Artist Kim West is inspired by the wildlife near her coastal home. Sharon Dale visited her live-work apartment. Pictures by Gary Longbottom.
When Kim West left college, she was happy to fly the nest to seek work and new adventures elsewhere. But it took leaving the Saltburn area for her to discover that there was no place like home. (Read more about the Saltburn housing market)
“I lived near York for a time but I wanted to come back to my roots,” she says.
“This is such a wonderful area with the coast, woodland and the moors on the doorstep. I’d taken it for granted until I moved away.”
Moving back has paid off. Seeing the area with fresh eyes prompted her to take up painting again. Her art has recently been transferred to wallpaper, which is causing much excitement in design circles.
Kim has also managed to climb onto the first rung of the property ladder. House prices in the up-and-coming Saltburn area have risen but they are still affordable compared with Yorkshire’s property hotspots.
The apartment was the only home in her price range that didn’t need any work and she managed to save a deposit by moving back in with her parents and paying a nominal rent. It cost £79,995 five years ago and is now worth £95,000 thanks to its makeover and rising values in a seaside location that is regenerating.
Kim completely redecorated the two-bedroom flat with a mix of paint and wallpaper. “I’m very handy. I can wallpaper and paint and I also tiled the en-suite,” she says.
Her mother made the blinds, which helped cut costs, meaning Kim was able to buy a new sofa and chair decorated with cushions from Laura Ashley and from independent makers on Etsy.
A fire was a must for the warm glow, rather than the heat output. Mirrors feature heavily as Kim likes to rescue and repaint them.
The kitchen decor is coastal inspired and also features a picture wall of Kim’s trip to New Zealand, where she travelled extensively.
“The first thing I bought for the house was a bird made from old fabric and perched on a piece of driftwood. It wasn’t practical but I love it and I like buying from artists and makers,” she says.
Another favourite work of art, a picture of Bamburgh by photographer Keith Moss, has pride of place in the open-plan living space.
Kim took up art again after tidying out a cupboard and finding her paints and brushes. “At that point I was 31 and hadn’t painted anything for 12 years since I studied Fine Art at college ,” says Kim, who began by painting a grey ammonite fossil.
“I immediately thought I’d love to see the picture as wallpaper and that sowed the seed. I started painting other things that I’d like to see on wallpaper. I didn’t get hung up on realism. I just developed my own style and enjoyed the process.”
The designs are all inspired by nature in the local area and include seagulls, foxes, bees and gull feathers. They all come with a story.
“Park House, which is my bee wallpaper, came from the tired bees that used to rest on the sandstone of a house I used to live in. When they were tired and struggling I fed them sugar syrup to pep them up. The background colour of the paper is sandstone,” adds Kim.
The gull feathers are ones she picked up at the local golf links.
Transferring her work onto wallpaper involved photographing her designs and cutting them out via Photoshop before placing them in a pattern. The background colours are all heritage shades.
“I worked in packaging design for a few years so the experience I had there really helped me. Everything I’ve done work-wise seems to have helped me with the wallpaper in one way or another,” says Kim, who also invested in a digital printer.
Anstey in Leicestershire helped her configure the pattern repeat and gave advice on colour and it now prints her hand-painted papers. These have already been a hit with interiors designers and are stocked by independent shops, including the prestigious Peter Silk of Helmsley. Kim also sells them from her website.
None of the above would have been possible without Peter Silk, who gave Kim advice and encouragement, and business adviser Amey-Rose McGrogan, of Enterprise Made Simple.
Amey-Rose helped Kim formulate a business plan, which helped her get a business loan for her one-woman company, West by Design.
“I still work full time in marketing and do my designs in the evening and at weekends. I keep my stock at my dad’s house but the dream is to have a West by Design studio with a nice view and a little dog,” she says.
“I’d also like to have a fabric collection and accessories featuring my designs. I am never short of ideas. There’s an endless supply of inspiration living here. I feel very lucky to call it home.”
Kim’s collection of hand-painted wallpapers can be found at www.westbydesign.co.uk