An interview with Barneby Gates
Twice a year we embark on a collaboration with a textile designer for our Design Lab giving us the opportunity to work with some highly talented and creative people. This season we were extremely excited to team up with Barneby Gates, a Wiltshire-based design studio who we have had our eye on for a while. We sat down with Alice and Vanessa, the two friends that founded the design studio, to talk about the collaboration, what inspires them, and how they would describe their style in their own home.
Where did your creative flair originate and what made you want to turn it into a career?
Alice has a background in Fine Art having trained in Italy before going on to do fashion print design. Meanwhile, I had done a Decorative Arts course and begun a career painting special effects and trompe l’oeil in people’s homes, before moving into the magazine world as an interiors stylist and writer, first at House & Garden and then at Vogue. In 2009 we decided to pool our experience and design a range of wallpapers (which came before the fabric collection). It seemed the obvious way to combine what we both do best.
What methods do you use in creating your fabric and wallpaper designs for Barneby Gates?
Every design starts as a hand drawing. We get as much detail down on paper before moving it onto the computer to play around with the scale and pattern repeat. All our fabrics and papers are traditionally rotary printed, except when we do bespoke orders and collaborations (such as Sofa.com – where it is digitally printed). A big part of the process is getting the colours right because a design’s success can be so dependent on this. We love working with metallic inks, and surface print techniques that give the designs a lovely hand blocked quality.
How have you been able to apply your past experiences in fashion and interior styling into your business?
My position at House & Garden left me with an encyclopaedic knowledge of all the fabric and wallpaper houses, which stood us in good stead when we started out. I styled shoots for both H&G and Vogue on a monthly basis, and this has of course helped with the way we set about creating the look of our brand and the shooting and styling of our collections – all of which are done in-house at the studio in Pewsey. At Vogue, part of my job was predicting trends and analysing the correlation between fashion and interiors. And although we try not to be too trend-led in our designs, it does of course help to have a bit of awareness. Alice’s prior experience in fashion print design has also been invaluable throughout, particularly when we made the move from wallpaper to fabrics as that was a whole new learning curve.
How would you describe Palm Trellis and Owl? And what do you think are the best ways to style the fabrics?
We’re really happy with these designs as they perfectly encapsulate the classic Barneby Gates look – working something slightly quirky (in this case, an owl and a palm tree) into the formality of a trellis. The geometry of a trellis works beautifully on an upholstered piece, creating a structured backdrop onto which one can layer almost anything.
How would you describe your interior style in your own homes? Do you have items that you are particularly fond of?
Vanessa: Organic layers, mixing inherited, vintage and up-cycled furniture with modern art and Barneby Gates prints. I’m particularly fond of my mirrors. We live in a small country cottage so mirrors are hugely helpful in creating a feeling of space. They vary from huge floor to ceiling reclaimed industrial metal windows (now with mirror), to smaller wooden Georgian arch mirrored windows. It’s all about the illusion!
Alice: Harrassed chic – meaning trying to make it look good while combatting the daily hurricane caused by the children! A playful use of colour makes it welcoming and relaxed. I’m particularly fond of a set of 4 charcoal and gold leaf plant drawings by Delli Lycett Green. They are both dramatic and immensely calming to live with. Each flower seems to tell its own story.