Kathy Kuo is a true interior design powerhouse. At the beginning of her career, the Rhode Island School of Design graduate started making a name for herself on interior design television shows. She moved on to design furniture and textiles for a luxury importer. Then, she created a a line for renowned publisher Assouline Books. Today, Kuo is a recognized tv personality, award-winning interior designer and activist for female founders, as well as a mother of two.
In 2012, Kuo launched her namesake brand, Kathy Kuo Home. Fast forward to summer 2021, and Kuo opened her first brick-and-mortar location in the tony coastal town of South Hampton, New York. The locale was the perfect choice because it is already home to many of the brand’s existing customers, trade members, and design clients.
The space lends itself perfectly to Kuo’s personal style and brand. Located in a 4000 square foot home on one of the main shopping streets in the middle of town, neighbors include high-end clothing boutiques, restaurants, and other furniture stores.
Timing Is Everything
While it’s been a banner period for anyone in the home space, opening up a retail location right now wasn’t originally in the plans. “Though a physical store was always something I envisioned for Kathy Kuo Home, it was not something I anticipated for a few more years. That being said, we’ve been very fortunate to have experienced rapid growth over the past year, about 800 percent year over year, which has made it possible for us to consider investing in a retail space earlier than anticipated,” the entrepreneur and interior designer tells me.
The opportunity presented itself and suddenly the timing became perfect. “Interacting with our customers has always been a top priority for the brand and there’s no better way to do this than in person. We’ve seen continued success through investing in our relationships by providing our high-touch services online and now will have the opportunity for continued growth. Having a physical location will allow us to connect with and serve more customers and clients than ever before, aiding in our brand mission to help as many people as possible love where they live.”
A Beautiful Space
The store itself is quite a sight to behold. With a charming and inviting atmosphere, the child and dog-friendly store is a happy, light-filled abode. Set up like a home as opposed to the typical furniture store, there’s an entryway, a dining room, and even a living room where customers can experience sofas and chairs for themselves (or for tired shoppers and helpers to take a break).
“Attention to detail was extremely important when selecting the pieces and designing the overall flow. I even wanted all the lighting to go together as it would in someone’s home. Even though in most home stores, you’d use a bunch of different styles so that you could sell more,” explains Kuo.
Kuo’s Curation Process
Kuo’s design philosophy is simple. “When good design happens, you don’t notice it. It feels natural, organic, effortless, expected, and perfectly balanced. It’s harmonious. Design for style and sophistication, of course, but design around the foundation of your lifestyle, routine, and personal needs.”
This philosophy is expressed through the curation of the store. The selection is a fraction of what’s offered on the website, which features over 100000 different items. “We needed to be mindful when selecting what key pieces we wanted to feature on the floor. It came down to what was in stock and available by the opening, and also what would fit into the vignettes we were creating,” she says.
In addition to products, the store also has additional technology resources to blend both the online and in-person experiences. “This allows the shoppers to interact with our items on the floor while also having access to the entire assortment and product information offered online,” explains Kuo.
However, the most important influence is the local customer. “Southampton shoppers have a very distinct luxury yet slightly laid-back coastal style. We wanted to make sure that the items we’re offering are the pieces that they are wanting most.”
While the store has everything a sophisticated Hamptonite could want, the merchandise also reflects the brand as a whole. There is an assortment of indoor and outdoor furniture, stylish lighting fixtures, and plenty of decor. While there’s more than enough to choose from, the space itself has so much natural light that it still feels open and airy.
In addition to these items, there’s also an exclusive upholstery line as well a line of pillows designed by Kuo herself. Shoppers also have access to Kuo’s in-house design firm as well as a dedicated Design Resource section to help support the trade community. All of this makes for an enjoyable shopping experience.
Kuo wants to open more stores, but is working it on one step at a time. “We want to perfect what we’re doing in the Hamptons before we’d consider looking at other markets, like Sonoma or Palm Beach. When the time is right, having the opportunity to open another storefront would be incredible!”