In the studio – De kartonnerie

For ‘Smudge & Blur’ I got to know the friendly face behind “De kartonnerie, bespoke cardboard product design”: Sabrine den Os. I visited her in her work studio at home in The Hague and captured her on film while she practised her craft! We then sat down for a cosy chat, whilst we drank tea and nibbled on some Dutch ‘speculaas’ (a very tasty typically Dutch biscuit). A while ago I had given her an assignment to make two portfolio boxes and a few USB-stick boxes with linen in a lovely blue colour for my photography business, and I was really wowed by the result. I sent an USB-stick box to one of my clients and she loved it so much that she had some made too, although for a different purpose.

Sabrine den Os lives with her husband Edwin and their two sons Bruno and Caspar in The Hague. Sabrine followed the course ‘Boekhandel en uitgeverij’ (Bookstore and publishing) in Amsterdam. Apart from her work for De kartonnerie she also works in a publishing house as an editor and production employee.

She is always busy with something and finds it difficult to sit still! She describes herself as creative, enthusiastic and an optimist, but also a perfectionist. She’s a team player, but she doesn’t mind being alone. She loves to listen to the radio (80s and 90s hits!) and to read magazines about interiors and design. You can often find her in a thrift shop. She only wears blue! She prefers lunch to dinner and enjoys a good cappuccino with a slice of carrot cake.

She is a benefactor of Stichting Handboekbinden (Foundation of Hand Binding) ( and friend of Museum Meermanno ( in The Hague.

When did you start De kartonnerie and more importantly, why? Why did you choose to start your own company and why product design using cardboard?

“I started De kartonnerie in 2003. I always wanted to do something creative, but I spent a long time searching for what kind of creativity, until I went to a ‘box making’ workshop. Since then I have been designing and making boxes, books and other cardboard products by hand. In my studio at home I design all the products myself: my own designs and bespoke products. I love a cardboard challenge, so I like it when clients have their own ideas. We’ll discuss these and then I’ll see if it’s possible, technically. These assignments are the most fun!”

You’re an artisan, can you explain what this means and why you chose to work this way?

The base of my products is cardboard sheets. I cut this cardboard to size and then assemble it. I then cover the products with bookbinders linen and personalise them with printed text or foil printing. In this way I can design everything myself and I’m not limited by a standard size. This means that every product is unique and original and completely handmade!

You also approach your work in a sustainable way; or in other words, you care about the environment. How do you go about this and why is it important to you?

“I work with FSC certified cardboard and paper, bookbinders linen made from natural fibres, water based glue and I try to recycle as much waste and packages as possible. I also separate the paper waste. I feel it’s important to contribute to the environment in a positive way with my company and not to overburden it. I also buy a lot of products from Dutch suppliers in order to support them.”

I hope you enjoy this glimpse into Sabrine’s work studio. I’m very grateful to her for allowing me to pay her a visit and the opportunity to combine our crafts in this way, by letting me ‘make’ film images of her while she was making one of her beautiful boxes!

For more info, visit

Sabrine is also on Instagram: follow @dekartonnerie


This is the beautiful finished result: