Putting a new spin on traditional motifs, Kimberly Lewis's wallpapers are fresh and fun. In a city like New York, where personal style is often coveted for being tonal and tailored, one's interior decoration preference is anything but! Holding a degree in Industrial Design, Kimberly creates innovative designs featuring detailed geometric patterns that skew feminine and flirty. Her products are socially and environmentally conscious, and are manufactured by highly skilled Northeast craftsmen. While living in Brooklyn over the past decade, Kimberly has found inspiration in both the bustle of the city, and weekend escapes to the seaside.
What inspired you to focus on wallpaper design? As an undergraduate at Pratt Institute you were an Industrial Design major. And since you have such a wide range of talents and interests, how did you find your calling in this particular area?
I know it might sound strange, but even as a child I loved decorative arts! Growing up, my family often visited Strawberry Banke Museum, which is a history museum in New Hampshire made up of ten furnished historical houses that reflects the time period it was built in. I was enamored with the furnishings and the history of all the objects. When I was a student in college, I decided to major in Industrial Design, and in my studies, that interest came up again. I interned at a wallpaper studio and fell in love with pattern. I then went on to study textile design in Copenhagen for a summer through Pratt's International Studies program, and it was then I knew that I wanted to merge my passion for product and pattern design.
Where do you come up with the concepts for your designs?
Each pattern has its own unique story. One of my wallpapers "Beverley" was inspired by a dress I found at a flea market in rural New Hampshire. My wallpaper "Flamingo Dance" was designed to reflect the style of a chic yet playful Miami hotel.
Each design is so cute and could be incredibly versatile; Do you plan to expand to other mediums? I could see some of these patterns translate to clothes or even furniture.
I am hoping to start licensing my patterns for different products soon. It is something that has been on my "to-do" list for a while. I would love to expand into different products for the home! In a dream world, they would end up on bedding, path-products, office accessories, rugs, and more.
I don't think the process of wallpaper creation is something most people are familiar with. Can you walk us through it?
Some prints start out on paper and some I design directly on the computer. It's really a case-by-case basis. Everything ends up in Photoshop or Illustrator in the end, though. I have to do a little bit of math in the beginning to determine the "pattern repeat" - the distance from where the pattern is identical again (repeats). The distance can be less than an inch or as much as the entire width of the paper. I usually play around with the scale and color as I design, and print out multiple scales and patterns, and then hang them up on my wall to live with them for a bit. When I've made my decisions on which patterns, colors, and scales to sample, I then prep a package for my manufacturer and they send back a strike-off (which is a smaller swatch, not an entire roll) that I can comment on. Sometimes I change the scale; sometimes the color is off; sometimes it turns out perfectly. Once I get to an approved strike-off, I can go straight into production.
Do you stock your wallpaper or is it make to order?
For my wallpapers that are handprinted, I stock inventory. The newer designs that I have are digitally printed and made-to-order.
Do you ever do custom wallpaper designs or collaborations?
Yes, I am always looking for custom work and collaborations! I have done a few small custom projects for Interior Designers. I had the opportunity to travel to France with Grange Furniture in 2015, and my patterns "Flaneur" and "Paris Gates" were inspired by the trip. If you visit the Grange showroom in NYC, they are on display in their front windows. I also did a collaboration with The Jewish Museum back in 2012. I designed a pattern based off of a Vuillard exhibit, and printed and sold it on trays in their gift shop.
Who are your customers, and how do you generally market your designs to the public?
I work mostly with Interior Designs, but also work directly with the public. Instagram has been a great marketing tool for me over the past year. The internet in general has played a big role in the growth of my business. Before a lot of boutique wallpapers were only available to the trade through showrooms, but now I am able to connect right with my market via my website, social media accounts, and E-mail!
Has being a part of the Brooklyn's creative community impacted your career?
I find the creative community here to be very supportive! I have lived in Brooklyn since 2004, so I've had the chance to build a great support system. I am very lucky in that regard! But, in general, I think that if you can find your people, you'll be set.
Photos by Masha Badinter