Tuckernuck IRL: Kathy Kuo
By Tuckernuck on
An international guru within the home and lifestyle space, Kathy Kuo is the CEO of Kathy Kuo Home, a recognized tv personality, and a celebrated interior designer. With more than 20 years of experience and an unmatched eye for curating, sourcing and designing luxury furniture and homewares, Kathy developed one of the first and fastest growing ecommerce platform in the home and design industry.
Born in Taiwan, raised in Boston, and currently living in NYC, Kathy graduated from Rhode Island School of Design, and launched her own business out of her deep love of design and helping others to love where they live.
Today, Kathy serves as a speaker and activist for female entrepreneurs, supporting them in growing their teams. In her own words, she seeks to “empower and lift the voices of female entrepreneurs and the amazing work they do.”
We were thrilled to catch up with Kathy about business advice, home decor essentials, motherhood, and her inspiration.
Kathy on Starting a Business
Just take the first step. If I knew everything that I knew today about being an entrepreneur, I would have been too scared to venture out onto my own. Oftentimes, we overanalyze, overthink, and predict every potential and possible outcome as a means to control the situation; but then it paralyzes you to make the first step because you’re already fearful of impending failure before you’ve started. Business, life and careers will unexpectedly change, and you will need to pivot, adapt and quickly learn about what you have control over, and what is just perceived control. Take the plunge, you’ll learn so much by leaning in quickly and making mistakes that will help you grow.
Kathy on Motherhood and #Tuckernucking
I’ve fallen in love with traveling and getting the chance to experience cultures all around the world. Anytime I get the opportunity to explore a new destination, I take advantage of it! Separately, every moment I get to spend with my kids truly makes me feel fulfilled. Whether it’s playing a board game at home, going to the park or traveling with them, those are the moments that life’s all about.
Kathy on Her Style Icons
I think long gone are the days of singular idols representing entire industries and key looks. With social media and television carving new fashion and interior trends and anyone and everyone being an influencer of some sort, I think the ultimate style is to be radically authentic to yourself, and what you love. However I always gush over Christan Liaigre, Jean-Louis Deniot and Axel Vervoordt for their ability to lean deep into a key look, own it and build a brand around it.
More About Kathy Kuo
What led you to start Kathy Kuo Home?
I’ve been drawn to interiors for as long as I can remember. When I was a child my family moved around a lot; my father was a diplomat, so we were frequently re-locating between Asia and the Americas. I loved creating new homes everywhere we went and integrating new meaningful objects from my travels. This instilled both an appreciation for good design and a love for unique, high-quality products at a young age. This passion led me to the Rhode Island School of Design, where I majored in Industrial Design, and later into the television industry with appearances on home renovation shows like Rowhouse Showdown & Knock First. After that, I worked designing and developing furniture and textiles for a luxury importer. I spent a few years in the interiors space - working for brands like Bed, Bath & Beyond and Interlude. The experiences, insights and understanding of product design, manufacturing and global distribution later became the building blocks of Kathy Kuo Home. When the online boutique started to grow larger than I could manage with another job, I took the jump and went all-in launching Kathy Kuo Home in 2012.
Describe your design style in three words.
Classically-inspired, layered-luxe, elegant.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Learn which items to delegate and which to keep close to yourself. There’s a lot to do when building a brand or leading a design firm, so try to outsource and delegate when you can on the routine tasks. That being said, never delegate hiring. Try to interview every single person on your team until you no longer have the time to. The single most important thing you can do is personally find good people to support your mission.
How do you balance motherhood and running a business?
As with raising children or building your own brand, it really does take a village! I attribute so much of what I’ve been able to accomplish, personally and professionally, to having a fantastic team around me. At work, I have an incredible team of very smart creatives that I trust implicitly. Because of them, I am able to delegate when needed, and focus on the priorities to keep everything running smoothly. At home, I have a full time nanny. She’s been my lifeline for the last 9 years and anticipates all my needs- sometimes before I do. I couldn’t raise two kids and have a career without her - she’s truly part of my family and I am very lucky to have her.
Describe a time that you failed. What did you learn from the experience?
Failure is such a fatal word since it implies it’s a binary outcome. I can say that I’m not great at a lot of things, and some projects have had unexpected outcomes, but as cheesy as this may sound, everything happens for a reason. My belief is that it’s your job to find what the reason is, learn and understand from it.
What automatically makes a room better? In other words, what are non-negotiables when designing a new space?
Investing in one or two timeless pieces that will ground a room is a must! Staple items like a sofa, area rug, accent chairs or media cabinet will likely be with you for a long time, so it is important they are durable and something you love. Even if it is a splurge - you will thank yourself in the long run if you budget for them up front.
If you could purchase three things on the Tuckernuck website, what would they be?
Porcelain Maxime Dress, Natural Surfside Carryall; Cognac Leather Alibi Sandals - perfect for a summer beach day!
Italy. I’m heading to the coastal town of Sabaudia (1.5 hours south of Rome) in just a few weeks and am so excited!
Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty
Snatum Kaur - Ardas Bhaee is simply the most beautiful song.
Favorite meal, dessert or cocktail
Spicy Scallop Roll at Sushi Seki + Saki any day.
@kathykuo_nyc Off Duty