Launched out of a passion for colour, line, expression, nature, interior design, living-space, freedom and just making people happy – Kim West took the leap in turning her flourishing hobby into a business – West by Design. The artisan always had a fascination in bringing a blank canvas to life through enticing and beautiful wallpaper designs. We had the chance to sit down with Kim who dished everything about her hand-painted creations, unique collections and future plans for the brand.
Kim, how did you discover your initial interest for painting?
I’d always been very arty as a child and discovered my love of painting at college, where we were always encouraged to move out of our comfort zone. Following college, I moved onto full time work whilst studying OU Interior Design, and with my career moving into marketing, I lost track of painting. It wasn’t until a rainy evening a couple of winters ago that I dusted off my paints. I had a few very poor quality brushes, but that didn’t matter at the time – I quickly found myself getting lost in painting each evening after work, focusing on the fossils and feathers I’d collected from the local area, where I’m surrounded by moorland, beaches and forests – it’s such a beautiful and inspiring landscape.
When did you decide to pursue this interest and turn it into a business?
Once I’d completed a few pieces, I began to wonder how they would look on a wall, and whether I could ever see them being developed into wallpaper. I really was feeling my way along in the dark, researching and talking to printers, learning as much as I could about the industry - there were definitely a few mistakes along the way! Once I had worked up an idea of how I wanted the first collection to look, I took the plunge, took out some business finance to fund the first batch of printing and my website, and it went from there. Every day I’m learning something new, and technology is constantly evolving, giving me new mediums and ideas to play with.
How would you describe your design aesthetics?
I think ‘rustic-luxe’ probably best describes my style. I paint to capture the texture and the character of my subject, rather than focusing on creating a fully realistic copy. North Yorkshire is the main inspiration for the collection, from subject to palette, and with that comes a certain wildness, which I try to capture. Each design is worked up to include what I call a heritage colour background – reflecting the rich textures of the local landscape. To add a luxury finish, the designs are printed on a beautiful paper with a smooth, almost fabric-like feel.
Any particular reason you chose to focus on wall coverings? What importance do you think wall coverings have in interiors?
I’m such a fan of wallpaper, and have always loved how a bland or unwelcoming space can be transformed so quickly. Wallpaper smooths imperfections, creates a mood and brings with it different textures and light reactions. I love to see length after length of new wallpaper going up, and I really loved the prospect of seeing my paintings and designs in repeat like that. Wall coverings are so important within interior design - the range of patterns and textures is unrivalled - it can fully change a space.
You live in North Yorkshire and that’s where your first collection was born – how did the surroundings influence your designs?
Anyone who has visited North Yorkshire will appreciate the magnificence of the area. From the heather-capped moortops full of rambling sheep to ancient woodland to the Jurassic coastline, there’s so many beautiful areas, and I feel so lucky to have grown up here – every time I leave the area, even just for a day, I always feel recharged when I return and see the hills welcoming me! I spent my childhood summer holidays paddling in streams and walking through the woods to the beach, so I think Yorkshire is ingrained in me – and I think that ruggedness comes through in my work.
How do you incorporate sustainable practices?
There’s so many stories in the news at the moment about sustainability in production. From carbon emissions to plastic use, it seems that customers are beginning to demand more sustainable products. As a nature lover through-and-through, I wanted to make sure that any business I ran has a minimal impact on the environment. A few small steps include using recycled content boxes to ship my products, and moving from plastic-based parcel tape to paper tape. In bigger steps, all of my wallpapers are printed on FSC certified stock, which means that the paper sourced is sustainably managed and trees replanted and replaced. My next hurdle to tackle is to replace the plastic shrink wrap with another option, such as paper.
What has been the biggest challenge and biggest reward in starting your own business?
I think there have been two main challenges for me – firstly, running my business whilst working full-time in another profession. I often say I have two different hats! By day, I’m a Marketing Manager for an innovative new plastic recycling technology that is emerging onto the market this year. By night, I’m a creative who longs to spend her days painting wallpaper designs in a little studio! Trying to juggle the two, from attending West by Design meetings during the day to keeping the two businesses separate in my mind, to overcoming those wide-awake-thinking nights, has been one of the biggest challenges. I’d often feel guilty if I had an evening off or spent a Sunday afternoon watching films, when I felt I should be working! That brings me to my second challenge, which is balancing my mental health. It’s always hard, having a creative dream, and a destination in mind – there’s a lot to handle between starting, and being in a place where you feel you’re making progress. I initially put so much pressure on myself, and I was finding in the middle of 2019 I was reaching burn-out. I’m making an effort now to find a much more balanced view, and I’m a lot more relaxed!
In terms of the biggest reward, hands down it’s seeing images of something you’ve created in someone’s home! It’s always such a thrill to get a new sale, and to see where your designs end up – from residential bedrooms and living rooms to restaurants and hotels!
Can you tell us about any exciting collections or projects coming up in 2020 for West by Design?
I have just launched the first wallpaper in the Nursery Collection, which has been well received. I wanted to test the water with a slightly different style of design, yet still keeping the hand-painted elements. I’m going to be working on some complimentary wallpapers to go with those soon, alongside looking at a completely new collection!