Barbed: 10 years of love for contemporary outdoor furniture

Barbed: 10 years of love for contemporary outdoor furniture

Can you remember what you were doing 10 years ago? Some people may remember January 2005 for the landing of the Huygens probe on Titan (one of Saturn's moons), but what we remember at Barbed is a bit of stress and a lot of joy for the opening of our very own showroom in Barnes, in the Greater London area. You’ll know a bit about our brand already if you've read the blog we wrote following our rebranding, but now our Director and founder, Graham Sterry, tells you more about Barbed and how the showroom came to life, in an exclusive interview:

Why choose Barnes to set up your business?

My wife Annie and I love Barnes – we actually live here too. The town is close enough to London to enjoy everything that the capital has to offer, such as exhibitions at the Serpentine Gallery or the Barbican Centre, and yet it is far enough away to be nice and quiet as well. It’s also a very friendly neighbourhood, and people tend to have gardens in the area, so it makes sense to offer our outdoor products in this location.

Barbed Barnes Showroom 2005

What was the building used for before becoming a repository for modern garden furniture and artwork?

Originally, the showroom was a bus garage for the old Charabancs, until the Sixties, before becoming a book depository for Socio-economic books which supplied universities all over the world; it then became a bus garage again, this time for Bus 209. We quite like the history of the building and the variety of its uses, as we feel it gives the building a special feel and personality. Somehow, we’ve managed to keep this tradition of change going, as our collections and exhibitions vary very regularly – even the one feature of ours that has remained constant since 2010, the Fermob shop-in-shop, is still revamped periodically.

Barbed Barnes Showroom 2206

What manufacturers did you start with, in 2005?

We started with manufacturers we still work with, who were already – and still remain –contemporary and cutting-edge: Spanish manufacturer Gandia Blasco, Belgian designer Mathias Claerhout, and Belgian outdoor furniture company Extremis. With time, we added more global talents to our collections, from Danish Cane-Line and French Fermob, to Italian manufacturers EMU and Serralunga.

Plants at the Barbed Barbes Showroom 2009

Was artwork present from the beginning?

Yes, the basic idea and principle of Barbed, which is to mix gorgeous outdoor furniture with contemporary artwork and designs, has been there from the start. We exhibited a few artists, some of which we still work with today, such as Ruth Moilliet, whose outdoor sculptures are made primarily of stainless steel and are directly inspired by nature, and Yasemen Hussein, whose inspiration comes from mythology and the Italian renaissance, and who works wonders with concrete and metal.

In the first years of Barbed, in the autumn, we also used to convert the showroom into a gallery for large installation art, which is how Yasemen Hussein did her third solo exhibition, for instance.

Artwork at the Barbed Barnes Showroom 2006

Have the past 10 years been as you expected?

You can never guess what the future holds, so when we started we didn’t really know what to expect, despite our having a business plan and previous experiences in various domains. The macro-economic environment we’ve had these past 10 years was quite difficult to manage and the retail world is a fickle one, but we’re proud to say we came through! In 10 years it’s incredible how much we’ve learnt, with a market place that changes almost on a daily basis. I’d say overall it’s been tough but rewarding and enjoyable, since I must admit we do like a challenge!

The famous Barbed Fishtank!

What do you see for the next 10 years?


We hope to build on our success and still be here in 10 years! I believe the outdoor furniture market will continue to expand in the future as people will increasingly want to use their outdoor space as an extension of their homes. In terms of looks and design, I see the colour palettes being inspired by fashion trends, a year or two later. I’m looking forward to seeing new materials be used to design garden furniture, and new products, of course!

16th January 2015

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