A Conversation With Designer Katie Kime
With so much decor on the market and so many designers, finding something original is rare. It can be challenging to distinguish one brand or artist from the next, but designer Katie Kime has managed to create a truly unique line of decor featuring her sophisticated yet cheerful prints. The designer is perhaps best known for her toiles inspired by locales from the Hamptons to Marfa, Texas. Her current product lineup includes traditional as well as peel-and-stick wallpaper, trays, ice buckets, tea towels, and art along with dresses and pajamas to match.
I recently spoke with Kime about the art of creating prints, how travel is her inspiration, and the reality of being a small (but growing) business owner. Her highly spirited answers included fantastic advice for anyone who is currently decorating a home.
Amanda Lauren: When did you start your business and what is your background?
Katie Kime: I launched my website in 2013 as a one-woman show. But that was years after many trunk shows selling one-of-a-kind dresses and hand-painted furniture and anything else I could figure out how to design and make on my own. I double-majored and one of those was visual arts. So I’m technically somewhat trained as an artist but mostly just from a very young age. My earliest memory of creating was around seven. I was trying to make things.
Lauren: What have been some of the most important moments for your brand?
Kime: My first trunk show in college was momentous. Debbie Krzyzewski Savarino hosted a show for me at her home during the end of my senior year of an array of things I had made in my then apartment. She invited her Durhamite friends and I invited my peers.
The result was a reception of the products and an idea that convinced me I should give it a go and figure out how to really make things at scale. Beyond that, certainly my first website, my first $30000 from friends and family because I think few people speak enough about the fundraising efforts needed for businesses like mine. My first studio in Austin.
Lauren: You are known for your unique, fun prints. Why do you think prints are so timeless?
Kime: I guess I don’t really know why they’ve stood the test of time but I just know that they have. From cave drawings to ancient tapestries—there is a theme. An expression of what’s happening at that time in history in some sort of symbolic repeat. It’s amazing if you really look back and stop and think about it…
Lauren: What is your process for designing a print?
Kime: It definitely begins with some sort of fixation or one might even say obsession. The pastel palette of the American South. Greece and its blue and marble busts. Toile. Color blocking. For whatever reason something grabs me and it doesn’t let go for a while. In the time spent in its grasp, I try to churn out all that I can from its inspiration.
Lauren: Your toiles are unlike any I’ve ever seen. How did you get the idea to modernize a very traditional design concept?
Kime: I first saw a traditional French toile when I was in my teens. I have no idea what captured me about it. But captured me it did. And it was just always a thing for me. I then saw a modernized version of it after college and it was a whole new chapter. Eventually, I thought I could maybe add my own spin and I’m so happy I did.
Lauren: Which toile print is your personal favorite and why?
Marfa—there’s just a feeling to it. Even as the creator I want to be there. I want to wear it.
Lauren: How has travel inspired you?
Kime: Forever and always. Travel is a constant for me. Often the how I got here and the why I keep going. It doesn’t have to be fancy travel. In fact, my most alive moments in life were quite the opposite. But I can say that new places and new people and new ways of seeing the world have always been and will always be a driving force behind this brand.
Lauren: What are some of the best ways to incorporate prints into any space?
Kime: Trust yourself. If you like it, do it. I think the notion of great interiors has become this “members only” idea when it belongs to everyone. Throw out the rules and the “shoulds.” If you love a print in a space or even a few, trust it.
Lauren: What would you say to someone who likes a bold print wallpaper like Horse & Tassel or Tennis Time but is afraid to install it?
Kime: Where can we use bold prints in a place that feels the least risky? Powder rooms all the way. Or even full baths. Either way, these small areas I feel wholeheartedly are where to just go for it. Go big, go bold. Nothing to lose.
Lauren: Another interesting product you offer is really sophisticated statement art. While this concept has become mass market, you’ve certainly put an original spin on it. How can someone decorate with statement art and keep it elevated?
Kime: I think statement art is similar to statement wallpaper as it relates to where it’s most effective. Small spaces. A powder room, even a pantry, any small nook where the eye is really drawn to something unique. As opposed to a great room that may be stunning but where art is lost. I think it’s often in the most unexpected (small) spaces that statements can be made.
The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.