Tim Rouse and Anastasia Phillips of Rouse Phillips each come from creative families and beautiful childhood homes, so their interest in furnishings started early. Anastasia is a graduate of COFA, and Tim of UTS – they studied Printmaking and Visual Communications respectively. It was ultimately a serendipitous meeting in a pub, and a subsequent trip to India, that inspired their burgeoning business.
Through the support of the City of Sydney’s Creative Spaces program, Tim and Anastasia have now opened a beautiful showroom and studio on Darlinghurst’s Oxford Street, offering a range of fabrics, rugs, cushions and napery, all hand designed by the pair using cut paper, pen, ink and watercolour. It’s a gorgeous, tactile, space which perfectly reflects their eclectic design aesthetic.
Currently, Tim and Anastasia are working on expanding their range to include porcelain tableware – they’ll soon be releasing a collection of patterned dinner plates, bowls, serving platters and side plates to complement their soft furnishings.
Rouse Phillips textiles and homewares can be purchased directly from their Darlinghurst showroom or their online store.
76 Oxford Street
Tell us a little about your backgrounds – what did you study and what path led you to what you are doing today?
After school I (Anastasia) went straight to COFA and studied a bachelor of Fine Arts majoring in printmaking. After uni I worked as a colourist for a few Sydney paint and printing companies, which in hindsight was great experience. I had vague ideas of what I wanted to do as a career, and was always drawn to design textiles.
Tim moved to Sydney in 1997, and worked as an animator before going to study Visual Communications at UTS. It was here that he started experimenting with textile design and creating textile repeats. Tim’s family comes from New Zealand and his grandfather was a textile representative, and the first person to carry Liberty fabrics in Wellington! It was in his genes.
When we met in a pub through a friend. Tim was about to leave Sydney for six months to go to India and research for a business very similar to what we are doing today. Plans fell through with his business partner, and after three months he invited me to join him, and we spent three incredible months travelling South India. It was such an experience and a privilege to be able to just explore part of a country for a period of time – the best time I could have imagined.
We came home and took jobs but quickly realised what we really wanted was to pursue our dream – designing original textiles for home wares. We went back to India the following year and attended a trade fair.
After a few months we were told about an initiative through the City of Sydney where studio spaces were being offered to creative businesses. We applied and were given a space, which we stayed in for two years. We were then offered an unoccupied shopfront on Oxford Street as our first showroom. Having this showroom/studio has changed the business completely – it has been a great step in the right direction!
How would your describe your design aesthetic?
A lot of people comment on how our work has a nostalgic quality to it. I think this is because we try to ensure our fabrics have a timeless and classic feel to them. As we both design, it allows our work to be varied and not ever resigned to one style, although we are often drawn to a particular colour palette. We take a lot of inspiration from the past, from classic design and technique.
History, different countries and art movements influence our aesthetic without focusing on trends. I particularly love the art and design of the Bloomsbury Group, Byzantine art, Moorish design and Bauhaus woven textiles.
How do you physically create your fabric designs? What materials and methods do you use?
We hand design everything. We cut out paper into silhouettes, we use pen and ink, watercolour. Our designs come about quite freely and intuitively. Tim might have been sitting up all night until 3am creating a beautiful series of designs, just from playing around in his free time.
Many designs happen by accident or without too much calculated thought. We usually have a number of designs that we are working on at the same time. Some designs might not go into production until a year or two later.
What does a typical day for you usually involve?
I wake up at about 7.30, check any emails that have come through overnight from our US clients, feed our fish, have breakfast and get ready for the day. We then open the shop at 10.30am. First thing we respond to emails and prepare sample requests from the day before. Usually we spend the rest of the morning speaking to our curtain makers / seamstress, and cutting our fabric.
In the afternoon we tend to sit down and work on new designs. At lunch we go to Don Dons next door, unless we’ve brought something from home. We leave work at around 6.30. One of us does the cooking at home, and then I like to do nothing for the rest of the night, I usually read or do something to take my mind off the day, Tim often just keeps on working!
Can you list for us 5 specific resources across any media you tune in to regularly?
1. The World of Interiors is the one magazine we constantly refer to and purchase monthly. We have quite a large collection, now spanning back over the last few years.
2. We have a large collection of decorating books that we love to read over and over. I find these to be particularly engrossing and inspiring, Nicky Haslam’s Folly de Grandeur and The Elle Book of Decorating are old favourites. I buy older decorating books on eBay or at book sales and find these to be the most interesting as they are often far more elaborate and extravagant!
4. Going overseas when we can. We have spent a lot of time in India and this has influenced us so much as a result – especially in terms of our use of colour, our manufacturing methods, our knowledge of the industry (and what we eat!). Also, we have representatives overseas, so even checking in with them and realizing that as much as we think we are similar in terms of taste and trends, the designs that our overseas clients select are very different from our clients in Sydney / Melbourne / Brisbane etc – it creates a shift in thinking and takes us away from our current point of view.
5. We regularly go to markets and antique shops in Sydney and The Blue Mountains. The further out of Sydney the better! We both love looking for interesting bits and pieces for our home. Decorating our home really is like an extension of our work.
Which other local artists / designers / creative people do you admire?
What has been a career highlight for you so far?
Creating a collection of textiles that is now sold internationally.
What would be your dream creative project or collaboration?
Being commissioned to provide the textiles for a huge public space, like the Opera House!
What are you looking forward to?
The future, we are entering what feel like a new stage in the business and things are becoming interesting! Also, we are getting married!
Your favourite Sydney neighbourhood and why?
We love where we live in Sydney by the water. Anywhere in Sydney by the water is a good place to be!
What and where was the last great meal you ate in Sydney?
Dinner at Cipri in Paddington, we went for my birthday.
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
At home in our lounge room, or at the beach if we get up early enough, then we go to work.
Sydney’s best kept secret?
The second hand shop on Queen Street.