Thursday, August 19, 2010

KC Talent: Deb Dusenberry

You may have noticed that our Thursday afternoons have been recently spent gazing into the homes and studios of a few of KC's talented designers. This will be a regular Thursday feature, because there is a lot of talent in KC to celebrate! Today we are lucky to have an interview with Deb Dusenberry owner of the Curious Sofa, and the queen of retail in Kansas City..

For those of you who don't know, the Curious Sofa is a store in Prairie Village, KS. But it's not just a store, if you know what I mean. Yes, you can buy jewelry and stationary and sofas and even bedding..but what makes it special, (and what gets it featured in magazines like Country Living) is it's style. A little rustic, a little vintage, a little un-nameable but totally gorgeous.
And it has that style because Deb Dusenberry knows what she likes. She isn't distracted by trends as they come and go..she knows her style and sticks with it. And that's what I think really makes the Curious Sofa such a strong statement..although the store is constantly updated and re-merchandised(with incredibly witty and whimsical displays) the original feeling always remains.

So Deb, tell us about your background..
I was born and raised in Kansas City. I was a theatre major, but found my way into commercial art, which then introduced me to photography and then everything changed from there. I shot fashion, worked in the advertising department at Macys which lead to photo assisting, photo styling, makeup artist, fashion stylist. Went freelance in 1981 and worked for 20 years as a photo stylist: TV, movies, print, catalogs, advertising, commercials, etc....
What was your vision for Curious Sofa when you first opened the store?
To bring to KC the shops I had seen in New York, San Fran: a locally own ed, boutique feel with a mix of new and old. But also with a professional twist. I did not want it to be "Grandmas Dusty Attic."

How has the store and your vision evolved?
It really evolved when I moved to Prairie Village. (for those who don't know, the original Curious Sofa was opened in downtown KC in the Crossroads district. It is the arts mecca of KC and home to a lot of design-oriented people.) Customers were different, more families, less singles; more traditional style and they wanted more small gifts and seasonal items. With a big store you have to offer many items you may not want to carry to survive. The funkier, artistic customer I had on the Blvd may not always travel far from their comfort zone to continually support a store like mine.
What do you see in the future for the store?
I am always trying to be better at the business side of retail. Spending wisely, buying the right mix, designing the right seasonal event . What''s next is our 10 year anniversary and with it we are finally launching a new website to sell online. We have been so fortunate with national press that it was time to offer our products to our out of town fans .
You have a very strong sense of style. What designers do you get inspiration from?
Ralph Lauren. Yesterday, today and tomorrow. Focused, timeless but always expanding into every venue imaginable. I just read in the new Bazaar he has a new restaurant in Paris with a 10 week waiting list. I can only imagine the interior. His brand never disappoints me. But I love any good designer or design from LaCroix to Michael Kors. I actually roomed with Alexander McQueen for a week in 1990 when we both got off the train at the same time in Milan to try and get famous in fashion!
What are your favorite design blogs/magazines/websites?
I am not a reader, I have to have pictures to hold my interest because I think in Cliff Notes. My mind spins 24/7 so I really do not read or regularly view blogs. I do love World of Interiors magazine though. I am currently into clean, white, fresh anything. I am tired of all the bells and whistles right now so I am currently attracted to:

My retail friends in Kentucky manage to condense the best of all magazines here:

More retailers across the pond:

I miss my magazines but this is great:

I just discovered this graphic designer:

and the inspiration for my new website came from:

How do you think the choice of fabrics can effect the look of a room?
It is as important as anything! Pattern, color and texture can all effect the mood your interior takes on. This is why I have chosen white and neutrals for my store. Its not that I don't like color per se, I don't usually like the color most manufacturers make things with! I love color but dusty, greyer versions of them. Its the antiquer in me and it blends so nicely and doesn't scream at you.

What are your favorite textiles to use? Linens, cottons, patterns, solids etc?
Well as much as I loved the burlap craze, its over. Customers just don't know what to do with it. They do not see it as utilitarian, they see it as cheap and uncomfortable. I will always love linen and cotton. Washed, white, bleached, soft and even a little threadbare. But the European hand towels, soft grainsacks and linen sheets- they always speak to me. I can just have piles on a shelf to look at. I want to sleep in them, wash with it, wear it and use it for everything. But I am also very much into the kalamakari and ikat prints that are timeless too. (as long as they're muted colors!).
Any favorite textile designers?
Les Indiennes, John Robshaw and Ralph.
What item in your home could you not live without?
My dog Pearl! I am not attached to anything that much. I am a comfort girl. I want a good down-filled sofa, fast internet, a great cup of coffee, TV, air conditioning and good water pressure. All the items come and go.

Any tried and true decorating tips?
1. Always start with color. Pick 3 colors that go well together and use varying shades of them throughout your house to get a polished look. Keep them in mind when you buy anything for your home: Towels, kitchen soap, candles, furniture, picture frames, etc. It will pull your house together faster than anything.
2. Avoid trendy. It always ends up in next years garage sale.
3. Keep replacing items for better quality when you can afford it.
4. Learn how to rearrange furniture and hang pictures properly. These are true signs of good decorating skills.
5. Edit, edit, edit.

Thank you for taking the time to talk to us Deb! And for all of you who haven't been there check out and Deb's great blog,


Jen O said...

thanks for this great interview--I love her style and POV.

It is interesting to me to see that Restoration Hardware has lifted this trend to use in a complete makeover for their merchandise and stores, hum...

Mitzi Curi said...

Wow, what a great interview! I discovered your fabulous blog via Curious Sofa Diaries. Deb is so knowledgeable, what a great resource and inspiration she is! Now I'm going to grab a cup of coffee and peruse your blog, which looks to be a treat too!

betsy and emily said...

Jen, I hadn't seen anything from Resto for a long time..interesting.

Mitzi, I'm glad you've joined us! I hope you find some good reading here!