A Designer to Write Home About
Renowned interior designer, Kathy Kuo, invites us into her home and shares her unique approach to mindful, artisanal-focused interior design
Photos by: Andrew Day
It is often a given that the things inside a home can communicate a sense of comfort, love, and nurture. But one person who never took this for granted is Kathy Kuo, a brilliantly creative female entrepreneur, an award-winning interior and product designer, and a recognized TV personality who effectively helped pioneer the home makeover genre in the 2000s.
When you’ve lived and traveled halfway across the world by the age of 23, the concept of home could be a hard one to grasp. “Because my father was a diplomat,” Kathy remembers, “my family moved frequently, and I had the unique experience of being able to create new homes everywhere we went.” It’s only natural then that for Kathy home interiors were always about the things inside a home that really move us, objects that carry memories and a sense of belonging with them.
Ever the artsy type, discovering painting and drawing at an early age, Kathy studied product design in college, to delving into that love for materials and the ability to create something beautiful with her own hands. Right after college, she decided to travel around Europe whilst modeling, something supported her throughout college, but she knew wasn’t her life path.
Kathy credits her time in Europe as the spark that ignited her love for beautiful craftsmanship. From Italy to Spain and Germany, she was captivated by these countries’ ancient history, and how their art, architecture, and interiors were a direct manifestation of it.
After returning from her travels, Kathy worked in product development in the high-end home design space and had the opportunity to continue her exploration of world craftsmanship. From Berber carpet weaving in Morocco to Vietnam’s 12-step lacquering process, via a family in India who worked with copper hand-hammering, Kathy refined her taste for handmade furniture and ancient production techniques, passed down through generations of artisans, tradesmen, and small family businesses.
That was followed by a spell in reality TV, where Kathy cut her teeth on a variety of interior design styles working on teenagers’ bedrooms, and incidentally became one of the first recognized TV personalities in the nascent genre of home makeover shows.
When the four walls of the TV studios started feeling too tight, she made a conscious decision to set off on her own journey to redefine what interior design meant for her. Her business Kathy Kuo Home was born from a desire to make luxury interior design and beautifully crafted home pieces accessible to the wider public.
“As a designer, I was fortunate enough to experience this wealth of artisanal crafts being produced all over the world, but realized that the vast majority of people didn’t have or realize this luxury.”
That’s what drew her to The Nopo too. With the overwhelming amount of time spent at home in the last year and a half, there has been a significant shift of attention to interior design, what you do inside the home, and what function and impact modern home design has on our everyday lives. “Nowadays people are increasingly buying into a value system rather than into a product. Consumers are more conscious about what they buy, where, and how it was made, so as interior designers and e-commerce platforms we have a very important responsibility now to connect our audience and customers to those high-quality, artisanal wares that previously seemed impossible to reach.”
Since her early days in design, Kathy has gravitated towards handmade furniture and decor, those objects with high structural integrity and a rich history that carries meaning behind the item’s physical appearance.
“Hand-made and one-of-a-kind is absolutely the new luxury. In my travels, I invest a lot of time hunting for traditional wares, like when I spent a day in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, probably the oldest shopping mall in the world. The only thing that stopped me from buying half the Bazaar was my suitcase limitation!”
With a passion for unique finds and a will to dig deep in the history and process behind each piece she chooses for her projects, Kathy stresses the importance of working with sustainable and fair-trade practices, checking the provenance of their materials and the sustainability of their producers’ work, and looking at anything from sourcing fallen timber rather than cutting trees to working with eco-friendly or recycled fabrics.
From the long-gone inflection point when she started hiring and giving up control on some parts of the business, to today’s brilliant team of designers and artisans at the core of Kathy Kuo Home, Kathy has managed to create a platform for affordable, quality design that has been resonating with clients in the home interior space for ten years now.
“While of course there is a cost to excellent artisanal crafts,” she reflects, “ I truly believe that platforms like Kathy Kuo Home and The Nopo can and should democratize craftsmanship for the general public, by bringing these wares and the stories behind them to the forefront.”
Head to our shop now to check out Kathy’s exclusive Curated Collection, featuring The Nopo’s best artisanal excellence curated through her classically-inspired, layered-luxe, elegant taste.
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