Colour highlights from Barber & Osgerby

In the design world, Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby are (officially) International Big Wigs. If you don’t know them by their furniture, then you might know them for their design of the London Olympic Torch in 2012 and a new book by author Jana Scholze has been released this September to celebrate their many works. Published by Phaidon, it’s called simply, Barber Osgerby, Projects.

The pair set up their studio after graduating from London’s Royal College of Art in 1996 and have had a prolific 20 year partnership creating furniture and lighting designs, often working to special commission or creating unique site specific installations.  Their clients include B&B Italia, The Rug Company, Flos, Hermès, Knoll and Vitra, among many others and they are known for their understanding of manufacturing processes as well as artistic flair. Their pieces appear in many permanent collections including the V&A Museum in London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I interviewed Jay back in 2002 when the practice was a baby (and both designers were beard-free) and he told me, “there is no one trend, country or movement I find exclusively inspiring. I draw inspiration from many things from the form of a paperclip to the wig of an aeroplane.” An ethos we can now confidently say is a winning one. Ahead of the book release about the studio, we’ve been rifling through standout colour moments in the duo’s career, shown here alongside the dates of their creation.

 2016 – Puzzle tiles for Mutina

The duo created eight different colour options for this collection of tiles, naming each one after a European island – split into Northern neutrals of Faroe, Gotland, Aland, Anglesey and Skye –  and warmer Mediterranean Islands of Creta, Milos and Murano.

2015 – Pilot Chair for Knoll

Ergonomic, stylish and comfortable – something that you can’t say about many office chairs. We like this piece because the hot orange colour is utterly winning and the blocky shape gives the desk chair a much needed shake up.

2008 – Iris table for Established & Sons

A limited edition table designed for a pop up gallery, Iris table was made from anodising machining metal, and its overriding appeal comes from its colour composition. With the help of an assistant, Laetitia de Allegri, hundreds of anodized colour chips were arranged in various spectrums but the duo point out that “no colour theory was used, just intuition.”

2007 – Skye fabric for Bute

Barber and Osgerby spent time in the archives of Scotland’s Bute fabrics on the isle of Bute, before coming up with a stripe that features two contrasting colours next to each other in a finely striped cord – when viewed from a distance, they mix into a third colour.

2010 – Umbrella stand for Magis

Could the umbrella stand be the most British homewares product ever? This one was designed for an Italian brand and can accommodate both large and small brollys. Probably for the person who has everything, but nice anyway.

2003 – sofa for Knoll

The Paul Smith suit of sofas – the idea that you can have something very minimalist and neutral with just a tiny nod to colour is never disappointing. With Sir Paul it’s the inner lining of a suit. With Barber & Osgerby it’s the addition of colourful legs poking out beneath an all-white sofa. See also, the classic navy version.

2009 – Peacock rug for The Rug Company

Designed to appeal to children, this is just one of a collection designed for The Rug Company in one of our favourite colour combinations.

You can order the book here.

Header Image:

Jill Macnair


Jill Macnair has worked as an interiors journalist for 13 years, contributing to titles including Elle Decoration, The Sunday Times and The Guardian. She set up cult interiors blog My Friend’s House in 2009 with Ros Anderson and continues to run the forum daily.

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