Interior Design Powerhouse Kathy Kuo Is All About the Career Pivot

What’s a bit of career advice you’d give someone in need?

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 on my own. Oftentimes we overanalyze, overthink, and try to predict every potential and possible outcome as a means to control the situation, but then it paralyzes you; 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 iterating quickly on mistakes.

What’s your biggest challenge at work?

Being both micro and macro at the same time. I built this company from the ground up and as a result know how everything is built. This makes me uniquely able to quickly understand what connective tissues need massaging between departments and how to audit the issues quickly. However, staying so close to the details also limits your capacity and bandwidth to think really big and creatively.

What’s your favorite low-stakes treat after a productive day? 

After a productive day I love to unwind with my kids. It’s important that no matter how busy our schedules get, I take the time to catch up with them, play a game, or just watch a movie. Uninterrupted quality time together is the best treat I could ask for, and it’s important I can show them a healthy balance of my career and our family life.

What’s your go-to thank you gift? 

I always try to get people gifts that they typically wouldn’t buy for themselves, like one-of-a-kind items, unique conversation starters in the serveware or barware category, or just exquisite tabletop decor or flatware. For items that come in sets, I always gift 8 or 10 so they don’t have to replenish the set on their own. Of course, I shop the KKH site! We carry more than 100,000 items, so regardless of who I’m shopping for, I know there’s always an amazing option.

What’s your typical email sign-off? 

It depends who I’m emailing, but my team and friends call me KK, so that’s usually how I sign off!

If you weren’t doing your current job right now, what do you think you’d be doing? 

Traveling and cooking. Is that even a job? [Laughs.] I would love to learn about every culture’s food, whether it’s Asian, Middle Eastern, Scandinavian—food culture tells so much about the rich history of the people. I would love to be an apprentice under a master chef and just learn, ingest, digest, and consume gorgeous food cultures.

How did you first get into interior design? And how did you make the jump to CEO?

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 relocating 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 of 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 television, with appearances on home renovation shows like Rowhouse Showdown and 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 Assouline Books and Bed, Bath & Beyond. 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. 

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