Imprinted with a creative touch

Ruth Fletcher’s home in Halifax reflects her working life as an artist and designer. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Simon Hulme.

Most of the walls in Ruth Fletcher’s home are painted in soft whites and greys but while influenced by the latest trends, the choice wasn’t entirely fashion-led. “It’s a very calm palette and it also enables you to see the art more,” she says.

The sitting room with Ruth's own design cushions on the sofa

The sitting room with Ruth's own design cushions on the sofa

The framed pictures, often grouped together, have been collected over the years and include her own prints. The linen wall hangings are also her own work.

An artist, Ruth combines a career in the greetings card industry with designing and making products for her own brand, Ruth Holly, which has been a big hit with design buffs.

Her rugged, abstract patterns give the illusion of texture and depth and are printed onto paper and fabric to produce collections of stationery and homeware. The designs couldn’t be more different from the work she produces for her day job.

“I enjoy my job but I dropped my managerial role and my salary to give me more time so I could explore and do something for myself. I’ve now filtered it down to this style, which I love. I’m quite shy and I think that comes through in my designs. They are unobvious and natural but I think they have a bold impact,” says Ruth, who has a degree in creative imaging.

Ruth has revamped the kitchen with a new dining table and vintage chairs painted in Annie Sloan chalk paint

Ruth has revamped the kitchen with a new dining table and vintage chairs painted in Annie Sloan chalk paint

A keen photographer, the starting point for her work is often a picture she has taken.

“I take photographs of weathered surfaces, both natural and man-made, and then I’ll play with the colours and the curves. The patterns and palette makes the viewer look a little deeper and they formulate their own response,” she says. “It’s really interesting how people interpret the designs. Some see the sea, others see bark and, in 
reality, it can be something very different. My work is quite hard to categorise but 
it’s been called rustic, coastal and industrial.”

Ruth’s background in the card industry made paper a natural medium so she began by printing her designs on notebooks, notecards, gift wrap and tags.

Fabric was an obvious progression and is proving immensely popular, thanks to its originality. Her linens are available for £65 per metre but Ruth also has them made into lampshades, cushions and wall hangings.

This Ikea shelf is new and is a place to display treasures and kitchenalia

This Ikea shelf is new and is a place to display treasures and kitchenalia

More recently, she has added jewellery and place mats to her growing range of products.

One-off vintage chairs upholstered in her own fabrics are also a speciality and reflect Ruth’s love of pre-loved furniture. It features heavily in her Halifax home, which she bought two years ago after a long and wide search across West Yorkshire.

The main attractions were the proximity to the Skircoat Green area of town and the abundance of space and period features in the mid-terrace property.

“It had a good feel and we got a lot of house for the money. It’s on three floors and has four bedrooms and two cellar rooms,” says Ruth.

Ruth has turned one of the bedrooms into a studio for her creative business

Ruth has turned one of the bedrooms into a studio for her creative business

Although it had been modernised, she has completely redecorated with the help of her mother Sue and father Howard.

The blue and yellow colour scheme was banished and the walls replastered. The floorboards were sanded and stained dark to “give a warmer look”. The drab hallway is now an attractive entrance thanks to Victorian floor tiles that replaced the shabby, sunken doormat and a retro console table that adds character.

The original banister, covered with layers of gloss paint, was painstakingly stripped back to the wood with a heat gun and stained.

“It took forever but I was determined to do it because every time I looked at it, it annoyed me. I think it’s now one of the nicest features in the house,” adds Ruth.

To save money, she left the relatively new kitchen cabinets in and redecorated around them, making the most of the original built-in cupboards and adding a shelf from Ikea above the dining table to create a focal point and storage.

The pine table was a bargain buy from eBay and cost just £50. “Although I didn’t factor the cost of hiring a van to collect it so that was another £50, which bumped the price up,” says Ruth, who compensated by buying a collection of mismatched vintage dining chairs and painting them with Annie Sloan chalk paint.

One of Ruth's wall hangings featuring her trademark textural abstracts

One of Ruth's wall hangings featuring her trademark textural abstracts

“I like vintage and quite a bit of my furniture has come from the Sell it Buy it Centre in Halifax and from eBay, though my dad made my coffee table.”

To brighten up the back wall, she covered it with an enormous map mural. Elsewhere she has prints in frames from Ikea and charity shops.

Upstairs, the four bedrooms were treated to a makeover and some of them were repurposed.

One of the spare bedrooms is now Ruth’s studio and HQ for ruthholly.co.uk – Holly is her middle name. The converted attic has been turned into a second sitting room/snug.

Outside, the small front garden is now a pretty oasis with a raised decked area that has been painted. It features a seating area that looks towards the house.

“I’m pleased I bought this place,” says Ruth. “Doing it up and decorating it is what gave me the idea for doing a homeware collection. I’m not sure I would’ve done it otherwise.”

For stockists and Ruth’s online shop, visit ruthholly.co.uk

* Ruth Holly’s designs are timeless and look set to be perennially popular. They are also a perfect fit for one of the latest interior trends.

Patterns and natural colours found in sea, sky and landscape and presented in abstract form are creeping into interior design and also tie in with the fashion for Hygge, pronounced “hoo-ga”. This Danish import means “living cosily” and it’s a wonderful concept. Think natural materials, real fires, sheepskin rugs, knitted and woven wool blankets, freshly-brewed coffee and candles.

For more details, there is a raft of freshly published books on the subject. One of the best is Hygge by Charlotte Abrahams, £20. It explains the attitude to life that results in Denmark regularly being voted one of the happiest countries in the world.

Ruth's cushions are �50 each www.ruthholly.co.uk

Ruth's cushions are �50 each www.ruthholly.co.uk

Ruth created this raised, decked area, which was painted to create a softer, more fashionable effect

Ruth created this raised, decked area, which was painted to create a softer, more fashionable effect