Finding constant inspiration for her designs through her travels, Topfloor Founder and Design Director Esti Barnes talks about some of the keepsakes and objets d’art that she has collected over the years and that take pride of place in her Chelsea home…
‘I would describe my home as an eclectic mix of contemporary, tribal, old and new. I like primitive objects, especially masks, which I’ve been collecting for many years now. They come from many different countries – Gabon, Nepal, Bali, Ethiopia, Kenya, Italy and Switzerland. They range from ornate Venetian designs to simple, carved-wood tribal masks. There are even replicas of Neanderthal men, with their long hair.
‘For me, the masks’ expressions and the materials they are made from give them personalities. There are some that are made from resin or paper, some that are embellished with feathers or bells. Others have hair, teeth, textiles, jewellery… The craftsmanship that has gone into their creation makes them as diverse and unique as real people. If my husband, Russell, liked them as much as I do, there wouldn’t be a spare centimetre of empty wall!
‘As well as the masks, I have other keepsakes and collectables dotted around the house that I love. They include African figurines, Chinese brushes, snuff boxes, Tiffany lamps and pieces of pottery, both old and new.
‘Another prized possession is the recycled-oak Turkish armoire in the dining area. It travelled with me from Istanbul and has moved with us into the various properties we’ve lived in in the UK. It is huge, but luckily it dismantles so cleverly that we’ve had no problem carting it around with us like a suitcase.
‘The other items in the house that I couldn’t be without are the pieces of art I’ve acquired over the years. When I was living in Istanbul I collected Turkish art, most of which is by my professors and friends from art school. I’m especially proud to own a piece by the renowned 20th-century Turkish painter Cevat Dereli. I’ve got works by French, Dutch, Hungarian and Icelandic artists too. I now collect art at galleries, art fairs and exhibitions in London like ArtLondon.com, and objects from Collect, the contemporary art fair that I wouldn’t miss for the world.
‘Among the pieces that are special to me are “Peloton” by David Gerstein in our gym/cinema room and a still life by the Dutch painter Tom Verhoeven above the fireplace in the living room.
‘I have three all-time favourites: the horse painting in the study, which is by Balkan Naci Islimyeli [below]; an abstract painting by Husamettin Kocan, which is in the dining room; and a painting by Ismet Dogan [above the collectible objects] which has Arabic script and was the foundation of my passion for calligraphy – a passion that resulted in my SCRIPT collection.
I chose all these works because they ‘talked’ to me, and when they did, I was smitten – I knew I didn’t want to part with them, so they came home with me. The only place we don’t have any art is our beautiful garden oasis.
‘I chose to furnish my home with lots of beautiful Brazilian pieces by Sylvia Nayla in Notting Hill and some classic Italian pieces such as my Flexform sofa and a Glas Italia dining table. The table was so fragile and had suffered damage in transit. We only discovered that, of course, after we had removed our sash window and manoeuvred it into place. We’re now dining off table number two.
‘The objects and art on display represent the countries that are important to me, adding character and a strong personal touch to my home. I don’t like spaces that look like furniture showrooms or those with too heavy a “brand signature” of the interior designer.’
To find out more about our talented design director Esti, read our interview with her