The Aesthete: Barnaby Barford talks more personal taste

The artist concludes his list of likes with the understated style of Mark Cavendish, Hoxton’s art shops and Highland park whisky

Barnaby Barford at home in London
Barnaby Barford at home in London | Image: Rick Pushinsky

My style icon is Mark Cavendish, the road racing cyclist. He’s one of my heroes and always looks very smart and understated. I’d quite like to look like that if I weren’t covered in paint the whole time.

Kiyomizu-dera Temple in cherry blossom season, Kyoto, Japan
Kiyomizu-dera Temple in cherry blossom season, Kyoto, Japan | Image: Getty Images

The best books I’ve read in the past year are George Monbiot’s Out of the Wreckage, Arlie Russell Hochschild’s Strangers in Their Own Land and Pankaj Mishra’s Age of Anger. I’ve been exploring the perceived lack of happiness in major western democracies, the breakdown in community and the damage that competition and individualism are having on society, and these books have been instrumental in providing answers as to why we find ourselves in this position.


If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose Hoxton in London. I have recently started painting, and Atlantis Art Supplies and AP Fitzpatrick are the most wonderful treasure troves of art supplies. Carl Clerkin’s shop All Lovely Stuff sells very simple, elegant and fun wooden products, and the Book Art Book Shop is a wonderful place that celebrates the neverending debate about artists’ books. A full English at E Pellicci is a must too: it’s a proper café that’s been serving full English breakfasts since 1900. All Lovely Stuff, 5 Sunbury Workshops, Swanfield Street ( AP Fitzpatrick, 142 Cambridge Heath Road (020-7790 0884; Atlantis Art Supplies, Unit 1/Unit 7 Bayford Street Industrial Centre (020-7377 8855; Book Art Book Shop, 17 Pitfield Street (020-7608 1333; E Pellicci, 332 Bethnal Green Road (020-7739 4873;

Professional road racing cyclist Mark Cavendish
Professional road racing cyclist Mark Cavendish | Image: Mike Marsland/WireImage

The best gift I’ve given recently was an Islabike Beinn 20, for my eldest son’s sixth birthday. These bikes are extremely well made with the right size components so that they’re easy to ride – which hopefully means he’ll love being out on his. From £390;

12-year-old Highland Park Viking Honour whisky, £35
12-year-old Highland Park Viking Honour whisky, £35

And the best one I’ve received recently is an upcoming trip to Japan. It was a present from my wife for my 40th birthday and we’re planning to go soon. I want to cycle through the hills around Kyoto, visit the temples at Shikoku and see the art island Naoshima.

Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis by George Monbiot
Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis by George Monbiot

The last meal that truly impressed me was at Orford Saloon, a tapas bar and deli in Walthamstow. The food was simple but completely delicious. We ate so many different dishes, including boquerones, [marinated white anchovies], lentejas con chorizo and, my favourite, the perfectly seasoned pulpo a la Gallega [octopus with potatoes and paprika]. There were 35 of us, and sharing dishes meant that we could swap seats and chat with everyone. 32-34 Orford Road, London E17 (020-8503 6542;


My favourite room in my house is the sitting room. There’s an open fire, no television and the dark-blue walls are covered in drawings, paintings and books. It’s a haven for looking, reading, thinking – and enjoying a glass or two of sweet, smoky 12-year-old Highland Park Viking Honour whisky. £35;

The last music I downloaded was the album DJ Haus in the House by Defected Records. It’s a brilliant mix of house music.

The person I rely on for personal grooming is me. When my hair’s too long, I go to the nearest barber. It’s a hit-and-miss method, but mistakes grow out pretty quickly.

An indulgence I would never forgo is dinner with my family; it is a precious time when we share stories of the day. On Saturdays, we listen to Gilles Peterson and Craig Charles’s Funk and Soul show on Radio 6 Music, so there’s some kitchen dancing too.

If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be a chef. Cooking for other people is one of life’s great pleasures.

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