Designer outlet: TV's Anna Campbell-Jones shares her personal vision

Anna Campbell-Jones runs and interior design business based in Glasgow, Habitus, but she is perhaps most recognisable as the presenter of BBC’s Scotland’s Home of the Year show, now on its third series.

Anna Campbell-Jones

The competition sees three property experts comparing real homes across Scotland to come up with a winner based on how well the owners have designed and utilised their available space.

Anna has also just made a pilot for a Channel 4 series, Hire My Home, which saw her transform space in an Aberdeenshire Castle to upgrade it as an AirBnb.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

She caught the design bug young: “My dad was an architect, and when I was little he would take me to sites and I loved it. It gave me the first inkling that I was interested in the built environment, and how changing it has such a huge impact.”

A kitchen design in Glasgow's Park Quadrant development

She worked as a child actor, including a lead role in the David Puttnam film Secrets, but found the industry much duller than expected. At the age of 13, she announced her retirement and instead set her sights on art school.

“I’m from London, but Glasgow School of Art was one of the only places at the time that you could study interior design at degree level, so that’s where I came. I loved Mackintosh’s architecture and the idea of studying at The Mack.”

After graduating in 1991, her first job was at a practice in London where she undertook commercial work on diverse projects, including a nightclub in Korea, the interior of Schiphol airport and a variety of shops, restaurants and bars.

After starting a family, however, she relocated to Glasgow where she fell into residential interior design.

Anna explains: “We bought a flat and – by coincidence – the solicitor who did our conveyancing, Peter Lawson, had just bought the old British Council office, a townhouse in the West End, that he was converting back to residential.

“He asked me to do it, it was my first residential interior project, but from that I got lots of enquiries and the growth of the business since then has been largely word of mouth.”

Alongside her client work, Anna has also spent 20 years lecturing at the art school up until her new career in television took over.

Her company, Habitus, was set up five years ago and takes on both residential and commercial projects, although she says: “I mostly enjoy helping people express their tastes, dreams and imaginations in their own homes. I love the collaborative process which is very different from commercial work.”

Asked about a typical client, Campbell-Jones says it is hard to generalise. “At the moment I have designed a whole house in Inverness, I’ve a project on Tyree and I’m designing a games room in a garden which is being made to look like a tractor shed. I’m also working on an office project in an old cemetery gatehouse and an Airstream caravan.

“The next project is always the most exciting one – the Airstream is actually a tiny job in terms of space, but such good fun.”

One thing her clients won’t get is a signature look. Anna says: “There are interior designers who clients go to for the particular style, and that is definitely one way to go, but my approach is much more collaborative.

“The style is always the result of me getting inside the minds of my clients. It is a bit of psychology and a lot of communication but it stops it being repetitive for me.

“I joke that I use my background in acting to really get into the character of that couple or family to understand what they would like and how they live their lives. It is a really fulfilling and creative process.”

It also means clients feel ownership of the finished result rather than having someone else’s vision imposed upon them.

Anna’s says the greatest compliment is to hear people showing others around a finished space, explaining: “We designed it like this because…” as using “we” shows that clients feel pride in being part of a symbiotic process.

As a very recognisable figure – even viewers who don’t know her name will clock the shock of blonde hair, trademark glasses and the full sleeves of tattoos – Anna is still sometimes surprised to get spotted by members of the public. “It happens even if I’m out in a woolly hat and facemask, but thankfully they’re always very polite.”

On her career as a TV presenter, she says it has been incredibly enjoyable: “We were all novices but from the first episode [of Scotland’s Home of the Year] where we had to be told not to constantly stare at the ground, we quickly forgot the cameras because we just get so excited about the houses.

“I had been approached before [to take part in TV shows], but I never wanted to appear to be judging people’s tastes. But speaking to the producer the emphasis on SHOTY is on the word home.

“The criteria that I am looking for is the kind of aspects I strive for with clients – a sincere and authentic representation of how this family wants to live. So I can go into a home and it is not my taste, but that is really none of my business.”

When asked if there are any contenders she really hasn’t liked, the most Anna will admit is: “The kind of homes I like less are the ones that feel as if they have been done for show, and people are thinking more about what others opinions might be.

“Aspirational is a word I don’t like, but hopefully – in both the TV work and in private practice – I’m helping demystify interior design. It isn’t about smoke and mirrors, just a real love of the connection between people and their environment.”

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article. We're more reliant on your support than ever as the shift in consumer habits brought about by coronavirus impacts our advertisers.

If you haven't already, please consider supporting our trusted, fact-checked journalism by taking out a digital subscription.

 0 comments

Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.