Just a wee plug for this wonderful local interior design business, Workroom Design Studio. Full disclosure, we (my husband and I) hired these talented women to help us design our remodeled 1890's farmhouse in Florence Center, and we couldn't be happier with the results. Thanks to them, the star and pineapple wallpapers below, grace our walls. Local interior designer and upholsterers of Workroom Design Studio, Sally Staub and Hannah Ray, were featured in the Daily Hampshire Gazette this week. Read on for more information.
This is not your mother’s wallpaper
A new business in Florence is helping people design happy homes — with color, pattern and ridiculously great wallpaper
If you’re looking for a dose of happy, just open the door to Workroom Design Studio, a new interior design studio in Florence. If the wallpaper with monkeys holding fuchsia pomegranates doesn’t make you smile, then step into the gallery with cherry red walls and explosively colorful art — and if you still haven’t felt a gentle lift of spirits (are you even awake?!), then amble over to the long table with a giant, 42-inch-wide, red pendant work light above it. That should do it! And that’s the idea — the studio’s owners, Sally Staub and Hannah Ray, are preachers and practitioners of creating joyful spaces. “If people walk in and say, ‘Oh, this feels good, this is a happy space,’ then it’s a happy thing,” said Staub.Joining design dreams
For nearly a decade both women chugged along with their own businesses — Staub ran her interior design company, Sally Staub Design, from her home, and Ray ran Tack Upholstery Studio, often giving interior design advice with her furniture.
But they itched to do more — yet had no employees or extra time. “We were both working our tails off on our own,” said Staub, “and we both had larger visions of what we wanted to be doing.” A mutual friend had introduced them seven years before and they had a friendly relationship, sending each other clients. Then one day last summer they started talking more, and over some margaritas at Homestead in Northampton, they had a “what if we had a design studio?” conversation. “Our aesthetics were lined up, our vision lined up, our energy too,” said Staub. “It was like falling in love — OK, let’s do this!” And, added Ray, “The impressive part was we did it!”
They started looking for a space. They also began merging companies. “We asked each other, ‘How do you spend your days?’ We made lists: ‘When you meet a client what do you do?” said Ray. They also got invaluable help from a local management consultant, Karen Carswell, who said that these days a business plan was less important than a website, which they got in the works. “When you’re working on that one paragraph about who you are — it’s really informative,” said Ray.
Carswell also told them communication was key. “Call each other every single day,” Staub recalls hearing. “Ask: What are your stumbling blocks? Tell each other.”
At first, all this communication was awkward, but: “Now you should see how many times a day we talk,” said Ray. “Our husbands keep asking if we’re leaving them.”
Finally, they found a dreamy space in Florence, entering into an agreement with the landlord. For nine weeks they stockpiled stuff in Staub’s garage: furniture, wallpaper, and art, collaborating on their first big project together—the showroom that would feature Ray’s custom upholstery, the art of local creators, and one of their shared loves: incredible wallpaper. “Wallpaper elevates walls into visually charged places,” said Staub. They had palm paper planned for their space. Then, just before the 2018 holiday season, the landlord bailed, deciding a design shop wasn’t for him. Staub and Ray were devastated. “It was a financial blow and a time blow,” said Staub.
“We were so keyed up and working so hard,” said Ray. They scrambled to return and cancel all the items they could.
But the loss ended up revealing that they could rely on each other in rougher times: “It was great because we held each other up,” said Staub. “When one of us was feeling down emotionally, the other one would rise up.”
A launch pad for interior joy
Then, on January 1st, 2019, a painter friend alerted them to a space in his studio’s building — a full floor across the parking lot from Café Evolution. They started from scratch — scrapping every design idea from the previous space — and got to work, adding drywall, fixing brick walls, re-doing the floors, painting the walls. And of course, they added carefully selected wallpaper — the monkey and more. The studio opened in April. “What’s nice about having the studio is that people can see it in place,” said Staub. “If a client had just seen a sample of the monkeys, they might be like, What is this and why would you put in on a wall? But here they can see impact.” They can also see (and buy) Ray’s upholstered furniture, flip through sample books of fabric and wallpaper, and peruse and purchase art in their Red Light Gallery.
Now they have one employee who helps with the upholsery, and they meet with clients under the giant red light fixture — which matches their company logo. A demi-wall on casters has a presentation board on one side and blue, white-patterned wallpaper on the other — meant to be spun around for a dramatic mood board reveal for clients. They’re working with homeowners locally, in Boston and as far as Washington D.C. using FaceTime to assess faraway spaces. When working with clients, they try to strike a balance between respecting their comfort zones and nudging them into new, more colorful pastures. “I like to push people a little bit, but be respectful. If someone is all neutral and they want to stay all neutral, OK, we’ll do that, of course,” Staub said. “But sometimes we’ll push a little bit and they’ll push back a little bit. And they’ll come back and say — it’s OK to push me.”
Offering a design education
They presented one such client with the idea of adding wallpaper with a pattern of silkscreened clouds to a vaulted stairwell. “Our pitch was: Look, here’s a rather unnoticed, mundane space that you can elevate to a beautiful focal point,” Staub said. But the client said no. “We don’t often pout over things,” said Ray, “but on that one, we were pouting.” Yet a few days later, the client told them, “’I can’t get the clouds out of my head,” said Ray. The client was so gung-ho she asked if they could extend the paper to the ceiling. “That’s exciting for us when we see the happiness,” said Staub.
The designers also feel that they’re educators — a bridge between the sometimes obscure world of design and people who don’t spend their time flipping through wallpaper samples for fun. “A lot of clients will come back and say, ‘Now that we’ve talked about the lights, I went down this road and suddenly see all these beautiful lamps that have those arcs that you showed me that I’d never noticed,’” said Ray. “Our job is to introduce concepts.” They do this in every décor style — from modern to French Country and everything in between.
They design rooms or whole houses or offices. And what they aim to offer is the same dose of happiness that’s in their studio. “It’s good for your emotional wellbeing to be happy in your surroundings. There’s lots of research on that,” Staub said. “We think that color and pattern and contrasting elements create energy, happiness, and all those things are important for our emotional existence.”