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Christmas in Latin America: Colonial Charm, vibrant colours and Salsa!

We spent the Christmas holidays exploring some of South America’s most vibrant cities: Cartagena, Lima, Cusco and Havana. High on our list for some time, these destinations didn’t disappoint and we’re sharing some of our most inspiring finds.

Our first stop was Cartagena on Colombia’s northern coast. Founded in the 16th century, Cartagena quickly prospered and soon became a plunder target for pirates of all nationalities and the British navy. The Spanish took these threats so seriously that they built a huge 11km wall around the town to defend the colony. From the striking historic palaces and gothic clock tower, to the beautiful baroque-style churches and monasteries, it’s no wonder this city is often referred to as the ‘Jewel of the Indies’.

Cartegena Street View

Cartegena street

Walking the streets of Cartagena’s Old Town, a UNESCO heritage site, feels like a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel come to life. We wondered around the narrow lanes flanked by sherbet-hued Spanish colonial buildings, the protruding carved-wood balconies and balustrades draped with bougainvillea.

Cartegena Streets

Cartegena streets

The lively sounds of salsa could often be heard, adding to the old quarter’s unique sense of charm and mystery. The local women are dressed in ruffled skirts of bright yellows, blue and reds with baskets of fresh fruit on top of their heads, securely turbaned into place.

Cartegena women with fruit baskets

Cartegena women adorning fruit baskets

Cartagena hosts a vibrant artist and artisan community who sell their handicrafts and paintings in the local markets and along the streets, adding to the town’s sense of magic and old-fashioned Caribbean glamour.

Cartegena hat display

Hat display in Cartagena

Next on the list was Lima, rising above Peru’s long coastline of crumbling cliffs, presenting magnificent views. Colonial facades, old cathedrals and high-rise condos enchant this well-worn Latin capital. Maybe the numerous earthquakes and wars the city has endured since its inception in the 16th century give rise to its many styles of architecture, from baroque and brutalist to rococo neo-classic, art deco and art nouveau.

Lima coastline

Lima coastline

Lima street

Lima street

A large number of historical ruins, known locally as huacas, can be spotted in many neighbourhoods around Lima. They are generally fenced off but one of the major exceptions is the Pucllana Temple or Huaca Pucllana, in the city’s upscale Miraflores district. Built around 500 A.D. during the cultural height of Lima’s history, much of the site has been restored using the powder of the original bricks and excavations continue to uncover artifacts and the occasional mummy. The on-site gourmet restaurant serves haute cuisine by an internationally trained chef, providing dining while taking in ancient views.

Huacapucllana

Huaca Pucllana

The Church & Convent of San Francisco provides a breathtaking example of colonial architecture. Its intricately carved library houses over 25,000 volumes, still intact but so old that they would crumble when touched.

Lima library

Library in the Church and Convent of San Francisco

However, the main draw for us was its catacombs where over 30,000 people were buried until the early 19th century. We eerily wandered through the silent claustrophobic crypts filled with human skulls and beautifully arranged bones.

Lima bones

Bone displays in the catacombs of the Church and Convent of San Francisco

One of the most interesting sights in Lima is the Museo Larco. At the young age of 25, Rafael Larco Hoyle opened a museum in 1926 to exhibit collections of local archaeological pieces, one of which was given to him by his father. Set in an 18th century viceroy’s mansion overlaying a 7th century pre-Colombian edifice, the Museo Larco now offers a magnificent display of weapons, ceramics, jewelry, textiles and artifacts from various cultures that inhabited the region over the centuries starting way before Christ. This is one of the very few museums in the world where visitors are allowed to view the archives, showcasing over 40,000 items.

One of the archive galleries in Museo Larco

One of the archive galleries in Museo Larco

There’s also a separate whimsical collection of pre-Columbian erotica that we found particularly entertaining.

Lima erotica

Display of erotica pieces in the Museo Larco

We then began the rise to Cusco, nearly 3500 metres above sea level. Once the capital of the Inca empire, this city in the Peruvian Andes is renowned for its archeological remains and Spanish colonial architecture. Cusco’s main square Plaza de Armas houses two iconic buildings the Cusco Cathedral and the Church la Compania. We stayed in the beautiful hotel Belmond Monasterio, once an ancient monastery that has a chapel with a gold altar inside. Offering every luxury, the hotel even pumps oxygen into the rooms to help guard against altitude sickness

Left: Belmond Monasterio by night; right: Plaza de Armas

Left: Belmond Monasterio by night; right: Plaza de Armas

Cusco is the place for alpaca and it is not unusual to see them on the steep cobblestone streets, alongside the indigenous weavers working the wool to make colourful hats and scarves.

Cuzco weaver and alpaca

Weaver and an alpaca in Cusco

Eighty km northwest of Cusco, Machu Picchu is an architectural wonder. Around 200 buildings are made of individually shaped pieces of carved grey granite that fit like a perfect jigsaw. As with other Inca cities, it followed the religious architectural pattern of truncated pyramid construction. Buildings contained rectangular rooms with irregular sized walls. The site itself is embedded within a jaw-dropping, dramatic landscape with spectacular terraces at the meeting point between the Peruvian Andes and the Amazon basin.

Cuzco Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Onto sunny Havana to warm our bones, once known as the Paris of the Caribbean. Just about every interesting style of Western architecture from the mid 19th century onwards can be found here, however crumbling the edifices may be.

Havana architecture

Architecture in Havana

The deco-esque Bacardi building, the grandiose, neo-classical National Capitol and the 1920s Louis XV-style Museum of Decorative Arts are some of the most iconic.

Havana national capitol, Havana architecture, Havana Bacardi

From left: National Capitol building,  architecture in Havana, the Bacardi building.

Many of the fabulous old 50’s American cars make their way around colonial-flanked, cobbled streets. Many are battered beyond belief but are kept lovingly in working condition, including their radios, wipers and air-conditioning. When asked where spare parts are sourced, the answer was ‘we make them!’

Havana cars

Classic cars in Havana

We spent New Year’s Eve in Havana and witnessed their eye-opening tradition of pouring buckets of water from higher floors onto the pedestrians just after midnight, marking their way of wishing prosperity to all in the New Year. As a result, you either find yourself a comfortable seat and wait for the downpour to stop or run the gauntlet of the upper storey marksmen.

Everywhere was closed on New Year’s Day and we discovered the wonderful world of Fusterlandia completely by chance. It turned out to be a riot for the eyes and we highly recommend it. Initially starting with his home and garden, artist Jose Fuster has redecorated his entire neighbourhood – the fishing village of Jaimanitas on the outskirts of the city – with colourful ceramic tile mosaic murals. Inspired by Barcelona’s Gaudi and Brancusi in Romania, Fuster’s ever-evolving installation covers just about every type of surface, with some wall-art pieces dedicated to countries.

Havana fuster

Fusterlandia – above and below.

Havana fuster Havana fuster

We hope you enjoyed our trip and are as inspired by the photos as we were taking them. Watch out for influences in upcoming rug designs…

References: all photos are taken by Esti Barnes, Design Director of Topfloor by Esti

The Year That Was

At this time of year, we like to take time to reflect on the highlights, successes and the exciting times that we’ve had over the past 12 months. We’re proud to say that for us, 2017 has been a great year!

A favourite moment had to have been winning the prestigious Architizer A+ Award for our LUMINOSO STARDUST rug within the Flooring – Carpet category. The Architizer A+ Awards are the largest awards programme focused on promoting and celebrating the world’s best architecture and products.

To quote the awards, Its mission is to nurture the appreciation of meaningful architecture in the world and champion its potential for a positive impact on everyday life.” Judged by over 400 prestigious figures across a range of industries including fashion, publishing, real estate and tech. With a global audience of over 400 million, the winners receive an enormous amount of exposure. The influence of the Architizer A+ Awards is massive, making winning this award an enormous honour and very meaningful to us.

Esti Barnes with her Architizer A+ Award

Esti Barnes with her Architizer A+ Award

The LUMINOSO collection is fully customisable, there are no standard designs. It is available as both a hand-tufted rug and wall-to-wall carpet. One could create a dazzling runner that twinkles subtly as one walks along it. Or a carpet with solar systems sprawled across it for the ultimate kid’s playroom. This technology was first debuted by Topfloor in 1999 at Decorex as a special feature rug, but at the time the technology was rather cumbersome. Since then, it’s become much easier to fit into most interior environments.

LUMINOSO

LUMINOSO

The idea for the STARDUST rug which won us the Architizer A+ Award, came during a night flight in the USA when our designer, Esti Barnes, was flying over New Orleans and saw the most beautiful scattering of lights from the city and the airport below. The beauty of the rugs in the LUMINOSO collection is their ability to change depending on the desired environment. In the living room with the lights turned off it’s a regular carpet, but when you turn them on, you’ve got the perfect ambience for a spectacular movie room. It’s really a terrific fusion of floor coverings with light decoration. This is something we are very excited for clients to experiment with. It’s a whole new dimension of aesthetic and function.  

luminoso-stardust-award-white

LUMINOSO STARDUST

Some of our earliest designs are proving to be some of the most popular. Unlike the fashion industry, we hang on to our designs and add to them rather than editing. We’re proud to say that our rugs are never retired, providing clients with near-infinite customisation options. Time after time our archived designs continue to sell and receive recognition. It’s a great compliment to us and a testament to our designer, Esti Barnes. With each passing year, we notice a new audience taking interest in our previous collections and it’s great to work with these new designers and their design-passionate clients who were not in the industry when we started out.

One design in particular that keeps drawing new admirers and buyers is the award-winning ESQUIRE rug. This was first designed in 2006 for the apartment of one of the earliest mega-luxe property developers. and won the Best of Year Award in 2007, along with Elle Decoration British Design of the Year award in 2008. Likewise, the EQUATOR rug from 2004 and the EMERALD rug from 2006 are still some of our best sellers and were both finalists for the Elle Decoration British Design of the Year.

Esti Barnes working on new designs

Esti Barnes working on new designs

Our fingers are crossed for next year and we’re hoping to build on what we’ve achieved thus far. As much as we’re looking forward to a festive break, we are already excited for what 2018 will bring as we have some exciting ideas up our sleeve.

As Esti Barnes said herself this week, “I can’t say just ‘more of the same’ as we have a bigger plan for the future. My best advice will be to keep an eye on us via the press and social media.” From all of us at Topfloor, we wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and peaceful  New Year.

Topfloor’s Wood Flooring

At Topfloor we offer great design, top notch service and a truly bespoke approach. This is just as true for our wood flooring as it is for our rugs and carpets.

With well over 100 different wood flooring finishes, plus our bespoke options, we’re confident we can provide the most demanding client with exactly what they’re looking for. Be it a large scale commercial or a high end residential project, we can usually come up with the goods. We can vary dimensions, colour, texture and format. We can supply most of our finishes as boards (up to 45 cm wide and 7 metres long), as parquet blocks or designer panels and more. We can even supply matching veneer for use on wall panels or in cabinet making.

Private Residence, Liverpool featuring PRIME DARK SMOKED OAK

Private Residence, Liverpool featuring PRIME DARK SMOKED OAK

Private Residence, Liverpool featuring PRIME DARK SMOKED OAK

Private Residence, Liverpool featuring PRIME DARK SMOKED OAK

We specialise in premium quality engineered wood flooring, as opposed to solid wood flooring. The difference between the two is a matter of design flexibility and functionality. Solid wood flooring can cause problems because of its sensitivity to changes in temperature and humidity. This can lead to deformation such as gaps appearing between the boards or cupping when the boards try to expand sideways. Our premium engineered wood flooring is much more resistant and is perfectly suited for use with underfloor heating due to its durable multi-layered cross-ply construction.

Knickerbocker Hotel, New York City

Knickerbocker Hotel, New York City

Solid wood flooring often requires on-site finishing, whereas our floors are made to order in Europe and are fully finished and ready to install on delivery. We like to know exactly where our timber comes from which is why all our floors are made using timber that is FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) and/or PEFC (Pan European Forest Certification) certified. We want our clients to be reassured that when they buy from us, they are contributing to the environment by buying sustainably harvested timber. We also insist that all the components – be it stains, oils, varnishes or adhesives – comply with European and US performance standards and are entirely non-toxic.

Topfloor EUROPEAN OAK on wall

Topfloor EUROPEAN OAK on wall

Our service doesn’t stop when the boards are delivered. Due to the premium quality of our floors, we require that they are installed by fully qualified and highly experienced professionals. That is why we always offer our own fitting service, to get the very best result.

Topfloor TEAK decking

Topfloor TEAK decking

We are proud to have supplied wood flooring to some of the world’s most prestigious residential, hospitality and commercial projects. Retail clients include Dior, Kurt Geiger, Anoushka Jewellery and Gina Shoes. Our premium grade dark smoked oak was used extensively throughout London’s first uber-luxe One Hyde Park development. Renowned interior designer Kelly Hoppen also chose our ‘Black Oyster’ for a 2000 m2 luxury penthouse in the Middle East. After ordering the floor, the client asked if we could provide the same finish for the internal joinery and wall panels. In order to meet the request, we developed a special oak veneer which was flexible enough for the job as well as strong enough to hold the textured finish of ‘Black Oyster’. Finally, to ensure a superb job, our fitters were on site throughout to supervise the installation.

Kelly Hoppen designed penthouse with BLACK OYSTER OAK

Kelly Hoppen designed penthouse with BLACK OYSTER OAK

To find out more about Topfloor’s engineered wood flooring collections, please visit our showroom at Design Centre Chelsea Harbour or visit our website at www.topfloorrugs.com

London Design Festival & FOCUS/17 Debrief

With this year’s London Design Festival now behind us and all the excitement that came with it, we thought it would be great to take a look back and revisit the highlights from the festival. A major highlight for us was the launch of our new collaboration with Wools of New Zealand.

Kicking things off, as part of FOCUS/17 we had the pleasure of hosting social media expert, Grant Pierrus from Interior Style Hunter. Grant runs a marketing agency for luxury interior brands, interior designers and architects where social media and digital marketing are at the core of the business.

Grant spoke to a showroom full of eager listeners and FOCUS/17 visitors about how social media can enhance your business, the fundamentals of social media marketing and the importance of engaging with your fans, creating online networks and how these channels are changing from one to many conversations to more direct, one to one conversations.

Topfloor by Esti Showroom

Topfloor by Esti Showroom

A talk with Grant Pierrus at Topfloor By Esti's showroom

A talk with Grant Pierrus at Topfloor By Esti’s showroom

Tom's Kitchen at the Tatler Restaurant during Focus/17

Tom’s Kitchen at the Tatler Restaurant during Focus/17

At Syon Park, Decorex held their annual event. Decorex as always, is about connecting designers to new trends and brands. One particular highlight was the elegant Shalini Misra designed Champagne Bar. Since it was a special anniversary for the show, all the stops were pulled out to make this an extraordinary edition. According to Shalini, the design was inspired by the Great Exhibition of 1851. Set in Crystal Palace, the exhibition celebrate everything new and burgeoning in the world at the time. In Shalini’s 21st century version, delicate gold and red features evoked an almost oriental theme; muddled in with creatively designed motifs, lush velvet fabrics, ironwork and delightful Victorian finishes all working to bring plush old world luxury to a modern exhibit.

image002

Shalini Misra’s champagne bar at Decorex

For this year’s VIP visitors, Turner Pocock’s ‘Bahamas style’ lounge offered up a relaxed and whimsical space to meet and greet, affectionately called the ‘Syon Surf Shack’. The design duo teamed up with de Gournay for their ‘Bahamian-beach’ hand painted wallpaper. Filled with natural materials, palm trees, beach baskets, Slim Aaron’s photography and holiday inspired hues it’s no surprise that it was a hugely talked about element of the exhibition.

Turner Pocock's 'Bahama's style' VIP lounge at Decorex

Turner Pocock’s ‘Bahama’s style’ VIP lounge at Decorex

Turner Pocock's 'Bahama's style' VIP lounge at Decorex

Turner Pocock’s ‘Bahama’s style’ VIP lounge at Decorex

A particular mention must also go to Zachary Eastwood-Bloom, part of the chosen few by Future Heritage showcasing the names to commission and collect in British contemporary craft. Zachary is an artist with studios in Glasgow and London whose practice explores the duality of human progress through sculpture, drawing, sound and video. According to Decorex, his fascination lies within the profit and loss of human development through technology and in the notion that through progress there is also cost. At the show, Zachary exploited the potential of computer technology to create arresting marble tables that look as if they are being consumed, offering up a completely new design idea that evokes a striking visual nature. The table also shares a synergy with Topfloor’s ESQUIRE rug, with its textural change part way through. One can imagine the two would look particularly excellent together.

Topfloor By Esti's ESQUIRE rug

Topfloor By Esti’s ESQUIRE rug

Zachary Eastwood-Bloom 'Information Ate My Table'

Zachary Eastwood – Bloom’s Information Ate My Table

Over at the V&A, Flynn Talbot’s Reflection room provided an immersive visual experience of an intensely vibrant nature. According to the V&A, Flynn used 56 custom-made stretch membrane Barrisol panels in gloss black, with Tryka LED’s woven within the panels that emitted vivid orange and blue hues, creating an eye catchingly futuristic look.

Flynn Talbot's 'Reflection Room'

Flynn Talbot’s ‘Reflection Room’

Flynn wasn’t the only one to put on a colourful show. Camille Walala erected an inflatable installation outside Liverpool Street Station, which she said was “to give the city workers something to help them de-stress.” The instillation was reminiscent of a bouncy castle and offered passers by the chance to take a quick wander through a kaleidoscope of colourful shapes, with the hope of taking the edge off the day in the process. Adam Nathaniel Furman also served up a slice of colour with his ‘Gateways’ installation at Design Junction’s Granary Square. In collaboration with Turkishceramics, the installation consisted of four 4m high colourful ceramic-tiled gateways that, according to London Design Festival, “drew people to wander through and experience the rich history of ceramics in Turkey.”

Adam Nathaniel Furman's 'Gateways'

Adam Nathaniel Furman’s ‘Gateways’

Camille Walala inflatable installation

Camille Walala inflatable installation

To sum up what was an inspiring week in London, we’re extremely excited to share with you our new rugs- CANCAN and FANFAN from the OPPOSITES ATTRACT Collection, which we officially launched in our showroom during FOCUS/17. We had been selected by WOOLS OF NEW ZEALAND as their first design partner to create a rug using their brand new Glacial XT™ wool, the whitest yet developed. Esti Barnes, said this on the new rug – “Wool is a mainstay of our production. It ticks all the boxes for look, feel, sustainability and wearability. Of course, we use other materials but wool is our natural all-rounder. This new development from WOOLS OF NEW ZEALAND is great news because carpets and rugs can now be made pure white. The new yarn also allows for more vivid and loyal colour-matching.” says Esti.

Topfloor By Esti's 'CANCAN'

Topfloor By Esti’s ‘CANCAN’

Topfloor By Esti's 'FANFAN'

Topfloor By Esti’s ‘FANFAN’

“We’re proud to have been selected by Wools of New Zealand to debut their bright white wool with our hand-tufted and hand-sculpted CANCAN rug which is an unashamedly feminine design, evoking a wedding gown with its layers of lacy white fabric. We like the wedding dress symbolism because it underscores the whiteness, purity and novelty aspects of the Wools of New Zealand announcement.”

With its swirling lacy tiers and carved border detail, the frothy petticoats of the Moulin Rouge dancers provided inspiration for the rug. As a somewhat Zen-influenced designer, Esti felt the rug required a counterpart. Due to CANCAN’s inherent femininity, a masculine other half was created. With its angular shapes and steely grey bamboo silk, FANFAN filled the void and completed the duo.

At Topfloor, we’re always aiming to push the boundaries, using new materials, production methods and design styles. With this new rug from WOOLS OF NEW ZEALAND using their Glacial XT™ yarn , we feel that we’re staying true to that aim.

There is no doubt there was lots to see and do over the course of the festival and every year the festival seems to grow and expand across the city.  What were your highlights?

Get in touch with us on social media using the links below.

Image References:

1 – Photo of Topfloor showroom by Jack Simpson

2 – Photo from talk with Grant Pierrus at Topfloor showroom by Jack Simpson

3 – Photo of Tom’s Kitchen pop up by Jack Simpson

5 – Photo of Decorex VIP room from Turner Pocock’s Instagram

6 – Photo of Decorex VIP room from Turner Pocock’s Instagram

7 – Shalini Misra champagne bar from Shalini Misra.

9 – Zachary Eastwood-Bloom – Information Ate My Table

10 – Photo of Flynn Talbot’s Reflection room, taken from V&A website.

11 – Photo of Camille Walala’s inflatable installation, taken from Dezeen.

12 – Photo of Adam Nathaniel Furman’s Gateways, taken from his website.

13 – Cancan rug by Topfloor

14 – Cancan rug by Topfloor

Fashion vs. Interiors

Everyone talks about the links between the worlds of fashion and interiors so we thought we’d take a closer look. Fashion is a $3 Trillion industry and most people wear clothes so not surprisingly it affects almost everybody. It also connects with many aspects of modern life such as music, entertainment and, increasingly the interiors world. Despite its huge size, the fashion industry moves at a frenzied pace. New designs transition from the Paris or Milan catwalks to the High Street in a few days. Change is a constant.

By comparison, the interiors industry is roughly one-fifth the size of fashion and moves more slowly. Like fashion it is made up of a few truly global brands and many thousands of smaller designers and manufacturers.

People also shop for fashion and interiors in similar ways, relying more and more on on-line information sources rather than visiting a store. However, when people buy a piece of furniture, they expect to own it for years, whereas that special occasion dress may only be needed for one night. Product life cycles are much longer in the interiors world than in fashion: an Italian sofa from 2007 looks very similar to the latest 2017 model.

Some of the biggest fashion brands (Armani, Fendi, Louis Vuitton, Roberto Cavalli, Hermes etc.) have moved into the interiors market hoping to capitalise on their name to grab a slice of the interiors pie. So far the traffic has been mostly one way but the tide may be turning. The furniture designers Campana Brothers are the creative force behind some highly distinctive shoes and handbags for brands like Mellissa and Camper. The late architectural visionary Zaha Hadid also turned her hand to shoe design for the Mellissa brand. There are others. For instance, architects Frank Gehry and Ron Arad have both designed jewellery, the former for Tiffany.

Red "Vermelha" Armchair by Fernando and Humberto Campana for Edra, 1998

Red “Vermelha” Armchair by Fernando and Humberto Campana for Edra, 1998

Melissa Campana Papel in Red

Melissa Campana Papel in Red

Ron Arad Hot Indigo Earrings

Ron Arad Hot Indigo Earrings

Frank Gehry Ring for Tiffany

Frank Gehry Ring for Tiffany

Zaha Hadid for Melissa

Zaha Hadid for Melissa

The obvious influences from fashion to interiors are in colour and specific themes. For example, blush pink, which was the colour of the catwalk last year, became this year’s big interiors colour. Some might even say the new neutral. The fashion industry has also made our hearts beat faster with African design, animals and the safari theme that can be found in just about every trend report, blog or magazine page. We have seen African-inspired wallpaper and fabrics all over Design Centre Chelsea Harbour. Come FOCUS in September, there will be more.

At Topfloor, we keep a close eye on the world of fashion and pick and choose details that we feel will help us stand out. For example, the baroque decoupage of ETHEREAL owes a little to the gothic excesses of Galliano. The swirling pleats of the screen idols skirts animated our HARLOW rug and 17th Century Ottoman courtly detail is reflected in a number of the designs in our Turkish-themed OTTOMANIA collection. Our KAFTAN rug is based directly on the eponymous dress style.

ETHEREAL Rug from 3D Collection, by Topfloor Rugs

ETHEREAL Rug from 3D Collection, by Topfloor Rugs

 

HARLOW Rug from JAZZ AGE Collection, by Topfloor Rugs

HARLOW Rug from JAZZ AGE Collection, by Topfloor Rugs

 

KAFTAN Rug from the OTTOMANIA Collection, by Topfloor Rugs

KAFTAN Rug from the OTTOMANIA Collection, by Topfloor Rugs

IF YOU KNOW OF OTHER NAMES FROM THE INTERIORS WORLD WHO HAVE VENTURED INTO FASHION, WE’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU AND WILL TWEET YOUR NOMINATION.

CONTACT US ON SOCIAL MEDIA @topfloorbyesti or email us at info@topfloorrugs.com

*Topfloor by Esti does not take credit for any images posted on this site unless otherwise noted. Images on this blog are copyright to its respectful owners. 

What’s Going on in the London Art Scene

We’re so lucky to be living in a city like London. There are only a few major art centres throughout the world and London is one of the best. We get all the major exhibitions and shows as well as the most phenomenal permanent collections. The broad variety of art that London offers is overwhelming and there’s everything from prehistoric, classic, contemporary and right out there modern explorative work.

Some of our favourites at the moment and we really encourage you to go and explore and share your finds with us too.

Matisse

Henri Mattisse, The Snail, 1953

Henri Mattisse, The Snail, 1953

The iconic cut-outs by Matisse are on display at the Tate Museum. These bold and colourful works by one of the giants of the Modern Art scene are a must see.

“The exhibition marks an historic moment, when treasures from around the world can be seen together. Tate’s The Snail 1953 is shown alongside its sister work Memory of Oceania 1953 and Large Composition with Masks 1953 at 10 metres long. A photograph of Matisse’s studio reveals that these works were initially conceived as a unified whole, and this is the first time they will have been together in over 50 years. The exhibition also places side by side the largest number of Matisse’s famous Blue Nudes ever exhibited together. “ (Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs, Tate.org.co.uk.)

London is the first city to host this exhibition before it moves across the pond to the MOMA in New York City. Visit Matisse at the Tate.

It must be Matisse season at the moment as the Royal Academy is running an exhibition, Matisse in the Studio, too.

Balenciaga

A selection of Cristobel Balenciaga's work available to view at the Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion exhibition at the V&A Museum, London

A selection of Cristobal Balenciaga’s work available to view at the Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion exhibition at the V&A Museum, London

As much as traditional art inspires us, fashion is also a huge influence on our work and it’s very relatable to everybody. We all love to wear beautiful clothes. The latest fashion exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum is Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion. It’s a fascinating look at how Cristóbal Balenciaga’s exquisite craftsmanship and innovative designs shaped modern fashion. There are over 100 pieces to explore that have been crafted by ‘the master’ of couture, his protégées and contemporary fashion designers working in the same innovative tradition.

Visit Balenciaga: Shaping Fashion at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Summer Exhibition

Entrance to the RA 2017 Summer Exhibition, Edward Lucie-Smith.

Entrance to the RA 2017 Summer Exhibition, Edward Lucie-Smith.

The annual Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy is a regular on our calendar, it’s almost reached its 250th anniversary. It’s always a treat to explore the Academy with over 1000 works on display. It can be very overwhelming, so opt for a tour or a personal guide to help you explore the halls. Do look out for pieces that are affordable, there are quite a few and if you see the orange sticker on a piece that you like, do enquire as there are often prints of the same piece that you can purchase.

Visit Summer Exhibition at the Royal Academy

Giacometti

Alberto Giocometti, Bust of Annette IV 1962, cast 1965. Tate.

Alberto Giacometti, Bust of Annette IV 1962, cast 1965. Tate.

The Tate Modern is currently showing the UK’s first major retrospective of Alberto Giacometti for over 20 years. Giacometti’s distinctive elongated figures are some of the most instantly recognisable works of modern art. This exhibition reasserts Giacometti’s place alongside the likes of Matisse, Picasso and Degas as one of the great painter-sculptors of the twentieth century. You get to enter his world through this exhibition to explore his unique way of expressing himself.

Visit Giacometti at the Tate Modern.

Apart from the exhibitions mentioned above, The Design Museum, newly located to High Street Kensington is well worth a visit, not only for the superb exhibitions on its premises, but also to admire John Pawson’s iconic addition to the London architectural scene. Must see’s include Hella Jongerius: Breathing Colour on how colour behaves and California: Designing Freedom on how Silicon Valley’s technical revolution changed our lives, with the driverless Google car on display.

Art/Afrique

William Kentridge. Dessing pour Triumphs and Laments (Procession of Migrants), 2016.

William Kentridge. Dessing pour Triumphs and Laments (Procession of Migrants), 2016.

For those of you who might find yourself popping over to another favourite city, Paris, you cannot miss this incredible exhibition at the Fondation Louis Vuitton: Art/Afrique, Le Nouvel Atelier. The Foundation has devoted its entire gallery and events programme to Africa and its art during the summer season. As we know, African-inspired interiors have been at the forefront of interior design over the last year and it’s great that Louis Vuitton is celebrating the incredible art and craftsmanship that originates from the African continent.

Visit Art/Afrique, le nouvel atelier at Louis Vuitton Foundation.

Last but definitely not least, is the DIOR exhibition in Musee des Arts Decoratifs in rue de Rivoli. Plan on a good 3 hours as the curators of this exhibition spared no details from this giant fashion icon’s professional life. The couture, however, is as fresh as the ones you find in today’s Vogue magazine.

 

The benefits of bespoke: TOPFLOOR’s flexible approach to rug design

As our interior designer clients will testify, rug shopping can be fraught with pitfalls. For a design to work well in its assigned setting it must be the right colour, size, shape and texture, and it also needs to be made from the right materials. Finding an off-the-shelf design that meets all of these criteria can be almost impossible. Luckily, TOPFLOOR is at hand to help. There’s no ‘take it or leave it’ policy with our rugs – any design can be tweaked and adjusted to fit the requirements of any space.

Many of our rugs were originally designed with specific rooms in mind, or lend themselves to certain environments. The architectural style of our award-winning ESQUIRE and ESQUIRE EVOLUTION designs, for example, is hugely popular in contemporary living rooms, where the hand-carved surface can take centre stage.

Esquire Evolution rug in living room setting

ESQUIRE EVOLUTION

ETHEREAL, on the other hand, has a feminine aesthetic that works well in a bedroom:

ETHEREAL

ETHEREAL

While the colourful grasses of ECOSSE are often chosen for garden rooms or spaces that overlook garden areas.

Ecosse rug in a contemporary setting

ECOSSE

Designs such as ENVELOPE AND ECLAT, meanwhile, are frequently used in dining rooms and bedrooms because the detail is around the outside of the rug, acting as a ‘frame’ for a centrally positioned table or bed.

ENVELOPE
ENVELOPE (top) and ECLAT

ENVELOPE (top) and ECLAT

However, it is important to stress that there are no rules with bespoke design! We recognise that every project is unique and we are delighted to collaborate closely with our clients to customise our designs – this could involve changing the colour scheme, reconfiguring the pattern, choosing different fibres, resizing the rug or adjusting the pile height. Almost anything is possible. One of the joys of our bespoke service is that our clients end up with a piece that is tailor made for its setting.

COLOUR

The rugs in our studio are a wonderful source of visual inspiration for our clients, but there’s no need to rule out a design simply because the colours don’t match your scheme. The original EMERALD, for example, is a bold mix of blues, but if you are looking for a more muted vibe we can select an alternative palette that will give the rug a very different feel.

EMERALD

EMERALD

Emerald rug in muted tones

EMERALD in an alternative colourway; interior design by Catherine Henderson

Similarly, we first created HASBAHCE in a rich purple hue, but have also made it in understated neutral shades.

Hasbahce in two different colourways

HASBAHCE

We are always happy to advise clients on colour-matching rugs with existing interiors; we can provide computer drawings and samples in your selected colours to help you (and your client) visualise the new version.

PATTERN

We can also work with an existing pattern to create ‘variations on a theme’. On a recent project our client chose EMPRISE, with its central diamond-shaped detail, for the living room. In the interconnecting dining room we installed a new version of the same rug, with the diamond motif reimagined as a border. This created a strong visual link between the two rooms, but each rug also worked independently in its own space.

Emprise rug in sitting room

EMPRISE

You might love the three-dimensional surface of ESQUIRE, but it would be a waste to use it in a bedroom or dining room, where its complex texture is likely to be covered up with furniture. Instead, we can create a version that limits the surface carving to the border, leaving the centre plain. This is, in fact, how EVEREST, the sister rug to ESQUIRE, was born.

Everest rug by Topfloor in Aubergine colour

EVEREST

SHAPE

There’s no such thing as ‘one size fits all’ at TOPFLOOR – like a bespoke gown, your rug will be made up to the dimensions you specify. While rectangular still tends to be the default choice, don’t be afraid to venture away from traditional shapes – PEACE from our SCRIPT collection has been made as both a circular area rug and a long runner:

Peace
PEACE

PEACE

And here is ESQUIRE once again, this time presented ‘in the round’:

Esquire rug in circular form

ESQUIRE

MATERIALS

Another consideration is the fibres from which your rug will be made. A design in artsilk or linen would not be the best option for a hallway or garden room, for example, where traffic is likely to be heavy and wet soles a potential issue. Don’t dismiss these designs out of hand, though – come and talk to us! We can discuss the possibility of making them in wool instead – it’s a highly resilient, easy-to-clean fibre that would be a more practical choice for this scenario.

As you look through the extensive archive at TOPFLOOR’s Chelsea Harbour studio, always bear in mind that this flexible, personalised approach applies to every one of our designs. No matter how complicated or unique your brief, we are confident that together we will be able to come up with a design that is perfect for the space and reflects the personality and tastes of your client. To discuss your commission with us, contact us here – we’d love to hear from you.

Interview with Paul Williams of PSW designs

Paul Williams is a London-based interior designer with nearly 30 years’ experience, during which time he has worked on a wide range of projects in the UK and abroad. Known for his meticulous attention to detail, Paul likes to work closely with his clients to ensure that the finished design reflects their personal tastes and preferences. We spoke to him about his successful career, his interests and inspirations, and his recent collaboration with TOPFLOOR’s Esti Barnes.

Paul Williams

1. What (or who) inspired you to become an interior designer?

My upbringing was my inspiration. I travelled a lot as a child – I was born in Germany and lived in the UK, Iran and Malta. I was exposed to a wide range of cultures and architecture styles, and was always fascinated by colour, shape and pattern. My parents also had a great eye, so I was surrounded by beautiful things at home. They encouraged my early interest in interior spaces, involving me in decisions and giving me free rein to pick out fabrics and colours. All of these childhood experiences had a strong influence on me. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide I wanted to work in interior design – it has always been a part of who I am.

2. Can you tell us a little about your career history?

I started working in the 1980s as a junior for a classic design salon on the Kings Road in Chelsea, which, of course, has a long association with fashion and design. I was surrounded by beautiful fabrics, wallpapers and furniture, and worked with people who understood interior design in its purest form, so it was fantastic training. I then moved into retail design, working on small high-end boutiques – perhaps most notably, Tom and Ruth Chapman’s first Matches Fashion store in Wimbledon Village (and, subsequently, their other stores in the village). This was an interesting time – it was highly bespoke work that enabled me to work with a variety of talented tradespeople, all of whom had a strong creative identity. I have since returned to domestic projects; my designs are strongly informed by the personality and lifestyle of each individual client, so I can’t fall back on any format or formula – it makes the job harder but more stimulating!

3. What is the most memorable or unusual project you’ve worked on?

I have worked on lots of interesting projects over the years, but the standout one for me was the MY Rosenkavalier, a beautiful 1920s motor yacht that was refitted in a classic European style. The work took place in Thailand, which made it a particularly memorable project – the soft furnishings, fixtures and fittings were all sent in from London but we used local artisans to carry out the work.

MY Rosenkavalier

MY Rosenkavalier

4. Tell us about your relationship with TOPFLOOR.

It’s always a pleasure to work with Esti – she has a strong aesthetic, and the quality of her products is exceptionally high. My clients feel very comfortable with her – she is always quick to understand what we are trying to achieve, which makes the decision-making and design process a lot more straightforward! Her studio at Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour is a great source of visual inspiration, with a fabulous range of rugs on display. I recently commissioned her to make three contemporary rugs for a fifth-floor apartment overlooking the river in Chelsea, custom made to fit the space. We have just installed them and they look absolutely wonderful – my client is thrilled with the results, as am I.

WOODSCAPE (hand knotted in wool and bamboo)

WOODSCAPE (hand knotted in wool and bamboo)

Labyrinth rug in apartment designed by Paul Williams

LABYRINTH (hand tufted in silk)

Envelope rug in Paul Williams-designed apartment

ENVELOPE (hand tufted in silk)

5. Do you have a preferred TOPFLOOR design?

Personally, I love the simplicity and elegance of Blend Oak from the Flux collection, which is made from alpaca fleece. It has a wonderfully soft, luxurious feel and would suit any setting, from the contemporary to the more traditional. Its versatility makes it a great starting point for a room scheme – very chic and understated.

Rumpled rug close-up

BLEND OAK

6. What are the attributes that make a good interior designer? And what would you say is your strongest skill?

The ability to build strong relationships with one’s clients is an essential attribute. Only by understanding who they are and exactly what they want out of the journey you are undertaking together will you be able to create a design that connects with them on an emotional level.

I would consider my strongest skill to be my ability to visualise. When I walk into a space, I am immediately flooded with ideas. It is not something you can learn – it’s innate. My clients are looking to me for inspiration, so I need to come up with the goods!

7. What is your favourite part of the job?

Finding things! I love sourcing beautiful products that work together, whether it’s the obvious things such as furniture and fabrics, or the smallest details such as a hook for a bath robe.

8. What do you think are the biggest professional challenges you’re facing at the moment?

Technology is something that has somewhat passed me by. I simply don’t want to spend my days in front of a computer – I’ll get someone else to do that for me! I love being out and about, seeing products ‘in the flesh’, spending time in the spaces I’m designing, and building face-to-face relationships with my clients. This personal contact inspires and excites me in a way that the virtual world never will. Building rapport with clients and suppliers is not only enjoyable but also very productive – the vast majority of my business comes via word-of-mouth recommendations.

9. How would you describe the way you live?

I live very simply. My home is what I call ‘Granny’s Cottage’ style! I live in a normal, comfortable way, surrounded by things I love – paintings, books and other items that are important to me. My home reflects the person I am – I’m not interested in living in a super-styled environment. Of course, when it comes to my clients I set all of this aside – every commission is an opportunity to create a unique space that suits the tastes and lifestyle of the client.

sitting room
‘Granny’s Corner’ in Paul’s sitting room!

‘Granny’s Corner’ in Paul’s sitting room!

10. How do you relax after a long week?

If I’m really lucky, I go to the ballet! Otherwise, I visit galleries, spend time in my garden and relax with friends over dinner. Thanks to my job I have met some amazing people over the years, many of whom have become personal friends. They work in creative fields such as fashion, film and dance, so they tend to have an artistic sensibility that chimes with me.

11. If you could take several months off work, what would you do and why?

I would definitely spend the time learning a craft – perhaps weaving or ceramics. I used to help my Granny weave on her large ten-treadle loom, and I studied ceramics when I was a student at college, so these are skills that have always interested me. It’s important to keep oneself busy as one gets older!

12. Any advice you’d like to share with those planning a career in interior design? 

Challenge yourself and never be afraid of doing something new – you’ll learn so much by stepping out of your comfort zone, and you never know what doors it might open. Also, stay positive at all times! There’s no easy route to success, but a can-do attitude and a determination to keep going will get you through the tricky times.

To see examples of Paul’s work or get in touch, visit his website.

Hand-drawn creations: the artistry behind rug design

Rugs sit at a crossroads between art and design. They bring comfort and warmth to a home, but they’re not purely practical; they add a decorative touch to a room, but they’re not only for decoration. A beautiful, handcrafted rug could become an heirloom of the future and, as with a painting, its creation is the result of a focus on form and expression, with a rug’s ‘meaning’ often open to interpretation.

Esti Barnes, founder of TOPFLOOR, often refers to her rugs as ‘art for the floor’. ‘When designing a rug there are many technical considerations that must be taken into account – fibre choice, pile height, knot count, the dying process, cost… the list goes on,’ she explains. ‘To create the right rug for the right clients, all of these practicalities need to be addressed. But it’s the composition itself – its visual impact – that a client falls in love with, and this requires an artist’s touch.’

Esti studied graphic art in her native Istanbul and is a keen art collector with eclectic tastes and interests. ‘I see the world through the eyes of an artist,’ she says. ‘I find inspiration in the mundane as well as the extraordinary and have always been fascinated by colour, texture and composition.’

Colourful photos on Esti's Instagram feed

A few of Esti’s recent Instagram posts

Wherever she goes, whether on a ‘field trip’ abroad or just out and about in London, Esti takes photos of anything that catches her attention. ‘‘The spark that ignites my creativity can come from anywhere – a flower pot, some detailing on a building or the shadow cast by a railing, for example,’ she says. ‘It can get embarrassing when I’m out with friends because I’m always stopping to take pictures! They don’t all become rug designs, of course, but they can serve as inspiration. I save many of them to Instagram, so it is now full of visual prompts that help me with my work.’

The planning of a rug takes a similar route to the planning of a painting. Once the ‘muse’ has been found, the next step is to create a pencil sketch, to which Esti will add colour and texture. Format, size, medium and technique all need to be explored in depth, too. There then follows a sampling process that can take several weeks. Only then can rug production actually begin and the vision become a reality.

Ecosse: original inspiration; pencil sketch; freehand colour drawing

Ecosse: original inspiration; pencil sketch; freehand colour drawing

Ecosse rug in a contemporary setting

Finished design

Eroica: colour specification

Eroica: colour specification

Hand-tufted sample

Hand-tufted sample

Esti’s instincts as an artist are evident when we look at her designs. If the rug is the canvas, TOPFLOOR’s designs cover a wide range of artistic styles, from hand-drawn contours to bold, painterly patterns and abstract compositions.

Roses are red rug

Roses Are Red

Colourful Gloria rug in purples, pinks and reds

Gloria

Colourful, vibrant rug in a London home

Rock ‘N’ Roll

While her rugs work on a purely decorative level, Esti’s understanding of artistic techniques such as colour shading, perspective and the role of positive and negative space add depth to her work.

Ebony and Ivory rug from the Kaleidoscope collection

Ebony and Ivory, Kaleidoscope collection

Rugs have traditionally been a two-dimensional medium but Esti’s innovative 3D collection, which uses her signature surface-carving technique, has a sculptural quality. The different pile heights create a complex surface that invites the onlooker to interact with it.

Esquire Evolution rug in a room with red chair

Esquire Evolution

Other designs show an appreciation of perspective and the clever use of light and shade. Some of Esti’s 2D designs look anything but flat – the trompe-l’oeil effect of Every Stone, for example, creates the impression that the stones are floating, casting shadows on the rug below:

Every Stone rug - close-up of optical illusion of stones floating above rug

Every Stone

And it’s tempting to try to unravel the ribbon-like tangles of Enmesh!

Tangled 'ribbons' of Enmesh rug

Enmesh

Another signature style ‘borrowed’ from painting is colour gradation. The ombré effect, where the colours fade from dark to light, is difficult to achieve on a handmade rug and requires great colour-blending skill.

Eclat rug with subtle colours

Eclat

Esti’s pencil drawing might make Esquisse look relatively straightforward, but its execution required great expertise. As can be seen from the colour tufts below, 18 different yarn shades were used to achieve its subtle fade effect.

Esquisse drawing and finished rug

Esquisse drawing and finished rug

Colour tufts for Esquisse

Colour tufts for Esquisse

TOPFLOOR’s ‘decoupage’ design, Ethereal, is reminiscent of the delicate, intricate work of papercut artists. The lace-like detailing is hand-cut rather than produced using lasers.

topfloor rugs ethereal

Ethereal

It is Esti’s understanding of design combined with her artistic vision that has resulted in her remarkable collection of rugs. Although each design has its own source of inspiration, those who view them can interpret them as they choose – art, after all, means different things to different people. ‘I want my clients to feel inspired by a rug in the same way that they would a beautiful painting. I love it when a client finds his or her own meaning in one of my designs – the best success stories are when there is a genuine emotional connection.’

If you’d like to talk to Esti about a commission, contact her on +44 (0)20 7795 3333 or email  info@topfloorrugs.com to make an appointment at the TOPFLOOR studio at Design Centre, Chelsea Harbour.

 

Making Bespoke Design Accessible for All

Until recently, most people associated ‘Bespoke’ with an eye-watering price tag. After all, aren’t you paying for something which is unique and completely personal to you, and that requires the highest level of expertise from both the designer and the manufacturer? At Topfloor, we want to delight every one of our clients by designing and weaving rugs just as they want them, down to the colour, palette, size, shape and texture.

topfloor-esti-dolores

DOLORES

Nowadays, everyone is interested in owning a rug that has been ‘designed’ for them, without the need for taking out a second mortgage. In response, rather like the fashion houses, we employ a number of ‘diffusion line’ options and techniques in order to make the brand affordable to all.

topfloor-rugs-esti-barnes

Creative Director Esti Barnes at work in her home studio

With over twenty years of working in bespoke rug design, our Creative Director Esti Barnes has acquired a wealth of expertise to help Topfloor make custom creations more accessible.

We contract to weavers in different parts of the world. Since manufacturing costs vary between countries, we can choose those with the right combination of skills, quality and price to suit a particular client brief. Each has their own level of finish, but this means that you can still have a hand-crafted rug without having to resort to a cheaper, machine-made or mass-market rug.

The choice of materials is another area where a small compromise can yield savings. It’s no surprise that asking for metres of silk, or the finest merino wool will come at a cost! Thankfully, nature has provided plenty of excellent options, and on-going yarn development research frequently gives us new materials and techniques to use.

topfloor-rugs-kaleidoscope-brocade

BROCADE

Bamboo is a great alternative to silk because of its natural sheen, and as a bonus is also more durable. The bamboo fibres of our hand-knotted KALEIDOSCOPE collection for instance are virtually indistinguishable from a natural silk alternative. Using some viscose yarn is another option.

We also use the finest quality Tencel, another yarn with its origins in nature, which gives a luxuriously rich pile. Our PLUSH collection is a great example of the softness and sheen that can be achieved with Tencel.

topfloor-rugs-esti-caress

PLUSH

Esti has personally developed several techniques that create a more affordable finished product, while leaving the design almost unchanged.

Ombré and graduated colour effects are one of the signature design features that Topfloor by Esti has become recognised for. While we can create sweeping washes of colour by using a whole spectrum of shades, with some technical know-how it is possible to produce a similar effect with fewer tones, lowering costs.

topfloor-gradient-rugs-esti

ECLAT

topfloor-rugs-ethereal

ENVELOPE

Another signature Topfloor technique is 3D pile sculpting, which Esti has used to create the twice award-winning design ESQUIRE EVOLUTION – awash with geometric mountain peaks – and the floral swirls of ETHEREAL.

topfloor-rugs-esquire-evolution

ESQUIRE EVOLUTION

topfloor-rugs-esti-ethereal

ETHEREAL

Due to their intricate design these rugs can only be sculpted by hand, but we can also use colour contrasts to create stunning flat pile trompe l’oeil versions. Not only more affordable, these rugs are a marvel in themselves for translating 3D detailing into two dimensions with a realism which will make you look twice!

topfloor-rugs-esti-even

EVEN

There are a few other areas where savings can be made. While we normally use airfreight to ensure our rugs reach our customers as quickly as possible, it’s also possible to ship by sea when time is not of the essence. This can make a considerable difference to the overall cost, especially when shipping a larger consignment of rugs.

We also offer discounts for large orders. So if you’re an interior designer working across several projects, it’s worth planning ahead and speaking to us early on, to see if you can benefit from these options.

Brexit may already have had an impact on currencies and exchange rates, but we are highly experienced at minimising any effects on the final cost to the customer.

topfloor-rugs-esti-re-weave

RE-WEAVE

Finally, exploring new avenues of design can present some surprising – and cost-effective – results. We have just launched the RE-WEAVE collection, a collection of rugs and runners that features re-worked, vintage kilims. While using vintage materials gives a new, affordable entry price, Esti applied her creative skills to introduce new colours, patterns and detailing to each design, producing a thoroughly unique collection of one-off pieces.

See more of the RE-WEAVE collection here, or contact us to discuss your ideas for a bespoke rug.

Topfloor by Esti is truly a design-led company so even if your budget is tight, don’t be afraid to ask, we’d love to see if we can make that perfect bespoke rug that is just right for you!