Harry Barker with Friends & Family
Barkers Interiors was founded in 1908 by Harry Barker. Prior to setting up his own business, Harry was employed as an upholder by Captain Brassey of Cottesbrook Hall in Northamptonshire where his duties involved overseeing any repair & maintenance work . He made slip covers for the chairs & covers for the chandeliers to protect the furnishings during Captain Brasseys months of absence spent hunting in Ireland.
Harry and Grandson, John
In the early 1900s it was customary for the gentry to bring skilled craftsmen over from the continent to carry out delicate repairs to the wooden panelling within their country houses. Harry watched with interest as these craftsmen repaired the wood and then painted & dragged it to match the existing panelling. Convinced that he could do the same, Harry was permitted to try out this skill and with great success so much so that he became sought after for decorating work and specialist paint finishes in many of the surrounding Country Houses.
When he met his wife, a Leicestershire lady, he moved to Syston and there founded a small decorating business, Barkers Interiors. A lovely story is told of Harry who always wore his bowler hat when carrying out any decorating work – if the hat became paint spattered he simply repainted it black again!
His two sons Jack and Donald followed in his footsteps joining the family business and learning the many painting skills passed on by their father. Their reputation for excellent work spread quickly and they continued to decorate large Country Homes throughout central England and in the prestigious London homes of their owners.
Jack Barker & wife
Barkers Interiors by the 1950s were now employing a team of decorators and offering apprenticeships to young school leavers many at that time aged only 14. Their days were long as were their overalls there being only one adult size available to buy in the immediate post war period!
Jacks wife, Francis, took charge of looking after these young decorators altering their overalls to fit and letting down the big turn ups in their trousers as they grew in stature!
The family purchased a property at the corner of Lexham Street and The Melton Road in Leicester and converted it in to a shop from which they could now sell their paint and decorating supplies. They produced and sold their own paint range.
John Barker at Lexham Street
John Barker with Van
As the business expanded, a further shop was opened in The Parade at Oadby.
Jack’s son, John Barker, joined the family business to work full time following a period of teaching at Coventry Art College.
This proved to be a revolutionary period as Monica , his wife, introduced the sale and making up of fabrics into curtains to the business. As the business grew a purpose built workroom was built to the rear of a further shop premises in Birstall enabling space for larger cutting tables and several more machines.
The original shop premises at Lexham Street was eventually closed as further shops were opened in Loughborough and surrounding Leicestershire and Rutland towns.
By the mid 1980s John & Monica Barker made the decision to relocate the entire business to Woodhouse Eaves – bringing together the workroom and showroom and affording easier access for clients away from the busy town centres.
John & Monica Barker with Granddaughter
They expanded the business further to supply a full interior design service for residential interiors. Many of you will remember at this time the delightful Barkers Vintage van used to deliver curtains and soft furnishings to clients.
Delivery Van At Woodhouse Eaves
Monica Barker and Staff
Full interior design service
In 1989,their daughter, Sarah Barker, rejoined the family business and continues today to offer a top quality residential Interior Design service from what is now an Aladdins Cave of fabrics, wallcoverings, soft furnishings and accessories.
Homes are redesigned across Leicestershire and the surrounding counties and work often extends to clients second homes across England and also to their contemporary London flats. For those clients visiting from further afield bed & breakfast accommodation is now offered in a luxury self-contained cottage adjoining the showroom www.curtaincottage.co.uk.
From a London base, Sarah’s brother, Jonathan Barker also offers a commercial interior design service www.hotelcreations.biz
A big thank you to my parents and grandparents for helping to establish a business which I am now very proud to run and extremely grateful for the enormous amount of knowledge that has been handed down and taught through the generations. A big thank you also to our ever expanding and loyal customer base for continuing to infuse my passion for interiors.