Organizing And Design: Why They’re Better Together

Want to Get Organized?

A beautifully designed dining room from Kathy Kuo Home
Photo: Kathy Kuo Home

Organizing Vs. Design – What’s The Difference?

If you’re new to the world of organizing and design, you might think they’re kinda the same thing. And while they have a lot in common and can support one another, they’re actually two distinct businesses. Although organizers and designers both work with their clients to make a home more livable, they serve different purposes.

You can think of it like this: organizers are the batter, designers are the icing. You can have a cake without icing and it might be just fine, but we all know that icing takes everything to the next level. And you can surely have a spoonful of icing (we’ve all been there) but without some cake, the icing’s going to disappoint.

Or in more relatable terms, you can hire a designer to create a stunning dining room, but if that room doesn’t function well and becomes covered in clutter, you’ll need an organizer. Alternately, if you hire an organizer to make your home efficient but you hate the way the decor looks, a designer can give you the home of your dreams.

While we could talk all day about the benefits of great design, we thought we’d leave it the experts. We asked one of our very favorite designers, Kathy Kuo, all the questions we had and all the questions we thought you would want answers to! Not only is her style classic and elegant, there’s an overwhelming sense of serenity to all of her work.

***Breaking News! Kathy Kuo Home Is opening a flagship store in Southampton, NY on July 8th!!!***

An Interview With Kathy Kuo Home

Photo: Kathy Kuo Home

Your Name & Title: Kathy Kuo, Founder & CEO of Kathy Kuo Home

What inspired you to start your business? How does the business today compare to your original vision?

I started Kathy Kuo Home after I ended up being laid off in the wake of the recession in 2008. Prior to being let go from my job, I saw a hole in the market when it came to liquidity and movement of excess inventory–so I started educating myself on how to bring retail online. Basically: I realized there weren’t a lot of unique options to shop for furniture online and I knew there had to be a better way that was still upscale, rooted in design, and offering high-touch service.

Today, I’m proud to say that the KKH business is growing everyday. Not only do we offer an unrivaled selection of premium furniture and decor, but we also occupy a unique niche in the interior design space and the trade community. It just keeps getting better!

Photo: Kathy Kuo Home

How do you incorporate your mission into your daily business practices?

Growing up, I traveled a ton, by the age of 30, I had been to 30 different countries–this was largely based on my father’s job as a diplomat, and my later career in product development that brought me to the far corners of the world to source and seek the best artisans and manufacturers for our wares. So, for me, “home” is an outward reflection of my values. For as long as I can remember, “home” has been about feeling nurtured, safe, and loved. 

I’ve always been passionate about helping fellow design enthusiasts, and especially other female entrepreneurs and working parents, in achieving their goals and making a difference in the industry–I truly feel like a collaborative spirit is a rising tide that lifts all boats! I will also add that when I started my business, I made the conscious decision that I really wanted to be home with my two kids, so I really designed my company’s structure around that. It’s definitely not always easy but it’s been worth it every step of the way.

Photo: Kathy Kuo Home

Where do you get your design inspiration from?

I’m always finding new sources of inspiration! Instagram is the fastest way to fall down a rabbit hole of new architects, landscapes, artists, photographers to follow, books to read, materials, and art I’d like to buy! I’ve also been fortunate enough to have traveled to many amazing parts of the world, and each new destination–from the South of France to Bali–always brings new inspiration.

Are there specific measurements to keep in mind when placing furniture ?

Start by measuring each wall from corner to corner, and don’t forget to note things like doors, windows, fireplaces and staircases. You’ll also want to measure and note the size and location of vents, radiators, and electrical outlets. When placing furniture, you want to be sure it won’t cover vents or be placed too far from an electrical source.    

When you are reviewing a space for the first time, try having a friend or family member record video while you measure and make comments. This lets you focus on taking the measurements without stressing about note-taking.

Photo: Kathy Kuo Home

What are your favorite storage ideas for living rooms in homes with children?

You can never have enough storage space when it comes to the big amount of stuff that comes along with little kids. One storage investment I can’t stress enough is to recreate the cubby or storage area your child might have in their classroom at school–this helps them take responsibility for keeping their stuff tidy and in its place. 

When my kids were younger, there was this thinking that I wanted the toys out of sight, so I designed my own home that had this incredible storage area that had bins and the bins were color-coordinated. My daughter had pink bins and my son had gray bins…but nothing was ever in the right bin and the kids never would know what was in the bins since they would pull them out, groan, and say, that’s not MY TOY. You had to pull the bins out to see what was inside–rookie mistake by yours truly!

I love the look and functionality of the toy storage furniture from Oeuf–the bins show you the contents of what’s inside. All of Oeuf’s kids’ furniture is beautifully designed and built to last–so you can use their storage furniture from the toddler years through the teen ones.

Photo: Kathy Kuo Home

Are there any design principles that you would never break?  Are there others that you’re not so strict about? 

My design style is one of creating warmth, your unique story, and always timeless, textured, and sophisticated. We start out with the space plan, circulation, family requirements, budget–all the technical details, and then apply the decorative elements to create a space that’s warm, inviting, jaw-dropping, squeal- and tear-inducing–that’s what we always strive for at KKH. So, when it comes to hard and fast rules, the only one that’s there for me is that a space needs to be designed around the needs of the people who will be using it, it must serve them and feel authentic. 

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