Following their magical wallpaper collaboration, Vanessa Barneby reveals what it's like to work with Willow and shares her summer essentials.
This summer Willow Crossley and Vanessa and Alice of Barneby Gates celebrated the launch of their wallpaper and fabric collaboration with a glorious lunch at Daylesford Farm. This magical collection features two designs - Botanica is a romantic, wispy floral and Maharani a bolder, Indian, block print inspired creation.
Everything Barneby Gates makes is hand-drawn, designed and proudly printed in England, matching Willow’s locally sourced and seasonal approach to floristry. We caught up with Vanessa Barneby to find out more about the designs, what it's like working with Willow and what she's coveting this summer.
How long have you all been friends for?
Willow and I met before either of us had children. She’d just moved to France and I went out there to stay for a few days with Willow’s sister-in-Law, Amanda. We had a wild time, and have been friends ever since.
How did this collaboration come about and how was it working with such a good friend?
As we all know, Willow has always been obsessed with interiors and wallpaper – one only needs to walk inside her house to see that! I think what started off as a light-hearted comment about doing a wallpaper together gradually became a really obvious next step for us all.
Alice and I are so used to working together, just the two of us, and throwing a third person into the mix was a great thing – it’s important to occasionally step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself.
Willow seems very laid back, but when it comes to opinions and taste she’s very determined and headstrong and knows exactly what she wants and I respect that enormously. Despite this, working with Willow has been wonderfully harmonious and we’ve all enjoyed the process hugely.
Could you tell us a bit more about the designs and what inspired them?
Willow has a very natural way with flowers with a leaning towards the wild and seasonal, and we wanted to depict this in Botanica which was inspired by Mary Delaney’s incredible botanical collages. She also has a deep love for the block printed aesthetic and the colours of India and was keen to explore this in the second design, which resulted in Maharani.
Was it a very collaborative design process or did you all have separate defined roles? As a floral designer did Willow bring a different vision to the table?
Willow had some wonderful ideas and references, and she’s also incredibly good with colour. We obviously knew we were going to be doing florals, but Willow also wanted an Indian block print inspired design. She introduced us to the magical world of Mary Delaney, whose beautiful botanical collages inspired our ‘Botanica’ design.
Willow is full of creative ideas and our job was to translate them into something that would work as a wallpaper. It was a learning curve for Willow too, understanding the different printing processes – not only the different looks one can achieve with them but also the limitations of traditional printing.
There’s a certain amount of trust that goes into the process too, because it’s not until you’ve signed the designs off and paid for the rollers to be cut, and you see those first colour samples up on the wall that you really see all the elements come together – by which time it’s too late to turn back!
Did any ideas or designs end up in the bin?!
Actually our first design was a Geranium, and we got quite far with it before Willow decided it was too ‘grannyish’ and we had to bin it! That was quite a hard hit for Alice who’d been beavering away at it for some weeks, but within a couple of months Cole & Son released an unbelievably similar Geranium wallpaper and we were all very relieved we’d gone in another direction!
How did you decide on which colours to use for each design? Was it easy to narrow down?
It was really hard actually! We asked anyone and everyone – as many creative friends as we possibly could gave their opinion. We generally only do two colours per design when we first launch a paper, so it really was hard to hone it down to two.
Willow Crossley X Barneby Gates Maharani in L: Jaipur Blue and R: Rajasthani Plaster
Do you get a lot of inspiration for your work from the countryside and nature and is this something you perhaps have in common with Willow?
Yes, Alice and I have done many designs inspired by our rural surroundings – Honey Bees, Wild Meadow, Poppy Fields, The English Robin – the list goes on! So although the designs we’ve done with Willow probably stand out as being a little different in style to our others, the theme is very much in line with what inspires us on a daily basis.
What were your highlights from the Willow Crossley X Barneby Gates launch lunch at Daylesford Farm?
It was just SO wonderful to have a LIVE event! To meet up with real people, face to face after all this time. Willow and I put together a dream guest list of all the people we particularly admire in the interiors and gardening world and we were so delighted that so many of them were able to come.
What has kept you sane during this pandemic?
Being able to carry on working has been the most important thing for me. Of course, there were times when I was trying to home-school at the same time and that was a bit of a nightmare, but without my work I think I’d go a bit mad.
And Willow being part of the team last year really helped me a lot too! We were all working from home and frantically juggling home schooling and work, and generally trying to stay on top of everything – but my regular facetimes with Willow honestly kept me grounded. As we all know from her videos, she’s a very calming presence. I think we all need regular check-ins with Willow to keep us sane!
What are your favourite summer meals?
I’m English, so it’s obviously Strawberries and cream.
What’s your go to summer uniform at the moment?
What would be your dream holiday right now?
The one I have coming up, two weeks in Tuscany. It’s been so long coming that until I’m actually there, it remains but a dream!
Any reading recommends?
I’ve just started reading Stoner by John Williams – it’s a book that’s been recommended by so many people, but with all the distractions of daily life at the moment it’s taking some getting into – so I can’t wait to take it on holiday and get properly stuck into it by the pool.
What are your summer essentials?
Finally we have to ask - what are your favourite summer flowers?
Dahlia season is my absolute favourite!
With thanks to Lady Carole Bamford and the team at Daylesford Farm for hosting the Willow Crossley X Barneby Gates launch lunch. Special thanks also to Anna Scott for her amazing organising and to Jez Taylor for the fantastic tour of the cutting and market garden.
The images of the Willow Crossley X Barneby Gates lunch at Daylesford Farm are © Oliver Blackwell Photography.