We interviewed Esti Barnes, owner and designer at Topfloor, a contemporary rug company. Read on to find out more about her early days studying Graphic Design in Istanbul and how this led to owning a business. She talks about her interest in creating beautiful rugs, her life as a designer and advice for potential designers.
Where did the idea come from to create a contemporary rug company?
It was pure chance. When I moved to London from Istanbul, having closed down my showroom, I started to look for exciting projects with strong design aspects to keep me busy. I came across a company with a collection of rugs that they had commissioned, ready to go on the market but no one was in charge. I jumped at the opportunity and offered them my services as a sales agent, not knowing anything about the Interior Design market in the UK and rugs. As I got more and more into it, I saw that it might become something very interesting. 9 months later, I set up Topfloor and started the journey.
Where did you learn your talent for designing?
I attended the College of Applied Arts in Istanbul and studied Graphic Design. Rug design is very similar to Graphic design but it has an additional dimension of texture, which makes it even more interesting. I am passionate about texture so this was an ideal combination.
How did you immerse yourself in the design industry? What route did you take?
Topfloor was born in Chelsea Harbour Design Centre and therefore, even though it was not as busy then, it was still THE Design Centre in London. I met the main players and contributed to their projects by making beautiful rugs, that were specially designed and tailor made for them. I participated in the main UK interior design shows. The awards I started to win also helped.
What inspires your designs for rugs?
Pretty much anything!
When did you win your first design award?
It was in 2000 at Decorex, when the Countess of Wessex presented me with the award for the ‘Best Product’ for one of our rugs. You can imagine what that means to a new-comer and a starter of a new business.
What does a normal day in the life of a designer include?
I am not a typical Designer, in that I also run the business. Designing has been my night time job, although now I’ve started to take time off as much as I can and work from home, where my design studio is located. Having said that, I have been heavily involved in The Script Collection in the past 2 years and there was no time for anything else other than these. I will start now as I am full of new ideas that are dying to get out.
However, there are uses here in the showroom for me as a designer, when I am needed to discuss projects with clients – sometimes on site. There is a lot of collaboration in this process and my contribution in finding and applying the most suitable rugs into the right interiors is essential.
Do you have any advice for others who’d like to become designers?
Designing is very complicated and multi-facetted, especially developing concepts from scratch. It’s easier to say but much harder in practice- that the important thing is to develop your own style. That’s the only way to stand out from the crowd.