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Cover Story - Posted March 27, 2015 10:45 a.m.
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photos by Shannon Richardson

Cole Campbell: Gray is Grey

Cole Campbell’s entry into the world of design and decorating began, in his words, “on the labor end” of the spectrum. An Amarillo native, he studied business and art at the University of North Texas. Upon graduating in 2007, he became a general contractor in Dallas where he remodeled residential kitchens and baths.

Growing up, he had always enjoyed working with his hands. His father owned an Amarillo body shop and taught Campbell to weld as a teenager. Once he began making his own iron furniture, he knew someday he wanted to open a furniture store.

That vision shifted slightly when, during one Christmas season in Dallas, he moonlighted for an upscale retailer providing residential holiday design and decorating. “We would go into people’s homes and install garland, trees, and things like that,” he says. The work intrigued him. “It opened my eyes to higher-end design.”

Campbell returned to Amarillo in 2010 to open Gray is Grey, a shop on 15th Avenue showcasing his welded iron furniture – think tables and fireplace screens – as well as a variety of decorative items, including fabrics, lighting, wallpaper and other accessories. Since then, Campbell has largely replaced furniture-making with residential decorating. “We do kitchens and baths and the design work as well,” he says, “from paint color and wallpapers to rearranging your living room.” Still a general contractor, he’s able to begin many projects from the ground-up.

He says that “backward approach” to design that stems from his construction career gives him a unique set of tools and experience. “As far as formal education, I don’t have any,” he admits. “I feel like if you have good taste and you can put things together and grasp a sense of spatial recognition, then that can go a lot further than just going to school to be a designer.”

Q&A

Where do you find inspiration? Nature. Most of my materials and designs are organic. I love using metals, minerals, wood, and horns together – it gives you great texture and warmth.

How do you begin the creative process? Generally with a sketch – then I start pulling fabrics or materials.

Is there a signature touch you like to add to your design work? Minerals. I always have a mineral or two in each project.

How is the design world different than it was five or 10 years ago? People are minimizing their spaces from heavy, over-the-top design to more transitional ones with neutral color schemes and cleaner lines. Kitchens have become the focused space in the house and more open-concept plans are preferred.

How important is technology in the design process? Which advances have most affected your work life? It’s very important. Clients are now more informed regarding designs or trends. Take Houzz for instance – now clients can pull hundreds of photos of things they like, then it is my goal to choose objects from each style and pull it all together to form a harmonious design plan.

Tell us about your most challenging design project. What did you learn from the experience? Every design project is challenging. I learn from each one and that will always be the case.

What is the most important factor when designing a room? Spatial recognition.

What is your favorite design trend? I try not to be too trendy but you can’t help leaning toward something when you see it in four or five magazines. Right now it would be wallpaper – it’s back and I’m glad. It can make the biggest impact. I use it whenever I can.

What is the easiest way to update a room? Paint or wallpaper.

What are the biggest influences in your style? Designers and furniture designers spanning from Holly Hunt to Kelly Wearstler and Axel Vervoordt to Mary McDonald.

What is the biggest design faux pas? Not waiting until you can afford the right element for a space. Often people try to complete a room just to complete it. Take your time and find the correct pieces. You don’t have to complete a room in a day – custom order and/or have a local craftsman build you something custom.

What is your own house like? It’s very Holly Hunt – open floor plan with white walls and white upholstered furniture with ebonized oak case goods, extremely minimal and calming – the complete opposite of most of my designs.

What do you do when you’re not working? My wife and I love to travel. If we are not working we are on vacation. (With that being said, we’re always looking for new ideas/products for the store or things for clients.)

GET THE LOOK



Natural horn on nickel base $145
Use as many natural elements as you can. They give a warmth that man-made objects can’t.

Gucci book $85
Books are inexpensive fillers and add height. They break up solid spaces and are an effective layering piece.


Straight horn statue $110
Gold is popular right now, and this references nature as a sculptural element.


Silver skull $175
Don’t be afraid to use out-of-the-box decorating elements. They evoke emotion in the viewer.


Pen shell box $295
The color warms up a space.


Geode Stone $55
These stunning stones are the best bang for your accessory buck. They are multi-purpose, multi-gender fillers as accessories on tables and bookcases.

All items from Gray is Grey

by Jason Boyett

Jason is a journalist, copywriter, ghostwriter, and the author of more than a dozen books. His most recent is “12 World Religions: The Beliefs, Rituals, and Traditions of Humanity's Most Influential Faiths”, published by Zephyros Press. Learn more at jasonboyett.com.
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