Inside Naomi Campbell’s Luxury Villa In Kenya Open Door Architectural Digest
Whenever supermodel Naomi Campbell needs to unplug, she heads to her luxurious, airy villa in Malindi, Kenya
Over the course of her remarkable 35-year career, supermodel Naomi Campbell has blazed trails, stormed catwalks, and graced countless magazine covers. And while most of her legendary peers have long since retired and retreated from the spotlight, at 50 Campbell is as in demand as ever and enjoys a level of visibility models half her age would envy.
She recently closed Fendi’s spring 2021 couture show at the Palais Brongniart in Paris, new artistic director of womenswear Kim Jones’s first for the venerable Roman fashion house. Images of Campbell slowly sauntering down the runway in a sublime silver cape and matching imperial gown set the internet ablaze and left little doubt that she remains one of the most significant models of all time.
In recent years, she’s become the face of Nars (her first beauty campaign ever) and appeared in Burberry and Saint Laurent advertisements, Beyoncé’s beloved “Brown Skin Girl” video, and Amazon’s fashion competition series Making the Cut. To the delight of millennials and Gen Z’ers, she’s also a constant presence on social media, regularly updating her more than 10 million Instagram followers (and nearly 500,000 YouTube subscribers) with archival images from her storied career, one-on-one chats with her famous friends for No Filter With Naomi, and videos from her far-flung travels.
Yes, her schedule is relentless, but work fuels her and continues to bring her joy. “First and foremost, never rest on your laurels, and I still like what I do,” Campbell says when asked about her refusal to slow down. “I use myself as a gateway, a connector to uplift and guide my culture on the right path and the direction that they need to be. This drives me.”
But even icons need rest. And when it’s time to fully unplug, Campbell decamps to her villa in the tranquil seaside town of Malindi, Kenya. Overlooking the Indian Ocean, her idyllic retreat is the epitome of indoor-outdoor living and for more than 20 years has served as her chosen haven from the breakneck pace of her native London and adopted New York City. Bathed in natural light and brimming with warm earth tones, the wide-open expanse is an ode to laid-back opulence. “It’s a very calming place,” she says. “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.”
Campbell first visited Malindi in the mid-1990s and returned again a few years later with a longtime friend, the owner of this Kenyan luxury resort, which houses a handful of private residences, including Campbell’s getaway. Just over an hour’s flight from Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi, Malindi has long been a favorite of the Italian jet set. “All the locals speak Italian,” Campbell shares. “It’s like Little Italy in East Africa.”
The saltwater pool that extends outdoors from the center of her living room is ideal for a quick morning dip. When the model is in the mood to entertain, twin voile-curtained pergolas serve as the perfect space for family-style dinners. The vaulted cathedral ceilings and makuti thatched roof, made from the sun-dried leaves of the coconut palm, are an awe-inspiring favorite of Campbell’s. Makuti roofs, she explains, have been a staple in East Africa for centuries and are hand-sewn in an intricate layering process.
“We’ve had this one for at least 12 years, and it’s still in good form,” she says proudly. “Because of the air, wind, and sea salt, things can break down very quickly here, but it’s held up so well, and it’s just like a piece of art in itself.” The oversized Latika lanterns that hang from the rafters hail from Morocco and Egypt and are as dazzling as they are grand. Campbell enjoys furniture shopping throughout Africa but has found great success in Marrakech and Cairo (like Murano, Italy, the ancient Egyptian city is renowned for its handblown glass). Senegal, she adds, is another must-visit when she’s on the hunt for one-of-a-kind treasures. “Senegal has amazing furniture,” she gushes. “Every time I go, I buy furniture, and I just collect it and store it away.”
Step inside the supermodel’s seaside hideaway where she escapes to whenever she needs to fully unplug: pic.twitter.com/wk9hk0BJ7B
— Architectural Digest (@ArchDigest) April 13, 2021
For remarkable woodwork, Campbell doesn’t have to travel far. “A lot of the wood furniture that we have in the house is made in Malindi,” she says. “In fact, we used to have a workshop at the back of the house.” The hand-carved wooden doors depicting two men dancing in traditional ceremonial dress were designed by Armando Tanzini, an award-winning artist who has lived and worked in Malindi for many years. They’re decades old and have proved to be reliable conversation starters. Tucked around the house are more works by Tanzini, including several large-scale tableau maps of Africa.
Some of Campbell’s fondest memories are tied to Kenya: lunches on sandbanks in the middle of the Indian Ocean; camping with the nomadic Samburu tribe; summer safari outings to watch the annual Great Migration. “It’s wonderful to go in July,” she advises. “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.”
— Caffiend (@The_Mentalyst) April 13, 2021
These days Campbell, who was recently appointed Kenya’s official tourism ambassador, says she’s committed to using her considerable platform to champion all of Africa’s 54 countries. “I love all of the African continents; there isn’t one country I love more than another, and I want that to be clear,” she declares. “Each place in Africa has something magical about it.”
Writen By Lola Ogunnaike
Photography by Khadija Farah
Styled by Edward Ngera