Leigh Campbell's Renovated Sydney Apartment Is the Definition of Luxe Minimalism
Welcome to The Makers. Each week, we’re celebrating innovators, artisans and crafters of all types, taking you on a private tour of their creative spaces. For this instalment, we head to Sydney’s eastern suburbs, where beauty content creator Leigh Campbell lives in a super-chic apartment.
Once upon a time, Leigh Campbell thought she might work in the world of interiors, completing a course at The Whitehouse Institute. But somewhere along the way she “fell into media” and the interiors plan was left by the wayside. It was, Campbell says, “a happy mistake”. Since then, she has worked in the world of magazines and online media at major mastheads like Cosmopolitan, Huffington Post and now Mamamia, as well as running her own beauty podcast and newsletter You Beauty.
But the interiors thing came in handy 18 months ago when Campbell and her partner moved into their three-bedroom flat in Sydney’s eastern suburbs. This apartment was another happy mistake. The couple had been looking for a place for six months when Campbell – “waddling at full term”, because she was 37 weeks pregnant – and her husband took a look at a place she’d seen online. Though Campbell describes their decision to buy the apartment after one viewing as a combination of “desperation and intense nesting urges”, the flat has served them well. A few renovations later, including a new kitchen and a bathroom with a big tub for soaking in, the young family are well settled in their new digs.
Campbell’s design process is simple and stress-free, a combination of all the things she has loved over the years brought together harmoniously in her home. Tying it all together is a luxe and lush minimalism, all neutral colours and plush soft furnishings. “I like to keep things neutral, bright colours feel like screaming in my head,” Campbell jokes. “I have an 18-month-old boy, though, so there’s plenty of primary coloured toys strewn around.”
When Campbell and her husband first moved in, she had big wardrobes installed in the bedrooms, and the one in the main room is stacked with Campbell’s enviable fashion and accessory collection. Her biggest piece of advice, though, is to invest in a good quality bed. “You lay there for a third of your life – though less with a baby – so it’s cash well spent,” she says. “Our bed feels like a hotel bed, big and tall. I don’t like beds too close to the ground, they feel unfinished.”
Hi Leigh! This series is called The Makers. What is it that you make?
I create beauty content. It might be in the form of a podcast episode (I host You Beauty, Australia’s leading beauty podcast), a written piece on Mamamia or my weekly beauty newsletter, or through my Instagram account.
How does the act of “making” relate to your personality and who you are?
‘Sharing’ is innate to me, as it is to most women. Women love sharing recommendations and advice, and that’s essentially what I do through my beauty content. I offer advice to women on what’s worth spending their money on. The beauty category is overwhelming and confusing, so by making content that’s easy to understand I take the guesswork out of finding products and solutions that work.
Tell us about your career journey to date. Did you always know you wanted to pursue this line of work?
I was the beauty director at Cosmopolitan for eight years, where I cut and sunk my teeth into all things women’s media. I am now the executive editor of Mamamia and host the podcast, You Beauty. I’ve been in beauty journalism for over 15 years. This was not my plan. I studied interiors at The Whitehouse Institute, but fell into media shortly afterwards. A happy mistake.
Talk us through your creative process. Where do you start?
It depends on what kind of content I’m creating. If it’s a You Beauty podcast episode, I go through the listener questions that have been submitted and choose to answer those that have been asked in various iterations several times, or go for questions which answers will have the most broad appeal to the audience.
My weekly newsletter is random musings on beauty – that might be a new trend or treatment I’ve tried, or my best advice gathered from interviewing thousands of experts in the beauty industry over the years. It also features a New and Noteworthy section where I talk about the most exciting beauty launch to hit shelves that week.
If it’s my Instagram, I just post recommendations as I feel, plus I work with brands in a commercial capacity to serve advice or information to my audience, which is overwhelmingly interested in beauty.
What’s been the single most crucial tool or strategy you’ve used to further your career?
Sounds basic and board, but it’s the internet. I chose to leave Cosmopolitan six years ago because it was obvious print was in rapid decline and digital was the logical (and urgent) next step. I moved to The Huffington Post where I learned how to create online content that resonated with audiences both on site and social. I swapped printouts and job bags for a CMS and while I’m sad about the state of magazines, the writing was on the wall for a long time.
What’s been the most challenging lesson learnt so far in your career?
That media is an unpredictable landscape. The Huffington Post Australia folded after a few years, not because the team and content wasn't brilliant (both were), but because Australia has a small audience comparatively to the rest of the world and smaller advertising budgets, too. Excellent journalism only gets seen if a masthead is commercially viable and there’s just not enough room (and dollars) for everyone. If you don’t get made redundant in media at some point you’re not doing it right.. but if you’re talented you’ll land back on your feet.
What’s been the best thing that’s happened to you since you started your career?
Cheesy, yes, but all the awesome friendships I’ve formed. Women’s media isn’t as catty as many assume – for the most part it’s full of smart, savvy, dynamic women. I’ve met many over my almost-two decades, lots of which are my closest friends (and advisors).
Do you have a single piece of advice you’d give to your younger self or someone looking to pursue a similar line of work?
Do everything with integrity and with your audience in mind. And don’t get into media for the salary!
Now, the home stuff. How long have you lived in your home?
We bought our place, an apartment in Sydney's eastern suburbs, when I was 37 weeks pregnant, so just over 18 months ago.
How did you initially know this was the space for you?
Desperation and intense nesting urges. We’d been looking for about six months, but called off the search as my son’s birth loomed. Then one rainy Saturday I made my husband ‘just take a look’ at a three bed apartment I’d seen online (we were only searching for a two bed) and we were the only couple who braved the rain, me waddling at full term. I don't believe in ‘meant to be’, but I’m glad I resisted the urge to stay on the couch that day. We moved in when the baby was three weeks old (and I’d had an emergency C-section, so packing up our old place was interesting), which I do not recommend.
Did you do any renovations or make any big changes after moving in?
We put in robes and window dressings before settlement. I’d seen the place once for about 20 minutes and thought the kitchen was liveable for the short term but once in, realised it really wasn't. So we did the kitchen straight up (again, renovating an essential room with a newborn isn't very smart, but the kitchen’s innards were too mouldy to hold off). Then in March of 2020 we did the two bathrooms and the laundry while we were overseas.
What was the thought process behind the way you’ve styled the interior?
I don’t have one to be honest. It’s just a collection of things I love and have gathered over the years. For that reason all the timbers are mismatched (our bar cart was my auntie’s from the 1950s), but that’s the way I like it.
What are your favourite pieces in the home?
My bedside has a particularly special meaning for me. Not the table itself, but on it I have a beautiful photo of my father and I from when I was my son’s age, plus a handwritten note from dad that I’ve framed. My dad died of brain cancer in May at the height of COVID-19 restrictions in Sydney, so it’s still an event in my life I’m processing. Having him near me at night is a comfort.
Do you have any special décor pieces you’re looking to add?
With a rambunctious toddler I’m more thinking about removing breakables rather than adding anything special at the moment. Though I do think we might swap out the bar cart for a lock-up cabinet with glass doors so the living area can still have a touch of sophistication, without little hands being able to grab and wield half-filled whisky bottles.
Which is your favourite room in the house?
My son’s room makes me so happy because it's filled with beautiful and meaningful prints, gifts and pieces from all of our loved ones. The bath, though not a room, is also my special place because a bath is like prayer to me. I have one most nights to signify the end of a busy day and to relax and try to (somewhat) switch off.
What are your top tips for a well-styled bedroom, and home generally?
Make a focal point for above the bed. We have a shelf with two artworks I always get comments on, and some beautiful candles. I wanted something slightly different than just one big print, which is pretty predictable.
Do you have any projects coming up you want to talk about?
My podcast, You Beauty, has just gone daily! The Youbies (a nickname for the audience and 50,000 members in the closed community) cannot get enough of the show, so for a month we are giving them what they asked for: an episode every single weekday. My poor hair and face and limbs are going to fall off from testing so many products, but hey, it’s a hazard of the job I’ll happily endure.