Interview with Vanessa Barneby from Barneby Gates

Vanessa Barneby of Barneby Gates © Tim Daukes

Our upcoming move has had me glued to all manner of design websites throughout the last few weeks and one of my favorite discoveries has been the English wallpaper design duo of Barneby Gates. Their gorgeous wallpapers are based on classical themes with a contemporary twist and have me dreaming of not only doing a few rooms in our new flat but also some future projects in the country. Vanessa Barneby was kind enough to take the time to answer some questions about their designs, inspirations and share her tips for the wallpaper-shy.

Who are you and how did Barneby Gates come about?

We are Vanessa Barneby – interiors stylist, journalist and ex-Living Editor at British Vogue, and Alice Gates – artist with roots in fashion illustration and textile design.  In 2009, we decided to pool our experience and set up Barneby Gates. We both adore wallpapers, but felt frustrated at not being able to find what we wanted for our own homes. I have a passion for print and colour, and my background as an interiors stylist and working for Vogue means I have a fair idea of what people want in their homes, how to play with colour and texture, and the direction of certain trends and so on, while Alice – as an artist – loves working on a flat surface, so wallpaper seemed the obvious route.

Where do you turn for inspiration?

We both live in the countryside now, so much of our inspiration comes from nature and our surroundings (Deer Damask, Boxing Hares, Wild Meadow, Horse Trellis) but there are certain things that we just happen to be a bit obsessed with – like Chairs and vintage photographs (This Other Eden) – that have become designs!  Art Galleries, museums, thrift stores, vintage magazines, and fashion are all constantly inspiring. I’ve always adored Chanel’s star print dresses for example, and it was this that led us to design our All Star wallpaper. We didn’t want the stars to look static though – as would be so easy on a flat wall – so we worked hard at giving them that movement, so they have that same soft fluidity of a silk dress.

Which other designers and creative people do you admire?

Inès de La Fressange – the epitome of Parisian chic. Celia Birtwell – for her eccentric but lovely designs that have stood the test of time. Tim Walker for his magical way with a camera. 

What are your favorite brands of the moment?

Rag & Bone – fabulously un-fussy designs which are both chic and practical. The ideal combination.

What has you obsessed at the moment?

Chairs – of all styles and eras. We have just launched a new wallpaper called Chairs, which features 14 iconic chairs – from Gothic Revival, Jacobean, Hepplewhite, to mid-century designs by Norman Cherner (my favorite) and Eames, to the modern classic Ghost Chair by Philippe Starck. So Alice and I have been ridiculously obsessed by chairs for quite some time now! 

What are your favorite home items?

My kitchen chairs are very old beaten up Tolix chairs that I found on the Goldborne Road years ago before they got ridiculously expensive, so I really treasure them. I recently moved from a flat in Notting Hill to a cottage in the country and the Tolix chairs work equally well in both – they are so versatile. 

© Vanessa Barneby

© Vanessa Barneby

© Vanessa Barneby

A Tim Walker print from a Vogue shoot that I was given by the girls when I left Vogue (can’t send picture because it’s in the Framers I’m afraid! – it’s the one of Lily Cole in India standing on a spiral staircase with long blue dress falling down over the banister and all the way down onto the floor – know the one?). The architectural mirror above the fireplace is made from an old Georgian window frame – I love it. (And it sits very well against our Boxing Hares wallpaper too!) The Union Jack cushion on the chair by the fire was designed by Lucinda Chambers for The Rug Company.

© Vanessa Barneby

In my bedroom the bedspread is a table cloth from India, and the cushions are made from pieces of antique Indian textile. The colours and textures compliment our Wild Meadow wallpaper so well – a soft pink based on the colour of natural setting plaster.

© Vanessa Barneby

What tips can you share for people embarking on their first wallpaper experience?

Don’t be afraid! I hate this ‘feature wall’ thing people do because they’re scared of over-doing the wallpaper. Rooms look best wallpapered in the traditional way – with every wall papered and – if you’re feeling really adventurous – the ceiling as well. It’s like walking into a jewellery box.

What’s next for Barneby Gates?

We’re exhibiting at Decorex next week (25th – 28th September) at The Royal Hospital, Chelsea. We’re also working on two new designs for Spring… and we’ve just been taken on by Stark in the US…

Thanks to Vanessa! Don’t wait to visit and shop Barneby Gates online at: www.barnebygates.com

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