Why 4” is the Perfect Sofa Arm and Other Gems from NYC Designer Kammi Reiss

Zero surprises that a woman whose career kicked off as a photo editor made a successful professional transition to designing picture-perfect homes. But the success of Kammi Reiss has much more texture to it. Far from adhering to aesthetics alone, the NYC-based designer prides herself on the feeling her spaces elicit. She employs nubbly teddy-bear textiles, cut-silk carpet, and buttery leathers. If materials and construction often headline her rooms, it’s with reason: after her role on the Elle Decor editorial launch team, Reiss designed handbags for a decade and cites the skill set as “totally transferrable” to creating custom upholstery. 

For the Manhattanites and Hamptons-goers who seek out her three-person firm, Reiss delivers a turn-key approach to good living. Sexy lighting. A+ art. All those come-hither textures. If it all looks so easy, read on—Reiss drops some serious knowledge about furniture construction, down to inches and fills and all the details that turn simply pretty into fabulous. —Sophie Donelson

Tell us one tidbit about your office culture:
We stretch at 4:44pm every day. We try to work in a few games of Rummy Q every week, and we love birthdays, which start with decorations and end with cocktails.

Any office mascots?
My husband Brad is our mascot. He loves to pop in and ask what we’re up to, liven up conversation with non sequiturs, and make us laugh.

What was your first-ever custom-made piece?
I love custom furniture. Especially in NYC, where space is at a premium and getting into small elevators is tricky, custom pieces allow for unique details and installation. For my first client, I made all custom furniture.  

Is there anything you always spec as custom?
Sofas. Everyone likes something a bit different, and I like to make sure every detail is considered.

What custom project are you dying for a client to request? 
A client just asked for an entry table that will transform into a huge dining table. I love the challenge of making something that looks elegant and light but can become something large without looking like it’s no longer well proportioned.

Tell us about a mistake making furniture:
There was one time we accidentally ordered two club chairs instead of one. When they arrived we moved some things around and the added chair made the space cozier. Happy accident!

Design your personal sofa style at home:
I like a sofa that is deep, an arm 4” above the seat (so you can lean on it but not be hemmed in), loose back cushions, and a single long seat cushion. To make sure it looks inviting but not sloppy, a fill of foam wrapped with 50/50 down/feather works great. I love throw pillows, but not too many. I use them to bring in color and texture, and for shorter people, like myself, to use behind their back so their legs hit the edge of the seat cushions. The finish of the wood details is also important because something special, like cerusing, can really elevate the piece.

How did you learn to spec custom furniture confidently?
I like solid, well-made pieces that will last. Things made to look good on a website but have no design integrity make me crazy. Before working in interior design, I spent ten years designing handbags. The construction details and intricacies of handbags are totally transferable to upholstery design.

What would you love to try someday? Unplugging.

What always works: The more texture the better.

Go-to textile companies: Rosemary Hallgarten and Pindler.

Sofa legs: Bare legs. Chunky bare legs.

Sofa pillow details: Box and welt.

Upholstered headboards? Always!

Coffee table or ottoman? Ottoman with trays.

You get your best ideas: When running.

Dinner with a friend: Banquette or barstool? Barstool.

Kammi Reiss Custom Furniture
Courtesy of Kammi Reiss

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