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Loss of a Legend - Nanette Cameron Remembered

20 Apr 2023

Tributes are flowing for an extraordinary woman who opened thousands of minds to the world of design and inspired countless creatives during a life lasting almost a century.

Nanette Cameron at Te Tuhi's 2022 Christmas Morning Tea..JPG
Nanette Cameron at Te Tuhi's 2022 Christmas Morning Tea. Photo: Supplied.

A much loved and admired figure has sadly graced the presence of arts events for the last time.

The passing of Nanette Cameron, aged 95, has been met with tributes, gratitude and aroha for a woman who is described by those who met her as formidable, a sweetheart and everything in between.

She's also been dubbed "Aotearoa’s preeminent interior designer" by leading arts organisation Objectspace, "instrumental in the flourishing of interior design practice in Tāmaki Makaurau and nationally."

Architecture Now declared "Cameron has undoubtedly changed the face of design in this country."

Her interior design reputation is untouchable, from a career that started in the 1950s to shifting towards teaching and writing in the 1960s, leading directly to the establishment of The Nanette Cameron School of Interior Design in 1975.

As Objectspace's tribute explains "t​hese classes became life changing for the women who attended them, as Nanette taught not only the history and principles of design, but also self-confidence and independence. One of the drives in her teaching was the belief that if you educate a woman, you educate a family."

​A founding member of the Designers Institute of New Zealand, Cameron was awarded the Queen’s Service Medal for her contribution to the community and the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award at the Interior Awards. The jury for that award acknowledged "Cameron’s prowess as an interior designer and educator has seen her work take on something of a legendary status, as if mythologised under the sheer weight of her enduring influence."

She holds a special place at Te Tuhi as one of the East Auckland organisation's founders, they have stated "it has been a privilege and a great honour to have Nanette so closely associated with Te Tuhi to the end. An inspirational visionary always and a constant supporter of the arts.

"Nanette has become an icon to successive generations who owe their knowledge of good design to her teaching. She has opened the eyes and minds of thousands of students to the possibilities that knowledge of art and design can offer for the enrichment of life."

The school which bears her name is based out of Te Tuhi, sharing the impact of Cameron's knowledge and passion. 

"Many of her students can testify to the richness her course brought to their lives, through her teaching and the community of like minded people she fostered and inspired."

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Nanette Cameron (centre) with the Nanette Cameron School of Interior Design graduating class of 2021. Photo: Sophie Miya-Smith.

Social media has been awash with memories of Cameron, highlighted as a "vibrant creative thinker", "a champion in every sense of the word", "a true Master" and "a woman of acute sense of design and taste - also naughty with a great sense of humour."

Leading object/craft supporter and arts aficionado Philip Clarke was among her many admirers, writing in Objectspace's 2013 publication Nanette Cameron Interior Design Legend, “Nanette’s approach to design is one that integrates an interest and awareness of contemporary art and architecture, environmental and social issues with individual and social development. 

"This approach aligns with a contemporary view that interior design is inherently an interdisciplinary practice, being a dialogue formed by architecture, art, fashion, film, engineering, history, literature, photography, philosophy, product design and textiles….it has been a privilege to work with a legend.”

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Nanette Cameron with her 60th birthday cake, from Objectspace's 2013 publication. Photo: Instagram/Philip Clarke.

​​Objectspace's Instagram tribute concludes "Nanette was a great lover of the objects and spaces we surround ourselves with in our domestic lives, she generously shared her encyclopaedic design knowledge and sharp eye with all her knew her. She will be greatly missed."

Cameron's funeral will be at 1pm on 24 April at St Joseph’s Church, 470 Great North Rd, Grey Lynn, follwed by a gathering at Objectspace.