I thought, Well, I’m very good at math. I’m very good at physics and physical sciences. I love to build models and do pen-and-ink drawings and watercolors. Architecture seemed to be the natural solution, and at the age of 15, that was what I wanted to do.”
While Platt was attending graduate school at Columbia, Frank Lloyd Wright “was not high on the list of people’s inspirations. I always thought he was great in that he was a ‘totalarian.’ He did everything—the architecture, the interiors, the lighting, the rugs, the utensils.” So it isn’t surprising that Platt takes a dim view of “building out the architecture and then fitting in interior design.”
“When I started, I took some time to figure out what I wanted to do,” he recalls. He also turned down jobs because they didn’t fit what he was trying to achieve. There was a two year period that Platt did not work waiting for that right project to come along and guess what…it did. Thank you Campion for sharing with me that it is not always about skill, but who you know, being in the right place at the right time, and living in New York City does help.
Platt does not have a distinctive voice and I hope he never does. What I love best about him is the work he has created is a bit eclectic and fits the needs of his clients, rather than emulating a look of his own. Campion was so down to earth and very nice. We talked for a minute about having young children and how we are in the same “boat”. He not only has a 20 year old son but 2 children under the age of 4 with a new baby on the way. Hopefully Campion will be designing a new line of children’s furniture. I know it will be just as stylish as it is practical (and eco-friendly as well).Melissa G. Allen
- Melissa G. Allen