architecture

Inside Naomi Campbell's tranquil Kenyan villa

Updated 13th April 2021
Credit: Khadija Farah/AD
Inside Naomi Campbell's tranquil Kenyan villa
Written by Leah Dolan, CNN
A dogged work ethic has granted fashion royalty Naomi Campbell a phenomenal 35-year-long modeling and acting career, but even perennial highfliers need some R&R. Campbell takes hers in a spacious and serene East African retreat, where a turquoise saltwater pool stretches from the sunny patio right into the living room.
The crystal clear pool knits the outdoor and indoor spaces together.
The crystal clear pool knits the outdoor and indoor spaces together. Credit: Khadija Farah/AD
After a visit to Malindi, Kenya, in the 1990s left Campbell besotted, the supermodel, who at the time dominated runways for Chanel, Vivienne Westwood and Versace, bought an idyllic villa in the sleepy seaside town which has served as her circuit breaker for more than 20 years. "It's a very calming place," Campbell told Architectural Digest in a recent interview for the magazine's May cover story. "You don't really want to be on the phone. You're not trying to find a television. You just want to read and be with yourself. It's nice to just have the silence and the crickets."
The airy, open-ended structure, crowned with a Makuti roof -- an intricate thatching technique native to East Africa -- bathes Cambell's holiday home in natural light. It also frames her picture-perfect view: There's no external stimulation necessary when gazing out at her twin voile-curtained pergolas, nestled beneath a chorus of splayed palm trees and Keyna's eternal blue sky.
Pictured is Naomi Campbell's guest room, featuring a locally made rug.
Pictured is Naomi Campbell's guest room, featuring a locally made rug. Credit: Khadija Farah/AD
While Campbell isn't afraid to scour far and wide in the search for striking furniture (she found the ornate latika lanterns currently draped over her rafters in Marrakech), she is keen to support local craftsmanship where possible. "A lot of the wood furniture that we have in the house is made in Malindi," she noted. "In fact, we used to have a workshop at the back of the house."
The work of esteemed local artist Armando Tanzini reappears throughout the residence, from hand-carved wooden doors to giant maps of Africa. Campbell can also be found on the other side of the continent, hunting for statement pieces to set against her understated earth-toned palette. "Senegal has amazing furniture," she said. "Every time I go, I buy furniture, and I just collect it and store it away."
The May issue of Architectural Digest featuring Naomi Campbell.
The May issue of Architectural Digest featuring Naomi Campbell. Credit: Khadija Farah
The contrast between her hectic professional life, split dwelling between capital cities London and New York, and the change of pace her Malindi oasis offers her is not lost on Campbell. "It's wonderful to go in July," she told Architectural Digest. "All the animals are crossing over from Kenya to Tanzania, and you see everything. It's incredible. It's like seeing National Geographic come to life right in front of your face."