Made in Britain: Barneby Gates

Barneby Gates design wallpaper and fabric.

Barneby and Gates part 2A Childhood spent in the Hampshire countryside provided inspiration for many of the designs produced by the Wiltshire-based design team Barneby Gates. Friends from the age of 10, Vanessa Barneby (right) and Alice Gates (left) launched the company in 2009, having forged separate careers: Vanessa worked for 10 years at Condé Nast, including five years as Vogue’s Living Editor, and Alice studied figurative painting and exhibited around the world.

‘We’d both done a stint of living in London and had recently moved to the countryside,’ explains Vanessa, a 38-year-old mother of two. ‘We were doing up our houses and wanted to set something up on our own.’

With their combined skills, they were hopeful that they could create designs which would distinguish them from other wallpaper houses, but they also had another aspect in their favour: timing. ‘We were fortunate that, at the time we launched, there was a return to the use of wallpaper after years of interiors dominated by paint.’

The duo designs two collections of wallpaper a year as well as an ad hoc collection of fabric, including a range of cushions. Designs, such as Deer Damask or Horse Trellis, often have a traditional starting point and are given a modern or humorous twist, which means they work equally well in a London apartment or an old Georgian rectory.

They do a lot of surface printing, a technique that uses double the amount of ink, but creates a hand-stamped finish (you can feel the ridges of the paint) rather than a flat digital print. ‘That’s why we print in England. Using traditional techniques and being in the factory for the sign-off mean that we can control the quality and finish— not something you can do at a distance.’

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