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Coffee with... Barneby Gates Co-founder Vanessa Barneby

6th September 2021

Barneby Gates is an interiors brand from former House & Garden Stylist and Vogue Living Editor, Vanessa Barneby, and artist, Alice Gates. The childhood friends pooled their knowledge and experience over ten years ago to create stylish and fun fabric and wallpaper designs. Their patterns take traditional ideas and give them a modern twist.

Both the wallpaper and fabric are also printed in England using traditional techniques. The result is luxurious and versatile products that can fit in a home from any period. We caught up with Vanessa Barneby to get the scoop...

What inspired you to create Barneby Gates?

We both studied at Edinburgh university but after that took separate career paths. Alice studied fine art abroad. Many of her paintings were rooted in fashion illustration, and she went on to design textiles for the fashion label Libelula

Meanwhile, I had done a 10 year stint at Conde Nast - first as a stylist for House & Garden, and then as Living Editor for Vogue. In 2007, what started as a conversation about decorating our own homes, and not finding quite what we wanted, ended in a business plan! At the time, wallpaper was just beginning to get really popular again, and it seemed the obvious way to pool our experience.

Your designs are known for humour and ironic connotations, from where do you draw inspiration?

We both grew up and now live in the countryside, and our studio is on a working farmyard, so much of our inspiration comes from nature and the countryside around us – see Deer Damask and Horse Trellis. But we glean inspiration from anything and everything really. The All Star design was inspired by Chanel’s stars and stripes collection.

What interiors trend has caught your eye recently?

You can’t hide from scallops and chintz at the moment! We’ve done our own versions – Scallop Shell (fabric and wallpaper) and Vintage Bird Trail, which was featured in The Sunday Times the other day in their article on ‘modern chintz’. We do try not to be too influenced by trends, but to be honest these were completely by mistake! I suppose sometimes a trend will seep into your subconscious without you realising perhaps, and reappear as a design.

Now Barneby Gates has been going for over a decade what has changed the most?

I suppose the biggest change that’s happened during that time is the huge growth of social media platforms such as Instagram. This has helped us enormously – spreading the word, and reaching customers the other side of the world. We’ve also grown from the ‘kitchen table’ business we were 10 years ago, which is hugely exciting but comes with a whole new load of responsibilities!

What do you think will never change?

Our friendship. Alice and I met when we were 10 years old and have been the best of friends ever since, so it was always a risk starting a business together. But we can honestly say that we’ve never had a fall out, and just genuinely respect each other, and understand our strengths and weaknesses which is always important!

What are your bestselling designs?

Deer Damask is probably our best selling design with a few close runner-ups, green Pheasant is a big contender now. Also the pink Pineapples, and the new Scallops is already proving hugely popular.

What is your greatest achievement?

Still going over ten years later! Oh, and the Prince of Wales using our Deer Damask wallpaper in the refurb of Dumfries House perhaps.

What's next for Barneby Gates?

We’re working on a few exciting collaborations at the moment, so watch this space!

What's next for Barneby Gates?

How would you characterise your own interior style?

What is the favourite room in your house?

My very cosy sitting room, with a big open fireplace, a piano, and our Boxing Hares Wallpaper in stone.

What is your favourite object in your home?

My Tim Walker print of Lily Cole in India taken for British Vogue - my hugely treasured leaving present from Vogue.

Who are your favourite designers?

Interior designers: Kit Kemp and Harding & Read. Fashion designers: Rag & Bone and Alex Gore Browne.

Which is your favourite town/city, and why?

London. Despite living there for 12 years, it never fails to excite and inspire me.

What is your favourite hotel and holiday destination?

One of the most amazing places I’ve ever been is Mnemba Island off Zanzibar. There is only one place to stay, and even though there are nine other rooms, you feel as though you are the only people on the island.

What do you like best about F&P Interiors?

Having a finely honed selection of fabrics and wallpapers in one place, as well as advice and ideas to help guide you in the right direction.

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