Meet the Makers behind Sarah + Ruby Design Studio
Meet Sarah and Ruby.
They hand-paint wallpaper, but not just any wallpaper. They’re the creators behind US-based Sarah + Ruby Design Studio, a domino-style sheet wallpaper studio. Unlike mainstream wallpaper, which is produced in rolls, Sarah + Ruby Design Studio’s hand-painted wallpaper is made in sheets (also called panels or dominoes).
Inspired by artisan traditions, including block printing, needlepoint, embroidery, marbling and weaving, they use a centuries-old paste paper technique to give their wallpaper organic dimension and texture. When they discovered paste paper, they knew it was the perfect methodology for their modern, textural and highly organic aesthetic.
Sarah and Ruby met in 2012 at a textile design course and launched their current wallpaper line in 2018.
What makes Sarah + Ruby Design Studio special?
Sarah + Ruby Design Studio’s wallpapers are unique in two key ways: their sheet format and the paste paper process. And, like almost everything Sarah and Ruby do, both are inspired by artisan tradition. Sarah and Ruby say, ‘we’ve turned a little-known historical process into something with a fabulous textural and modern aesthetic’.
Centuries ago, before wallpaper was manufactured by the roll, it was produced as handcrafted single sheets, sometimes referred to as dominoes. Sarah + Ruby Design Studio has embraced the sheet format because it provides enormous flexibility for contemporary installations. Much like tiles, layout options for wallpaper sheets abound.
Sarah + Ruby Design Studio’s paste paper painting technique comes from a tradition similar to that of marbled paper, historically used for creating the beautiful endpapers often found in antique books. Sarah and Ruby’s process is the opposite of most painting techniques, which involve placing paint in desired locations to create motifs. Instead, they cover a whole area with paint and then move or remove paint using everyday objects like combs and credit cards. Their ‘paint’ is made from a clear, non-toxic methyl cellulose paste tinted with acrylic paint – hence the name ‘paste paper’.
Sarah and Ruby love to get their hands dirty, and to ensure that every sheet of wallpaper gets their personal attention to detail, they hand paint every sheet themselves. Because each sheet is individually painted, they all have unique character displaying the nuances and irregularities that are inherent in the process (and that we here at Style Rev love!). The result is a wallpaper that has a wonderful dynamic visual texture.
Focus on sustainability
Environmental consciousness is at the heart of everything Sarah + Ruby Design Studio does. One of the reasons they favour the wallpaper sheet format is because, unlike wallpaper rolls, it allows clients to order only exactly what they need, so waste is reduced. All of their papers are made to order, so they keep waste to a minimum by not carrying inventory. They also produce as little wastewater as they can – in a busy week, it might be between 10 and 20 litres – and they treat it to remove almost all paint solids before disposing of it. They’re always looking for other ways to be more sustainable, too, including ordering their supplies from local companies to reduce their carbon footprint and reusing everything they can.”
Here at Style Rev, we are all about embracing a handmade product’s natural beauty and its imperfections. Sarah and Ruby are on the same page, telling us, ‘our wallpaper is intentionally designed to create visual texture, to embrace imperfections, and to not repeat. Even if we tried, we could not create two sheets that are exactly the same, and that is important to us. Any machine can create perfect motifs and repeats, but why is that interesting or exciting? A lot of times, the perfection is just static and staid. You notice it for a while, and then you don’t. And when there is no human connection, how much do you value it? Think about it – when someone makes something for you, how likely are you to throw it away? We all need human connection. And we all want to be inspired by our surroundings.
When our product is installed, the result is always interesting – all of the variation encourages your eye to move and explore. The visual texture and movement often make you want to reach out and touch it. And the imperfections, while keeping the overall install dynamic, are a reminder that someone made it with great care.’
When asked what their dream job would be, Sarah and Ruby say, ‘Pretty much all of our jobs are dream jobs. The fact that people respond to our papers and want to put them in their homes is the dream come true.’
You can browse Sarah + Ruby Design Studio’s hand-painted wallpaper sheet range here.