Q&A with Alistair Mcauley and Paul Simmons, Timorous Beasties

We sit down with the designers that created the fun and cheeky brand that is Timorous Beasties and talk inspiration and growing trends.

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Timorous Beasties was established in Glasgow in 1990 by Alistair Mcauley and Paul Simmons, who met studying textile design at Glasgow School of Art. Today, the studio is a diverse operation and has emerged as a multi award winning international acclaimed company.

Why the name Timorous Beasties?

The name was derived from the Robert Burns poem, “To A Mouse”

Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie,

O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!

It fitted with the work we do so we added an S as there are two of us, it sounded vaguely Scottish but did not define us a purely fabrics and wallpapers. Plus the words just look great and we are the antithesis of ‘timorous’!

Timorous Beasties 6Timorous Beasties are well known for their bold prints, and humour, what inspires your designs?

History, challenging and combining  old and new technology, challenging perceptions of what is considered to be acceptable textile imagery, having fun, exploring new surfaces, being able to broaden the scope of how to use pattern and being able to be experimental. To be honest, we are inspired by anything and everything, can’t remember who said it but there is a quote….

’most things when you look at them long enough are pretty inspirational’

This month we are focussing on pattern and texture, what do you feel are going to be the big trends for 2016?

Scale, detail and intricacy. However we don’t pay any attention to trends as it dates pattern and we prefer to create design that is both challenging and classic but always timeless. We have often been told we are trend setters – we don’t set out to be – but it seems to happen!
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What has been your favourite project and why?

It’s too difficult to highlight a favourite as each project brings with it a learning curve peppered with highs and lows. Our projects are varied and always demand different approaches. We like working with unusual and challenging materials that teach us new things and expand our knowledge.

With all the market sectors coming closer together in terms of design, have you seen an increase in demand for Timorous Beasties in new sectors?

We are involved in many different sectors and which is constantly growing with the more we are seen to do. Our work involves dealing with a variety of clients, from the interior designer to architect or the end user. Hotels, restaurants & bars, public buildings to book covers and packaging to bespoke commissioned artwork are all part of the day to day briefs we receive. We hold our core business of fabrics and wallpapers very close, but our style and brand is transferable into many different areas. Timorous Beasties is possibly one of the few companies who, while having a firm foundation in one sector, can transfer easily into many others in different areas.



About Alys Bryan

Alys is a knowledgeable design editor who is focused on instigating conversations, both online and in-person, with industry experts which challenge, educate and advance the commercial interior sector. Her training and 15 years of professional experience as a furniture designer for the commercial sector makes her uniquely placed to lead Design Insider as Editor
View all posts by Alys Bryan →


  • Brenda

    Thanks for the sneak peek! Wish I could go – I’ve gone to the IDS in Toronto a few times and it definitely gets your citaerve juices flowing! Sarah Richardson is one of my faves – her style is so down-to-earth and never gets stale – she’d be a great guest speaker. Love the patchwork! 🙂

  • Carole Langston (nee Attewell)

    Dear Alistair
    Am I right in thinking your mothers maiden name was Pat Moore and your grandparents were Beatrice (Beat) and Jack Moore who lived in Chelmsford Essex?Auntie Beat was my father and uncles elder sister – Stanley Attewell and Uncle Bill (William)..My cousin and myself are currently piecing together our Attewell family history and visiting Guernsey next week to meet with some of them. One uncle and his wife still alive in their ninetees.

    It would be lovely to hear from you if you are related and wish to hear about our past members of the family. I have kept a magazine which featured you and your work from many years ago.

    Best regards Carole