Kristen Leigh finds inspiration in the familiar. The Houston-based designer looks for meaning in the mundane when crafting her hand-painted textile patterns. “There are so many little moments in our day that are often overlooked but can be so beautiful when we look closely,” she tells Business of Home.
A former elementary school teacher, Leigh first discovered painting after giving birth to her daughter in 2015. “As a new mother, I felt I needed something to call my own, a creative outlet to look forward to that gave me a mental break,” she says. “I started painting and doing calligraphy as a hobby, eventually leading to a small stationery business designing custom invitations for brides and parties.”
When the pandemic hit in 2020, she turned her attention to textiles. “That time in quarantine drew me and so many others to want their homes to be well appointed—a place they actually enjoy—which led me to tinker with my patterns as wallpapers and fabrics,” says Leigh. “Every morning, I would wake up before my kids to work on patterns and teach myself new techniques.”
Later that year, she launched her first line of wallpapers, a collaboration with Cailini Coastal featuring two painterly watercolor patterns in multiple hues, including the exuberant Riley Scallop and the undulating Huntington Wave. “Everything felt so heavy and daunting at the time, and I just wanted to create something to evoke some joy,” says Leigh. “I subconsciously made them as light as possible, in light blues, pinks and whites.”
All of Leigh’s designs begin with a rough sketch that’s usually based on an inspiration photo she has taken on her phone—often of her dog, a simple flower or a lush tree grove. Then she uses watercolors to transform the drawing into a hand-painted motif before scanning it into her computer and turning it into a repeat. “I love the complexity of watercolor and the imperfections that happen naturally through painting, so I rely heavily on that as my go-to medium,” she says.
Once she has settled on a pattern, it’s printed small-batch style on either a soft cotton-blend fabric or 100 percent Belgian linen. Her wallcoverings are cast on clay-coated matte paper and, in some cases, sisal grasscloth for added texture and dimension. “Everything is digitally printed, which really shows the beauty and detail of the watercolor paints I use,” says Leigh.
“There’s also less waste involved this way, because we can print the exact amount that’s needed for a project without worrying about extra rolls sitting on a shelf somewhere or going to a landfill.”
Leigh has many launch plans set for this spring, including a collaboration with Stout Textiles; an in-house collection filled with transitional prints, including classic stripes and traditional geometric motifs; a line of table linens; and a few patterns for a children’s apparel brand. “I’m all about bringing joy into people’s homes—and ultimately, their daily lives,” she says.