The Magic of Play

An interview with Romy Boesveldt

Studio Roof has been creating colourful, decorative products for 15 years, inspiring creatives of all ages. I caught up with co-founder Romy to discover how the magic began.

Your designs are so imaginative and beautifully made, you must have a background as an artist?

"No, I'm a graduate in Russian literature and studied in both Amsterdam & Moscow. It's where I met my husband, Ilya, who is an architect. I have a strong attachment to Russia."

'Run through the forests, gallop through the fields. Set your imagination free and play!'

We were all artists as children, and Romy and Ilya grew up in modest families during the 1970s where art resources were very much homemade.

"I was quite poor, and my husband Ilya grew up in Soviet Russian, so we were not used to having things. We found ways of creating our own stuff. My father would make me wooden houses, which I would paint. I'd make things from tin cans and invent things as I played.It's important for everybody at every age to stay open to a new way of seeing things. Children have a natural openness for new things; they don't judge. They just get stuck in. It's important to remain open to seeing things around you in a different way. Not to get stuck in a pattern, this is why I love art and nature. They help you to do that."

Creating through play is still an essential part of Studio Roof's ethos, and it's at the very root of the evolution of the business. Like most of the best brands, their company came from the heart, by doing things they love, well.

"We didn't start with an idea for a brand, a concept. Our success was organic. We made a really big cardboard house for the children, which they helped paint. It inspired us to launch our first product, and it was a tremendous success. Initially, people thought, why should I pay for a house made of cardboard, but editors & stylists loved it, and we thought, we have 1000s of unusual ideas like this."

Following lots of interest at interiors fairs, they started to experiment with slotted toys and crazy patterns.

"We would lay the projects on the floor, and when the kids came home from school, we would watch the kids playing with it. It was a fun and interactive project.We learnt a lot along the way, like what we like personally and what works for the market. Although I have to stand behind every design, it has to reflect the values of my daily life. Our Influences come from all places - Dutch, Russian, French, mixing all cultures. We go with our own flow."

Studio Roof designs are full of the beauty and magic of nature. Is it a vital source of inspiration for you?

"For many years we have stayed in a Mazet in France. Like a hut used by chestnut farmers who worked the chestnut plantations. There is no electricity, running water or shower and an outside loo. It's Important to step back from everyday city life where we are always connected. See the dark nights and animals. It's refreshing and inspirational."

Studio Roof are not only inspired by nature, they actively work to reduce the impact their company has on the planet. All of their products are made with recycled materials, printed with vegetable inks and are fully recyclable. They avoid air travel wherever possible, but when they must, they offset their carbon emissions by planting trees above and beyond the ones they grow for their product range.

In 2017, Studio Roof's designs and sustainable credentials attracted the attention of Hermes.

"It was a great honour for us to be chosen by the Hermes' founder's great granddaughter. We were invited to create some unique pieces for Hermes' Petit h. It fills us with great pride to be part of this group."

Petit h is a project that invites artists, designers and artisans to create unique objects from materials other Hermes metiers have not used - a practice they call 'creation in reverse.' Studio Roof created the Mountain Sheep and the Baby Bear and some of their creations were exhibited in Paris and Hermès' flagship store on Madison Avenue in New York.

Caring for the environment is obviously important to Romy and Ilya, but it's not simply about flora and fauna. Studio Roof cares for people too and is committed to causes that challenge inequality. In 2016, Romy was introduced to the NGO Karm Marg, based in Faridabad, Delhi and has continued to support the initiative as a way of "giving back." Romy and Ilya have also created a loving, harmonious workplace, an essential aspect of their company.

"It is still a family business, and we are very close to everyone in our team. We are proud to do it in a way that feels honest. It's a luxury to do it with people we love and care about. We are blessed."

What's next for Studio Roof?

"When Covid broke out, we were terrified. Everything stopped, trade fairs were cancelled. We had primarily been a wholesale business, and we shifted our business to the individual customer, and that really took off. People like the fact that we are affordable, sustainable and fun."

Fifteen years on, and Romy and Ilya are still full of thousands of ideas. From the wilds of their mountainous retreat in Cessenon near the Pyrenees, a new art line, Atelier Tout, is being hatched. Unique, grown up wooden art pieces painted by hand. They will also be extending their range of birds, butterflies and beetles and launching a range of paper flower wreaths that can be accessorised with creatures - everything you need to make your own mini habitats at home.

You don't have to be super crafty to enjoy the beautiful plants and creatures by Studio Roof. Construction is child's play, and you can never be too old to join in the fun. You can't beat a bright, pink lobster in the kitchen or a beetle in the bathroom knowing that not one single creature was harmed in the process.

I'd like to thank Romy for chatting with me, and for sharing the story of a truly magical brand.

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Writer Michelle Porter
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