Founded in Glasgow in 1990, Timorous Beasties – AKA Alistair McAuley and Paul Simmons – are best known for their contemporary wallpapers and textiles; from toile to damask, they’ve challenged perceptions of historical patterns and turned twee on its head transforming outdated prints into witty, inspired and relevant design. At the forefront of the wallpaper renaissance, they’ve shaped interiors for over 20 years, and have collaborated with quality carpet weavers Brintons on a brand new collection of rugs.
When did you realise you wanted to work in design?
At art school 1984 -88. Doing the foundation course at the Glasgow School of Art you are taught a bit of everything and although drawing and painting is really important on its own we preferred the notion of a practical application and the unique way that design forces creativity.
Who or what helped you shape your sense of style?
Our tutors Barbara Santos Shaw and Chuck Mitchel at Glasgow School of Art helped develop our sense of individuality and the existing textile market was so clichéd and dull that we had no other choice but to create our own.
What was the first piece you ever designed?
When we first set up the studio we were actually doing design work for lots of different companies, which was financially ok but didn’t help us get our own product to market.
How do you complement each other in the design process?
We both have similar attitude to what we liked and why we liked it. We were both weak in business as we had virtually no experience so it was more about how we supported each other, realizing strengths and weaknesses is a strong foundation for development. We learned steadily and realizing that our end goal was the same we could take up each other’s slack as it was and is a partnership.
Your designs often mix the historical with the unexpected, where do your ideas come from?
Ideas come from everywhere and out of nowhere, though we both respect the history of textiles and the craftsmanship which has remained throughout. So I suppose that could attribute historic look; When you are learning you look at the past to help shape the future and edit elements that work or not, introducing a contemporary twist stops the work from being archival.
Tell us about your collaboration with Brintons, how did it come about, what makes it such a good match?
One of their designers, Dipesh Haria, saw us at a trade show and recommended us to the Design Team, headed by John Bain. After a couple of visits to the studio (and a few painkillers) we felt that we could work well together, sharing a common interest in what we valued in design and aspired to in quality.
You were one of the first brands to bring wallpapers back into vogue, do you think carpets are next?
Rugs are already massively fashionable, but have the advantage of being mobile as well, wall to wall is just a confidence thing, it’s a big statement.
Describe your studio….
Good fun, interesting, noisy, well organized, and freezing in the winter.
If you could go back in time to any era, which would it be?
The 80’s, there was a lot of wrongs that I would like to right.
Do you collect anything?
I don’t, I hate clutter but Paul is addicted to auctions.
What have you got on your wish list at the moment?
A holiday and more storage.
As well as designing, we’re also good at…
Eating and drinking.