Interior insider: We talk to Barneby Gates
Founded by design experts Vanessa Barneby and Alice Gates, coveted British interiors brand Barneby Gates offers a modern twist on traditional designs. Their bold collections typically blend neutral backgrounds with dramatic accent colours - including turquoise, hot pink and gold - in a range of whimsical motifs.
Vanessa Barneby has an enviable CV that includes Vogue Living editor and interior stylist at House & Garden, while Alice Gates’ illustrations have graced the pages Vogue and Tatler. We caught up with Vanessa about her experience as half of one of the UK’s most impressive design duos.
As a former fashion trend predictor, what do you think is in the future of British interiors?
In recent years, we’ve seen a far more freestyle attitude to interiors take shape. People now strive for that organic, ‘thrown together’ look, mixing antique with modern, upcycled and recycled for an altogether more unique mix.
This has driven the trend in wallpaper, which has now moved past the ‘feature wall’ phase. We’re seeing wallpaper being used on four walls again, and sometimes the ceiling as well – even better in my opinion!
Eccentricity has always been very ‘British aristocracy’, but the ingredients that make a look eccentric – mixing prints and styles, clashing colours, layering textures are available to all and desirable to many. There are no rules!
What made you decide to keep your wallpapers British-made – and does this bring any challenges?
It was always important for us to produce our collections in the UK – not just for the incredible quality (and quality control), but also because we appreciate the importance of supporting British manufacturers. The only challenge this brings is that of course it’s more expensive to produce in the UK, but the quality and service we get far outweighs any cost implications.
What would be your advice for striking the balance between modern and traditional?
One thing we have always strived not to be is trendy. We want our designs to stand the test of time, not just a fleeting season. Many of our designs have a traditional starting point, and then we give it a modern or humorous twist, as in our Deer Damask and Horse Trellis motifs. These are designs that have proven popular across a range of age groups, and have been used in as many hip urban pads as they have traditional country retreats. The aim is to strike a balance – hopefully we’ve succeeded!
How much does your rural studio location influence your designs?
In so many ways! We both grew up and now live in the countryside, and our studio is on a working farmyard – throughout the winter we literally share the yard with 20 cows. So, much of our inspiration comes from nature and the countryside around us – see Wild Meadow, Boxing Hares, The English Robin, Honey Bees… But we glean inspiration from so many other things too - art, travel and fashion, for example.
What have you learned from past collaborations?
We’ve done a few really fun collaborations in the past. One of our first was working with artist Julie Verhoeven, turning one of her illustrations – originally designed as a fashion shoot backdrop – into a wallpaper, for an exhibition. More recently, we worked with the US based fashion house Rag & Bone to create a bespoke wallpaper for a few of their stores in America and London. Each project has been so different, but what I can say is that it’s a huge pleasure working with such a range of inspiring people, and perhaps that is what we treasure most from those collaborations.
The artistic flair of these two women is apparent in each and every one of their prints, from the clever optical illusion created by Boxing Hares to or the intricate incorporation of honey bees and honeycomb. At the forefront of every design is a sense of fun and originality that resists being kitsch or twee – these are timeless prints, whose fabulousness will stand the test of time.
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