Paul Simmons and Alistaire McAuley, Timorous Beasties

By Elspeth Pridham
May 21, 2019

The glorious Timorous Beasties showroom is in Islington, a stone’s throw form the main Clerkenwell events. Here Paul Simmons and Alistaire McAuley invite us into their varied and colourful world


When was the business founded, and why?

1990, because we couldn’t sell our designs but thought there was a market for them – so we started our own studio to design and make stuff!

How many staff?

14-18 (some are part time)

Where is it based?

Timorous Beasties is headquartered in Glasgow but also has a trade showroom in London. Excitingly, we have just opened our retail shop next to our London trade showroom which is located in the heart of Islington. We will also be expanding Timorous Beasties overseas, opening our first ever showroom in Berlin this summer.

What is your latest significant achievement of note?

The whole bloody thing is our greatest achievement so far. Straight from college to the studio we have weaved our way through recessions, made the best of ridiculous situations, grown the studio, employed people, had hilarious Burns Nights, opened our own showrooms and made great friends and connections around the world and importantly stuck to our guns by producing designs that we want to and have been able to remain in Glasgow to do it all.

We have been involved in projects that have taken us from the inside of buildings to the outside, tail fins of aeroplanes and biscuit tins, even a couple of gravestones. We have kept the hand print side of our business going in tandem with digital, in fact all the fabrics for the UKSC were hand printed in our studio in Glasgow. Collections with Brintons Carpets, the Royal Opera House, projects with the Welcome Trust and illustrations for book covers and whisky bottles.

Our projects have been ridiculously varied and interesting. We offer our bespoke and timeless designs to the hospitality world, from Claridge’s, The Langham, the Waldorf Astoria to the Four Seasons, Fairmont, Intercontinental and the Hilton, to smaller niche boutique hotel properties such as The Pig and the Zetter Townhouse. We are fortunate that we can apply ourselves to all of these and it still looks right. It is an amazing achievement to be able to do what we want to do, in terms of design, production and business. Being mistaken for Echo and the Bunnymen on a flight to New York is definitely up their too.”

What is your best-selling product?

Our designs sell across a range of different products, so it’s probably easier to judge it per design. Strangely our first designs, such as the Iguana and Thistle, are still in our top five best sellers to this day. Quantity wise, probably our new tea towels.

I’ve just discovered …

Paul Simmons: Jimothy. I’ve always loved hip-hop, but not the hard-core serious gangster stuff – this is mellow, but very funny, a breath of fresh air! PS

Who inspires us…

Design mavericks who do lots of different things, from William Morris (political activist, poet, publisher, writer and manufacturer) to Thomas Heatherwick (bridges, buildings, sculptures) to Piet Hien Eek (furniture, watches and sunglasses).

I’ve always been a fan of…

Paul Simmons: Hub gears on push bikes! All gears contained in a hub, it means that you never have to clean, repair, or get scuffed by the darn things! I’m terrible at fixing anything and as I commute to work on my bike, it’s great – my bike hardly ever needs to be serviced. Result!

My highlight of the last 12 months…

Museo Poldi Pezsoli, a museum in Milan; a preserved medieval house with everything laid out as it would have been in its time, without the objects being hidden under glass cases or lock and key. It is a great contrast to the craziness of the via Monte Napoleone (situated just off it). PS

My next design trip is to…

Copenhagen, because I’ve never been there before! PS