Kids Corner


A Gem of a Jeweller’s Apartment in London:
Gurmit Kaur Campbell





Underestimate Gurmit Kaur Campbell at your peril.

When the jeweller and former model opens the door to her Hyde Park apartment, I anticipate a joyless few hours admiring her wealth and sipping hot water. But within 10 minutes she has gleefully bundled me into a tiny lavatory at the top of the stairs and closed the door on us.

My split-second feeling of panic (we have only just been introduced, after all) gives way to awe and disorientation and – briefly – a touch of nausea. It’s like finding yourself in a 3D version of a technicolour Bridget Riley, choreographed by Aldous Huxley on mescaline.

The whole space is mirrored, so that you are surrounded by a kaleidoscopic reflection of faces and red, blue and white neon that extend in to infinity.

“It’s made for the narcissist,” Gurmit jokes – though frankly you could never tire of looking at a face like hers.

In fact the room is more art installation than plumbing installation, and is loosely inspired by a story she was told about the Queen’s loo by one of her builders. Apparently that room consists of a long passage and she sits majestically at the end of it.

“This is a tiny space, one and a half metres square but four metres high, so it was a question of how to make a feature of it without closing it down.” The lights were supposed to form the Union Jack, as a nod to the Queen, “but my mistake, now that I’ve seen how it reflects, was in the spacing, because it actually looks more like the Confederate flag.”

Generally, though, there is little else in the two-storey apartment that is not exactly as she planned it.

Gurmit’s will and determination was evident from an early age growing up in Singapore, the seventh of nine children of Sikh parents who all shared one bedroom in a wooden shack that leaked water during the monsoon. Horrified at the prospect of matchmaking, she spent three hours baking in the sun every day when she realised that prospective suitors preferred her to her darker-skinned sister.

At the age of 19, she ran away to Brussels to marry a 50-year-old Belgian sculptor whom she met when he gave a talk at her art school – “People couldn’t understand it but we had a magical attraction. I was fascinated by his mind, the way he could make things. He brought me wisdom, excitement, ideas and I brought him … youth, I suppose.”

In Brussels she started modelling, became a muse for Yves Saint Laurent and trained as a goldsmith, before eventually separating from the sculptor and moving to New York to launch her jewellery range.

When she moved to London, married and had two children with Robert Campbell – the founder of the High50 website for fiftysomethings (which, unfeasibly, she will be eligible to read next year) – she put the jewellery on hold, diverting her creative energy in to painting and sculpture – and, two years ago, into remodelling this apartment.

The tall, elegantly proportioned living spaces bear no relation to the warren of rooms they bought originally. Gurmit raised ceilings, knocked down walls and added new openings, visualising it all with the help of photoshop. This is also how she planned the dazzling patchwork of painted walls on the stairwell – “I knew one colour was just going to be … normal. So I decided to push the boundaries.”

Given that Gurmit is such a force of nature – she barely stops talking to breathe – her home is remarkably serene and ordered.

“Of course it’s ordered,” she laughs, “I’m from Singapore!”

Everything is very linear, from the arrangement of photographs on the walls to the set-up of furniture – “I am painfully aesthetic,” admits Gurmit, who would always choose visual comfort over a squashy sofa. Every detail is considered – the champfered edges of the kitchen cabinets to match those of the Boffi tables, the lining up of woodgrain on the rosewood drawers – but there is nothing clinical about the home.

It is too full of art, life and stories for that. Which brings us to the elephant in the room – or rather, the fibreglass giraffe, Matilda. It is surely some whimsical, ridiculously expensive art piece? In fact it was part of a Christmas window display at the J Crew store in Westfield shopping centre. Unencumbered as she is by English reserve, Gurmit asked what they were going to do with it and “offered to take it away for them”.

I had rather hoped she carried it herself through the streets of London but no, the story has a very west London ending.

“And then I sent my Polish builders to fetch it.”

[Courtesy: The Telegraph]
September 22, 2014

Conversation about this article

1: Harinder Singh (Punjab), September 22, 2014, 2:36 PM.

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever. Keep up your beautiful work, Madam.

2: Manjeet Shergill (Singapore), September 24, 2014, 8:21 PM.

This fellow traveler from Singapore has come a long way. I last saw Gurmit in my home some years back. a force to be reckoned with indeed. Got to love her spunk, drive and creativity.

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Gurmit Kaur Campbell"

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