North & Nether

Unique Creations by Luxury Wallpaper Brand North & Nether

Bringing bold, vibrant and luxury wallpaper to the market is Mara Nieuwsma, the creative genius behind North & Nether. In a recent chat with Nicole Wood, she shares the secrets to her artistic creations…

Nestled within the serene landscapes of North Yorkshire, Mara, the visionary force behind the luxury wallpaper brand North & Nether, pours her creativity into crafting designs that redefine the essence of home aesthetics.

“So obviously I’m American,” Mara laughs, pointing out her distinctive accent as we begin our conversation.

Before setting roots in North Yorkshire with her husband, Mara grew up on the other side of the pond in Minnesota, which blended into a decade-long immersion in the historical city of Oxford and later here, in our wonderful region.

Her journey into the realm of bespoke wallpaper design is as diverse and captivating as her creations.

“I fell in love with North Yorkshire. My now husband was living in the area and I think it only took one or two trips of me coming up here to go ‘Oh, yeah, obviously. Obviously, I’d rather be up north’ it’s such a beautiful place and I’ve fallen in love with my new home,” she smiles.

Holding an art degree and a career steeped in scientific and technical markets, Mara’s longing for artistic expression birthed North & Nether.

“I’ve always been a creative soul. Crafting, painting, photography – I explored it all. Yet, in my corporate roles, that artistic soul felt restrained,” she admits.

Her transition from corporate marketing to creating luxury wallpaper designs was an evolution spurred by a quest for creative fulfilment and identifying a crucial gap in the market.

“There was an opportunity to do something a bit more unique in the wallpaper market,” she recalls.

North & Nether – Beyond the Ordinary

North & Nether

Armed with an art degree and an inherent creative streak fostered since childhood, Mara embarked on a mission to infuse the market with designs that went beyond the ordinary.

“When I was on the hunt for unique wallpapers for our new house, I noticed a lot of stuff on the market was the same. I couldn’t quite find what I was looking for and noticed there was a gap in the market. I felt compelled to use it as an opportunity to create something unique, to infuse a distinctiveness, leveraging digital printing to explore and push the boundaries,” she explains.

Mara’s muse? North Yorkshire’s natural landscapes and a knack for spotting beauty in the most unexpected corners. Nature plays a pivotal role in her creative process.

“A lot of my inspiration comes from my surroundings. I spend a lot of time outdoors, I do a lot of hiking and observe the intricate details of nature and I blend that with vintage prints, hand-drawn motifs, and digital media,” she says.

What sets North & Nether apart is Mara’s eclectic approach to design curation.

“My collections amalgamate diverse styles – some curated, others crafted from vintage elements or hand-drawn from scratch. The ‘artist’s eye’ in me discerns beauty in unexpected places.

“I’ve always loved old homes and antiques, and I often find motifs and concepts from the past that I draw from. I often talk about the ‘artist’s eye’ and how it can discover intrigue in the most unusual of places – a fallen pine cone, a derelict building, a broken eggshell or a withering bloom.

The Inspiration Behind

North & Nether

The repurposing of found illustrations and objects, coupled with the inspiration of bygone eras and faraway lands, is at the heart of my designs. Far from the ordinary, I believe subtlety and garishness can coexist to create something both traditional and modern,” she adds.

“I never know when I start out what is going to be the thing that ties the collection together. Sometimes it’s colour, sometimes it’s a concept. So for example, my Caged Bird collection, that started with a bird print I liked the look of and then as I built it, I found that there were all of these sort of teal elements throughout different things.

So I started using that as a base colour. But then I came up with this idea: caged bird, and each of the designs has a different sort of thematic element of a cage. So whether it’s a literal cage or, for example, in the pigeon print, there’s a band on the bird’s legs like they’re being trapped.

“There’s always some sort of little element throughout it. And I just never know which way it’s going to go. But I love that creative freedom,” she adds.

Beyond the creative sphere, Mara finds solace in nature and globetrotting, drawing inspiration from diverse cultures, with her latest collection, Alpine Nightfall, paying homage to Switzerland.

“Travelling enriches my designs. It’s an infusion of cultures and landscapes that breathes life into my creations and I like the challenge of figuring out how I can make it work.

“My latest collection, Alpine Nightfall, is inspired by Switzerland, which is actually where my sister lives. So I’ve spent quite a lot of time in Switzerland and she said, you should do a wallpaper collection. So that was sort of in tribute to her,” she tells me.

Sustainability

North & Nether

The diversity isn’t limited to her design process but extends to her release schedule.

“I’m perhaps overly ambitious, releasing six collections per year with five distinct themes and styles in each. It grants me the freedom to explore contrasts, from soft florals to edgy, dark tones,” Mara laughs.

Her design journey primarily traverses the digital landscape, utilising tools like Procreate and Illustrator.

“Quality is paramount, from material selection to printing. European-sourced materials and UK-based printing ensure vibrancy in colours. The focus remains on bold hues that retain their brilliance, creating a visual feast for homes,” Mara elaborates, her dedication to quality palpable.

Her devotion extends beyond creativity, and sustainability is integral to Mara’s ethos, with a made-to-order approach minimising environmental impact.

“We print on demand to avoid wastage, ensuring wallpapers find their homes without burdening the planet unnecessarily,” she emphasises.

Addressing the hesitancy surrounding wallpaper, Mara encourages experimentation.

“I think there’s this fear that people are afraid to hate wallpaper so avoid taking the risk of putting it up. But the quality is much more improved these days and it goes on and comes off much easier, especially when investing in a high quality product.

“Overcoming the fear of embracing unconventional designs is a hurdle. But I encourage people to take the leap, explore samples, and envision the potential within their spaces. It’s about embracing change and finding beauty in uniqueness.

“A lot of commercial environments offer the ‘same, same’ sort of products and I feel like I offer something quite unique and different. Which again, some people can be quite fearful of.

North & Nether – Custom Designs

North & Nether

“But what I like about it is that there’s something for everybody and there’s a real sense of beauty in that. I think the advice I’d give to someone scared to take the plunge is to order samples, put them on the wall and just stare at it for a while.

“I think if you still love it after looking at it for a week, you’re probably going to love it for a few years and that’s really the only length of time you need to worry about it, because beyond that you’ll likely be redecorating,” she explains.

For those who love North & Nether’s designs but haven’t quite found ‘the one’, Mara is open to custom designs.

“I’ve had conversations with people who are looking for something specific and I’m like, hey, you want flamingos, I can make you flamingos,” she laughs.

“Tell me what you want and I am open to custom orders. There are times where people love what I do but don’t see the thing that speaks to them and I can help with that.

“I think one of the things which is slightly different about my collections is everything only comes in one colour way and I’ve done that quite intentionally. I feel like sometimes products come in so many different colour variations that people just get a little bit lost because there’s too much choice.

“And I work in a process where the colours are chosen for a very specific reason because that’s what I want to put out into the world. That being said, if somebody loves something and says this is great, but you know, it’s in green and I like it in blue, because it’s all done on demand, I can do that as well,” she adds.

The Joy of Creativity

North & Nether

Navigating the entrepreneurial landscape, Mara acknowledges the challenges.

“The transition from a steady paycheck to owning a business amid economic shifts has been testing. However, the joy of creativity outweighs the hurdles,” she admits.

Mara’s resilience and unwavering commitment to her craft have steered North & Nether through these trials.

Looking ahead, Mara envisions transcending the traditional retail experience. Her dream of a show house, a curated blend of wallpapers, art, interior items, antiques, and curated merchandise, aims to provide a tangible vision for potential buyers, facilitating their creative journey.

Mara’s North & Nether is more than wallpaper; it’s a harmonious fusion of artistry, diversity, and personalised luxury that transcends conventional decor, inviting you to embark on a journey of distinctive self-expression within your space.

With a blossoming business underway, we can’t wait to see what’s next for North & Nether.

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