Monthly Archives: January 2015

Meet Topfloor Design Director, Esti Barnes

Our founder and design director, Esti Barnes, began the Topfloor journey back in 1998. Since then, her distinctive textured rug designs, using varied materials and production techniques, have become a favourite in the design world, winning many industry accolades.

Esti is an innovative, energetic designer, recognised throughout the interiors world for her determination to push the boundaries of conventional rug design and manufacturing. Below, we learn more about the talent behind Topfloor…

esti barnes topfloor blogEsti Barnes

What inspired you to go into the world of interiors?
I initially qualified as a graphic designer but, on graduation, realised I was more interested in interiors than I was in designing – for example – packaging for milk. I had a showroom in Istanbul, so bringing my passion for interiors with me when I came to the UK felt like the natural thing to do.

How did you go about starting Topfloor?
Topfloor began purely by chance. I was introduced to a company whose three owners were too busy with their own jobs to build upon their rug business. I was given the chance to work on this business, and jumped straight into it. Within nine months I was introduced to hand-tufted rugs (which, being Turkish, I didn’t know existed!) visited India, and saw how they were produced. I then visited the biggest European flooring fair, which changed my vision of rugs. At the end of it all, I saw the future in setting up my own rug business. It has all gone on from there.

rug design topfloor blog interview with esti barnesEsquire rug sketch  

Topfloor blog interview with Esti Barnes. Esquire rugWinner of Elle Decoration’s ‘British Design of the Year’ award and US magazine Interior Design’s ‘Best of Year’ award

Can you talk us through your design process?
I always do my sketches by hand, so they are always drawn on paper with pencil. I will then colour them, unless they are 3D, in which case there is no need for this – in these cases I just choose the colour from the pombox. Once I decide that I’d like to keep the design, I put together my notes on what texture and material I want the different parts to be in and send them to the factory, where the computer renderings are done, and sent back to me for approval. The next stage is sampling – time on this can vary, sometimes it only takes one sample and sometimes many more. What’s important is not to get discouraged and give up. In some past cases, I have ended up with two designs as the concept can be too complicated to convey to the factory. For example, the double award-winning ‘Esquire’ rug design produced another design – ‘Everest’ – in the process.

Topfloor blog interview with Esti Barnes. Princess Gevher rugPrincess Gevher

Topfloor blog interview with Esti Barnes. Enmesh rugEnmesh

Topfloor blog interview with Esti Barnes. Emerald rugEmerald

Topfloor blog interview with Esti Barnes. Envelope rugEnvelope

Which of your designs is your favourite? And which are you most proud of?
Envelope, Enmesh, Emerald and Princess Gevher are some favourites. I am proud to have come up with ‘Esquire,’ with its pile carved in angular facets that was being done for the first time in rugs/carpets– it has won two big awards, produced a lot of sales and inspired a lot of other designers.

esti barnes topfloor blogEsti’s own living room reflects her work with its muted, restful colours and use of texture

Topfloor blog interview with Esti Barnes. ismet DoganA carefully curated mix of inspirational pieces bring character to Esti’s own home. Artwork by Ismet Dogan

Where do you live and why? What is your own home like?
Chelsea. When I moved to London it was a condition to live in Chelsea. It was all I knew and loved. I still love it with a passion. My home is eclectic, with pieces from all the countries I love – Turkey, Brazil, Italy, Colombia, Africa and, of course, England. I don’t like interiors that have no character, and that look like furniture showrooms.

Topfloor blog interview with Esti Barnes. Naci IslimyeliArtwork by Balkan Naci Islimyeli in Esti’s home

Topfloor blog interview with Esti Barnes. David GersteinCyclists’ by David Gerstein

Topfloor blog interview with Esti Barnes. ArmoireEsti’s Turkish armoire, a treasured piece (rug by Haynes Robinson, Esti’s favourite rug designer)

Do you own any pieces you feel you couldn’t live without?
Yes. I have an armoire that travels with me. It was made in Turkey with reclaimed oak, and is huge. Fortunately it disassembles, as it would have been impossible to have it in my last five houses in London otherwise. I also can’t live without the artworks that I have hand-picked over the years. Most of them are by my tutors at the university and they mean a lot to me.

What is your guilty pleasure?
Unfortunately, good food.

As someone who loves to travel, where is your favourite place to visit? Do you have a different favourite when it comes to travelling for business, and travelling for pleasure?
I love New York for business, pleasure and can go there at the drop of a hat. I can name it as one of my favourites but not the only one. I love South America for its music, colours, dance and fun, and also for the textiles and jewellery. For business I love going to India and the Far East.

If you had a day to yourself, what would you choose to do?
Design, visit galleries, shop and eat at restaurants!

Highlights and inspiration from our trip to New Orleans

Happy New Year to you! We’ve just returned from New Orleans, where we spent our Christmas break. As with many design companies, travel is a huge inspiration for our work, and we find the cultures we discover on our travels influence our work in ways we sometimes can’t imagine. This was our first time visiting ‘The Big Easy’ and it didn’t disappoint…

Topfloor blog new orleans highlightsCanal Street

Topfloor blog new orleans highlights 1The Roosevelt, a Waldorf Astoria hotel

We arrived on Christmas Day and checked into the oldest hotel in New Orleans – the Roosevelt – joining the few thousand rubberneckers there admiring the rather over-the-top Christmas décor. The Roosevelt is an art deco gem, and is absolutely beautiful. Hungry from our journey, we went straight to the restaurant for a late night snack of alligator soup, which was a new experience! The Roosevelt is directly opposite New Orleans’ French Quarter, the oldest part of the city, founded in 1718. We spent a wonderful evening on Boxing Day exploring this historic part of town, following a day of orientation and retail therapy. It surprised us how compact New Orleans is as a city, meaning many areas can be explored on foot.

Topfloor blog new orleans highlights 2Swamp Donkeys band in Bourbon Street

Topfloor blog new orleans highlights 3Musical instruments shop near Jackson Square

We explored the French Quarter exhaustively, starting on Bourbon Street, and ending at Frenchman Street. There were endless artisanal knick-knacks, jewellery, and antique shops to savour. The great thing about the French Quarter is that every other door leads to a musical performance – it truly is a city with music in its soul.

Topfloor blog new orleans highlights 4Houmas House Plantation

Topfloor blog new orleans highlights 5Our first experience of a ‘dog wedding’ at Houmas House Plantation

On the Saturday, the heavens opened, so we took shelter at Houmas House Plantation, opting for a guided tour. Reckoned to be one of the best preserved Southern estates complete with a Tennessee Williams-style mansion house, Houmas House was owned by a long line of sugar barons until the collapse of the sugar business in the early 20th century. It now hosts corporate events and weddings, the most lavish of which was – believe it or not – that of the current owner’s two golden retrievers!

Topfloor blog new orleans highlights 6Crypt at Lake Lawn Cemetery

The next day we decided to do two very New Orleans things; first, taking a streetcar and second, walking around one of the biggest cemeteries we have ever seen. The final resting place of some of the richest folk in New Orleans history, Lake Lawn in Metairie is the home of monuments ranging from simple tombstones to family sarcophagi the size of a small town hall.

Topfloor blog new orleans highlights 8‘Guns’ Exhibition in the Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, by Peter Sarkisian

Topfloor blog new orleans highlights 9Artwork by Shawne Major at Callan Gallery

As it was the holiday season, the two main contemporary art museums were sadly closed. However, we still enjoyed visiting many galleries with high-class artworks. Some highlights for us were Jed Malitz with his 3-D glass sculptures, Peter Sarkisian‘s Gun exhibition at Jonathan Ferrara Gallery, Shawne Major‘s re-purposed passmenterie and jewellery bits and Mitchell Lonas‘s artworks on steel plates – both at Callan Contemporary Gallery.

Topfloor blog new orleans highlights 10WINO wine tasting

Another interesting experience was WINO – the Wine Institute of New Orleans – a wine shop like we’d never seen before! Here, you can enjoy a tasting shot from hundreds of different types of red, white and sparkling wines, all displayed together with their provenances. All you have to do is insert a coin and put your glass under the relevant optic!

Topfloor blog new orleans highlights 11Doris Metropolitan (picture credit)

One of the highlights of our trip was a visit to the restaurant, Doris Metropolitan. Here, we sat at the bar and met some very interesting New Orleans residents, confirming our perception of local people as being warm and very friendly. In Doris, we ate the best steaks ever, this place is an absolute must for every carnivore!

Jazz, amazing quality food from some world-class chefs, beautiful cemeteries, fascinating artwork, and a rich insight into the way of life in ‘The South’ – all these elements make New Orleans an amazing destination, one we would highly recommend.