When Romy and Ilya hire new team members, they ask them many questions.
This time they switched places and got cross-examined by their team, that soon discovered the most striking difference between the two: Romy likes to talk, Ilya not as much…
Jantien (art director): How did the two of you meet?
Romy: We met through a mutual friend in 1990, when I was studying in Moscow. At the time Russians were not allowed in the student hotel, unless registered beforehand and leaving behind their passport when visiting… Ilya however always found ways around the concierge and the guards in the 20-floor building. Since there were no phones, he used to show up unexpectedly. He was very energetic and proactive. One evening he came around at 10 pm and proposed: ‘Let’s take the night train to Petersburg (still Leningrad back then)’ – and so we did.
In the 9 months I lived in Moscow we had so many adventures together. We went to the Black Sea, to the former prisoner’s colony on the Solovki-islands, me travelling illegally with a Russian passport of a friend… When I left Russia, I invited Ilya to come over to Amsterdam and we had a really good time together again. When he left for Moscow, I proposed to him at the railway station, as the only way for us to be together was to get married for Ilya to receive a visa. Et voila, look at us 33 years later!
Ilya: ‘Romy was the red hair girl with headphones. I fell for her the moment I saw her.’
Maria (store manager): How do you maintain a marriage when you are also running a business together?
Romy: ‘It is a job! After 33 years as a romantic couple and 18 years together in Studio ROOF I can look back and see we went through many different phases. We started our business when the children were still small. At the same time, we moved from Amsterdam to the south of France. A new business, children, a new country and language, I really don’t know how we managed it, (big laugh) but we did, clearly.
Ilya and I both are hard workers. We do not give up easily when the weather gets rough, business wise and relationship wise. Most importantly is to give each other enough space, but of course that is easier now that the children have grown up.’ Ilya: ‘I consider my family the same way as I do my company. You must put your energy into it, you must make it work. A positive attitude and the confidence that everything will be fine is also important.’
Jantien: Romy, what does Ilya bring to the company, according to you?
Romy: ‘Ilya to me is nature, earth and strength. He thinks in 3D and always out of the box. He is also an associative thinker and therefore sometimes hard to follow, but that’s the way surprising things happen. I love the way he interprets nature and translates it into design. Very elegantly while keeping its strength. I love how he is at ease in nature in general. I see Ilya more as an artist of life than as a product designer and he is also a very hard worker who gets things done.’
Ilya, what are Romy’s strengths?
Ilya: ‘Well, just pay attention to our team when she enters the room. Omg!... At Studio ROOF everyone is glad to see ‘the boss’. This good-looking lady brings fresh air and a good mood. She has a positive approach and is a great good decision maker. She gets to the point immediately and knows how to prioritize things. When it comes to the designs, she is the storyteller and the color expert. Voila!’
Camilla (designer): What are your personal highlights in Studio ROOF’s existence?
Romy: ‘The launch of our first product 18 years ago: a white cardboard playhouse for children. It attracted a lot of attention immediately and it made me realize that we have many more ideas that might be worth developing.
Another important moment was when we were able to free ourselves from some investors, in 2014. Their approach was so different from ours. As stressful as it was at the time, it was a huge lesson for us. It made us realize that we need to stay close to ourselves, whatever happens. Ilya and I like to joke that this was our own private Elite Business School experience. Since then, I feel lucky everyday to work with nice people that are like an extended family and create and sell beautiful objects that are authentic and reflect who we are.’
Ilya: ‘The most important moments to me are moments of recognition, when effort becomes visual, that my energy input has been meaningful.’
Maria: What is your absolute favorite Studio ROOF design?
Romy: ‘I can’t choose honestly. All designs are dear to me, because if I don’t believe in a design, we do not add it to our collection. I always love the newest designs, because they are so fresh. All designs have their own merits. One of the older designs I am very fond of is the Tree of Life. It is no longer part of our collection, but 10 years ago it was an incredibly important product for us. We won prizes with it, and it gave us a lot of exposure all over the world. I also love the Lobster. It has been on display in our kitchen for many years, but I never get tired of it. And I am in love with Atelier Toit, our new playground in which we take the liberty to freely play with colors and shapes without commercial constraints.’ Ilya: ‘My all-time favorite is the Tree of Life, that’s for sure. It is classic. Right now, I am working on a new tree for the upcoming collection. It will be very different from the original one, but I am looking forward to creating a new classic.
Anael (marketing manager): You often do collabs with other brands. Which one are you most proud of?
Romy: ‘Of course, here I need to mention our collab with Hermès petit h. It was a great honor to be invited to design some pieces for this extraordinary label. We have designed many beautiful pieces. One of my favorites was the Bear. Ilya: ‘I am also proud of our pieces for Hermès petit h. The Fawn is my favorite.’
Anaël: How do you picture the next 10 years for Studio ROOF?
Romy: ‘I am not into long-term visions and business plans. Though we always need to make smart decisions and keep a healthy balance between business and passion, our current circumstances enable us to do and create what we love. I would really like to keep doing that. We have just launched our own brand store in the centre of Amsterdam and I feel so lucky that after 18 years we can show our universe to anyone passing by.. Our playground Atelier Toit gives us the freedom to experiment with objects that are on the cutting edge of design and art and are on show in the store as well. We are also incorporating Studio ROOF and Atelier Toit in an actual space in the south of France, a space where people from the fields of design, art, philosophy and yoga can meet and exchange ideas.’
Monika (artist designer): What is the secret to becoming a successful artist/company?
Romy: ‘Stay close to yourself, work hard, dare to take risks, be smart, but also
generous if you can, be authentic.’
Ilya: ‘Essential to me is to question yourself constantly. Where are you going? What
are you doing? That can be scary, but it is necessary to stay focused.’
Anaël: Which artists do you admire the most?
Romy: ‘There are many, but the ones I’d like to mention feel close, also because we
have works from them. Ulrike Rehm*, to begin with, is a dear friend and the creator of
many objects, such as the ceramic beetles for the label of Thomas Eyck. I also love
the work by Frank Visser, aka IJM. He is an art director, stylist and artist. His use of
colors is overwhelmingly inspiring! And finally there is our friend Elisabeth Vidal, a
designer and ceramist. When Studio ROOF had a collaboration with her, we were
impressed by her approach. We own a few of her ceramic vases that I am very fond
Ilya: ‘My all-time favorite artists are the painter Mark Rothko, sculptor Louise
Bourgeois and composer Johann Sebastian Bach.’
Lorna (designer): Which artist/designer would you love to work with?
Romy: ‘I would like to do a collab with Floris Hovers. I love him both for his design
and his personality. We would both love to do a project together, but we didn’t define
Maria: Which design item would you like to have?
Romy: ‘At this moment I am a little obsessed with the Finnish artist/designer couple
Salakauppa. I recently bought some of their works. They are so inspirational and
engaging, its visual language feels very familiar to me. I am also a big fan of Ronan
Bouroullec’s art. I love his ceramic collages. They are rather expensive, so for now I
stay with his prints.
Lorna: What visual element excites you the most artistically?
Romy: ‘Only one word is possible: COLORS.’
Anaël: What is your little daily pleasure?
Romy: ‘Mmm… I allow myself more than one little daily pleasure. A cappuccino after
yoga, chocolate in the evening while watching some Netflix series or a documentary
with my youngest daughter.
Ilya: ‘I have a coffee before my daily run.’
Mathilde (sales manager): What are your go-to countries if you need to
Romy: France and Italy. But I also like to travel to unknown, unexpected places. We
have plans to make a trip to Algeria but also to Albania and Scotland. The best trip
we ever made was to Kyrgyzstan. That was overwhelming, such a different world!
Ilya: ‘The south of France is my number one. But countries like Morocco or
Kyrgyzstan also do a good job recharging my batteries.’
Camilla: Where do you always find inspiration?
Romy: ‘Our home in the South of France. The landscape is overwhelming. Hills,
rivers, mountains on the horizon….’
Ilya: ‘La Libellule, my little shed in the South of France'
Camilla: What are your favorite books?
Romy: I recently read Crossroads by Jonathan Franzen. I loved it, his depiction of a
certain time frame (the seventies, when I grew up in) is awesome.’
Ilya: ‘At the moment I am reading ‘Serotonin’ by Michel Houellebecq. It helps to
Lorna: What kind of meals do you enjoy most?
Romy: ‘Anything North African, Lebanese, Ottolenghi-oriented. Love it all!’
Monika: If you run into the magical genius one day, what would you wish for?
Romy: ‘I would ask him to become the God, Allah, Buddha, Guru, or whatever it is we
wish to believe in, and make everything GOOD.’
Ilya: ‘I would ask him for my own Golden Fish.’