Art of Living Well Design

Designer-to-the-Stars Amy Kehoe Reveals Her Hack for Making a Simple Space Feel Luxurious

Woman sitting on a green couch, smiling at the camera.
Portrait of Amy Kehoe. All photography by Kate Jordan, and all images courtesy of Kehoe and Jordan.

This is the Art of Living Well, a column from CULTURED that explores how tastemakers think about luxury: the luxuries that are free, the ones that cost way too much, and the little ones that punch above their weight.

After meeting at a dinner party in Manhattan, Los Angeles-based designers Amy Kehoe and Todd Nickey began a business partnership that has lasted considerably longer than the average marriage. Since 2004, the pair’s operation, Nickey Kehoe, has grown to encompass a design studio, handpicked vintage finds, and in-house lines of furniture, household goods, and lighting. Along the way, it has accrued a cult following and celebrity clients like Natalie Portman and Mark Ruffalo. 

This spring, the designers returned to their New York roots, opening a 4,000-square-foot space in Greenwich Village on the site of Jackson Pollock’s former home and studio. (The Abstract Expressionist lived on the tree-lined street for a spell as a young artist when he studied with Thomas Hart Benton at the nearby Art Students League.) 

To mark the occasion, Amy Kehoe checked in with CULTURED to share her tips for a life well lived.

You've worked on both coasts. How would you describe the difference in the design philosophy of New York and LA? 

Seasonality and horizontality play roles in Los Angeles. There is more ease and access to indoor-outdoor living in LA. The indoor-centric, vertical living in New York yields a bit more formality and a tailored look.

What's a simple hack to make a space feel luxurious?

Lighting—dimmers for all lights and using sheer fabrics on the windows to create a diffused or soft light. 

Nickey Kehoe's new space.

What product do you use every day that instantly improves your mood? 

Electrolyte powder in my water.

What’s your favorite small luxury to give to someone else? 

Scent. Either from our fragrance line, Bernard, or picking out something from the Scent Bar; it’s such an incredible experience there. I love how the gift is given with a tester sample so the recipient can try it first. You can exchange it for something else, which makes me as happy as if they kept the scent I picked out because they get to go into this amazing world of scent

What do you do when you need to feel grounded? 

I move my body, either at a dance class, the gym, or a hike in Elysian or Griffith Park. 

What is something you’d love for someone to buy for you but would never buy for yourself? 

This is pretty extravagant for someone to buy, but a vintage car. I really do not enjoy the shopping experience for cars, but if some beautiful vintage car appeared in my driveway, I might squeal. 

What’s a luxurious ritual you inherited from someone in your life? 

My friends Marguerite and Bob have been big sauna and cold plunge people for years. They influenced me to start my own ritual at home. I am so grateful for this ritual.

Tell us about a hidden gem in your city that you visit to put some pep back in your step. 

Going to any of these nurseries is an invigorating experience: Theodore Payne Foundation, C&S near Culver City, Lincoln Nursery in Pasadena, and La Crescenta Nursery in Glendale. I love putzing around all of these places and although I trust someone else to plant for me, I love being a part of the selection process. It's been amazing to see how many pollinating creatures visit my yard from planting natives.

What is your favorite luxury that costs less than $20? 

Peonies from Trader Joe's (Jen Boardman, who works at Nickey Kehoe, turned me on to this weekly habit).

What is the most luxurious thing in your life that’s free? 

A nap in my yard, which it feels like I rarely do despite how much I love how I feel when I do. It feels like time has slowed down, a feeling I crave.