Wallpaper Mogul Elizabeth Rees Returns to MKE After Years Spent in NYC

We caught up with creative entrepreneur Elizabeth Rees to find out why she traded in her New York apartment for a home in Milwaukee.

Elizabeth Rees grew up around ink and paper. Her father helms Kubin-Nicholson, an 84-year-old commercial printing company on Milwaukee’s Northwest Side. And she’s always been interested in art and design.

In 2013, Rees was living in New York City, struggling to find fun, affordable ways to decorate her rental, and she realized that she might be able to leverage her printing know-how to do something about that.

She launched Chasing Paper, a removable-wallpaper company that sells its designs exclusively online. Each panel of wallpaper (typically $40) comes with an adhesive backing that sticks to walls and can be removed on a whim. “Styles change and tastes change,” Rees says. “And traditional wallpaper can be so hard to remove.”

The product was an immediate hit. Sales doubled year over year, and in 2017 Rees had achieved enough success that she figured she could move back to Milwaukee and run the business here. “The city has changed so much since I moved away,” she says. “It feels like there’s been a creative renaissance, and I wanted to be a part of that.”

The historic home where she lives now is as well-designed as her paper. And she says that she’s had a lot of fun working with other Cream City creatives to decorate and furnish it.

Elizabeth Rees’ Milwaukee Faves

NEIGHBORHOOD: Walker’s Point

RETAIL THERAPY: Cream City Restoration, The Loom House, Form, Specter, Orange and Blue Co., and Bona Drag

FOODIE FIX: Snack Boys. “Every time I go in there, there’s something new and inventive on the menu. You can tell that whoever’s cooking and dreaming up these dishes loves the job.”

Orange and Blue Co. Photo by Aliza Baran

PET SOUNDS: 88Nine. “I’ve gone to a few events they’ve put on, and they’ve been fun. There’s so much good live music every night – you can be really plugged into the music scene in this city.”

STYLE CRUSH: The global editor-in-chief of Refinery29, Christene Barberich. “She has the coolest style. She wears a lot of vintage and buys all this stuff off of eBay.”

“Wallflower” appears in the January 2019 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop or find the issue on newsstands, starting Dec. 31.

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Lindsey Anderson covers culture for Milwaukee Magazine. Before joining the MilMag team she worked as an editor at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and wrote freelance articles for ArtSlant and Eater.