Esti Barnes, founder of Topfloor

By Elspeth Pridham
March 12, 2020

Esti Barnes, founder of Topfloor, shares her admiration for beauty and passion

When was the business founded and why?

In 1998, out of necessity to avoid boredom.

Having worked in different sectors all my adult life in Istanbul, I could not imagine life at home doing nothing. I ended up in the rug business by accident. Despite being Turkish and a graphic design graduate, I knew little about rugs and had to learn as I went along.

How many staff?

Three and a lot of contractors whom we have worked with for years and years.

Where is it based?

In London, in the Design Centrem Chelsea Harbour – we have been there from day one.

What is your latest significant achievement or project of note?

A fabulous New England home outside Boston and a delightful client who walked in and asked me if I could make an ottoman with an antique Persian kilim design she had fallen in love with as a cover.

She also added that everyone else had declined the job.

I love challenging projects where we can realise the client’s dream. We ended up making the kilim, the ottoman and a number of pashmina and alpaca rugs. She was so thrilled that she sent me a very sweet (hand-written) thank you note.

What is your favourite possession?

A ring that I bought with the proceeds of my first big rug sale in London. It is a timeless design by Lina Fanurakis, a Greek designer based in Athens.

Apart from that, the artwork at home, some of which are by my tutors at the art school I graduated from in Istanbul. They are very precious to me and were acquired from different parts of the world.

I’ve just discovered… 

An iconic textile designer Sheila Hicks. I read about her exhibition at Santiago’s Museum of Pre-Colombian Art. What a wonderful coincidence for a fellow textile lover to see this just as we were about to land in Chile for our Christmas holiday.

Her work is unimaginably beautiful and I was so lucky to find this in a small but charming museum amidst the graffiti and street protests of Santiago.

Who inspires me…

It is a difficult one as I have so many sources of inspiration. Mariano Fortuny is my first choice.

A Spanish fashion designer who lived and worked in Paris and in Palazzo Fortuny in Venice, he was well-known for his very thinly pleated silk and velvet textiles and especially for his iconic ‘Delphos’ gown, a baggy gown weighted down by glass beads.

He was also a lighting engineer, architect, inventor and a set designer. Having pushed the boundaries of fashion design with his unique sense of style, he is a truly inspirational role model for me.

I’ve always been a fan of…

Beauty and passion! I can’t keep my eyes off beautiful things and even beautiful people.

As a child, I always sought out the most glamorous of my parents’ friends. Passion goes with beauty, because together they drive creativity and progress.

My highlight of the last 12 months…

Our latest trip at Christmas to South America. I love the whole continent for its energy, music, colours and contrasts.

This time we took a tour to the very high points of the Andes, the wine country and the southern-most city in the world: the breath-taking Ushuaia as well as to Buenos Aires which has always been one of my favourite cities in the world.

My next design trip is to… 

Paris on business. Whilst there we will see clients and go to Left Bank galleries for inspiration.

The Charlotte Perriand at Fondation Louise Vuitton is high on my list. As a shoe aficionado, another one I don’t want to miss is “Marche et Démarche, Une Histoire de la Chaussure” at  Musee des Arts Decoratifs.

Last but not least, as I love Oceanic and African art I always visit the Musee de Quai Branly. I hope I will have time for all of them.