By Wendy Goodman
Text by Alexandra Lange
Photographs by Fernando Bengoeshea
Published in New York magazine, October 13, 2003
BEHIND THE NINETEENTH- century façade of Nell Campbell’s Brooklyn townhouse beats a thoroughly modern heart: “I knew I was taking on a big job, but it was fun and the house is exactly the way I wanted: light and airy. It’s not that I’ve gone modern,” she insists, “I’ve just gone simpler.”
The staircase is almost the only detail original to the house, but even it had to be completely rebuilt because of a distinct sag.
“Those squiggles are where the workers smashed off the original curlicue bits of wood.” Campbell explains, I told them, “Stop right there that looks fabulous.”
“I bought lots of doors, not always knowing where they would end up,” says Campbell. This glass paned pair became an old-fashioned china cupboard. The striped wallpaper is from Janovic Plaza, the wall candelabra hails from an antiques store in Greenport, and the red vinyl bistro chairs were a gift from a friend who moved back to London.
Hearth and Home
“I hardly bought any new furniture,” says Campbell. “This house has the best bones.” But because she gutted the place, Campbell did get to invent her own architectural detail: The fireplace is her idea of the hearth in a Scottish castle, designed by Eamon Roche out of concrete. “And all the walls are tinted plaster, not painted,” she says. “I got a plasterer who had never done it before and we worked on it until we got it right.”
DIY Trompe I’Oeil
Above the mantel is a Renaissance poster from the Met: “It’s a tiny painting, so I bought the huge poster and painted over it with lacquer so it looks like a painting.”