podcast | Mar 20, 2023 |
How Nickey Kehoe built a modern, multifaceted design business

It’s one thing to work next to a business partner every day, but living next to each other takes another level of commitment. That was the case for Los Angeles designers Todd Nickey and Amy Kehoe, who shared a wall in a duplex for nine years. “As far as partnership goes, we’ve weathered economic issues, owned a home together, dealt with all the growing pains of a business—we know how to weather storms together,” Kehoe tells host Dennis Scully on the latest episode of The Business of Home Podcast. “It’s not lost on either one of us that that is so unique, and it makes so much of what we do less scary.”

The two housemates first met at a dinner party in Manhattan, where they had a playful bond over a spilled glass of creamer; it was “platonic love at first sight.” At the time, Nickey was a retail designer for stores like Donna Karan and Badgley Mischka, and Kehoe was working in hospitality design with the Starwood hotel brand. Kehoe moved from New York to Los Angeles soon after, and the two continued to forge a cross-country friendship based on compatible personalities and design sensibilities, ultimately deciding to start a firm together. Nickey joined Kehoe on the West Coast (under the same roof), and they launched design firm Nickey Kehoe in 2004, followed by a retail shop in the fall of 2008, showcasing their vintage finds, private-label products and a selection of hand-picked goods from around the world. Fifteen years later, the brand has gradually grown into larger retail spaces in Los Angeles and expanded its e-commerce business, with Nickey focusing the majority of his energy on the store while Kehoe heads the design side.

With a team of about 45 people in total, the duo have been intentional about how they manage their employees. Nickey and Kehoe started their careers in a time when there were “a lot of divas” in the industry, and “being spoken down to or being yelled at was commonplace,” says Nickey—a culture the two are eager to move beyond. In their offer letter to employees, they include a few paragraphs about what they will and won’t tolerate. “It gave us an opportunity [as bosses] to really cement something, and I think upholding that culture is really powerful because it teaches you how to be a responsible employer,” says Nickey. “We have a code of ethics that we stand behind now.”

The partners are also looking to push the boundaries of the retail experience as they plan to open more stores in the future. Nickey and Kehoe hope to create a holistic and “biodynamic” space—maybe even on a couple acres of land—where people can interact with the property and learn about different gardening products the brand offers. “How do we have something that really starts to flesh out some of the ideas so that it’s not just commerce—it’s truly an experience,” says Nickey. Kehoe echoes this sentiment, emphasizing that they want to expand the company in meaningful ways: “We want to be in the right place before we move and make sure that it’s not just more is more—it’s got a purpose.”

Elsewhere on the podcast, the design duo discuss maintaining a friendship amid a demanding business partnership, how crazy-high construction costs give their clients sticker shock, and how their brand conveys a feeling, not just a look.

Listen to the show below. If you like what you hear, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify. This episode was sponsored by Loloi Rugs and Four Hands.

Homepage image: Amy Kehoe and Todd Nickey | Courtesy of Nickey Kehoe

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