Kris Fuchs and Maria Sepulveda make modern design a priority
Story by Dini von Mueffling / Photography by Dorothy Hong
As the design world comes together in New York to celebrate ICFF (the International Contemporary Furniture Fair), SUITE New York, Manhattan’s foremost modern furniture showroom, is celebrating nearly four years of record growth and a move to a new location. Co-founders Kris Fuchs and Maria Sepulveda, best friends for 29 years since their first day of freshman year at college, consider this their biggest adventure yet.
At 9,000 square feet, the Madison Square Park area space is nearly three times the size of the original location at Madison and 58th Street — and they need the extra footage, since SUITE New York has doubled its sales every year since it opened in 2006.
“We are ecstatic about our new space and neighborhood,” said Fuchs. “It’s convenient for the art and design community and it allows us to showcase many more of our great pieces.”
With over 30 prestigious vendors and more than 20,000 products and growing, SUITE New York has become the go-to spot for the design community and for a who’s who of the entertainment, hospitality, real estate and corporate worlds. Recently, the company outfitted the new David Rubinstein Atrium at Lincoln Center, (redesigned by Tod Williams Billie Tsien) provided eco-friendly and high-style chairs for the Standard Hotel’s outdoor space, created specially stained Hans Wegner-designed Wishbone chairs for Alain Ducasse’s Benoit restaurant, furnished the Edna Sackler Reading Room at the New York Public Library and worked on six W Hotels. Among its corporate clients are HBO, Chase, Bloomberg, Nike, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America.
Formerly partners in a design store that went under, the dynamic duo decided to launch their own showroom when manufacturers they had previously worked with pledged their support. Fuchs is in charge of public relations and marketing, which suits her lightning quick, people-savvy and multi-tasking personality. Sepulveda is the CEO, steady and focused on the details, and keeps the machine running. Together, their upstart has succeeded in a field that has seen their competitors falter and even fold.
Their secret weapon is the glue that has kept them together all these years. “We are a family at SUITE New York,” said Sepulveda. “We work together, eat lunch and play together. Every individual’s success here belongs to the whole team and vice versa. And we hire people who are passionate about great design.”
The family attitude extends to their relationships with their manufacturers, the majority of whom are European. The showroom sells pieces made by the world’s most important designers, including Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner, Poul Kjaerholm, Piero Lissoni, Luigi Caccia Dominioni, Gae Aulenti, Grete Jalk and Vico Magistretti. The level of craftsmanship means that sometimes a chair will take a week longer to meet the original specifications of its award-winning creator. European vendors appreciate SUITE New York’s understanding and support of the process, rather than focusing on sales and the balance sheet alone.
“We understand the European mentality of putting craftsmanship first, and we respect it. Our excellent relationship with our manufacturers is one of the reasons SUITE New York became the leading showroom of its kind in Manhattan. On the East Coast, we are the top-selling dealer of manufacturers Fritz Hansen, Arper, and Carl Hansen, three of the biggest modern furniture makers in the world,” said Sepulveda. “We work hard to keep the lines of communication with them open, which isn’t always easy with European time zones and different languages. Fortunately, the Danish all speak English and, among our staff members, one speaks Italian, one speaks German, three speak Spanish and another speaks Chinese. When our vendors come to see us in New York, we make time for them to meet with our sales team, and we take them out for a good meal.”
Contract clients are as happy as the manufacturers. For their work on the Alain Ducasse restaurant, Fuchs and Sepulveda had to create a custom stain for the iconic Hans Wegner Elbow CH-20 chair, one that matched the restaurant, but which manufacturer Carl Hansen could not create. Working closely with the Ducasse design team, SUITE set up a workspace in New York specifically for custom staining to achieve the color standard desired, much to the delight of Herve Durozard, head of Groupe Alain Ducasse.
“It was fantastic to work with SUITE New York. We placed a unique order that SUITE went out of its way to get produced,” said Durozard. “We were delighted with the results for Benoit and our chairs are gorgeous. The service at SUITE is as remarkable as its furnishings.”
Fuchs, a collector of mid-century modern furniture, believes having more floor space to showcase pieces will allow the company to grow further. This in turn will allow her to support one of her passions: supporting emerging talent and local designers, including several based in the city’s outer boroughs.
Although SUITE New York showcases primarily European design, it is New York that is responsible for the company’s success.
“New York City gave us this opportunity. We are surrounded by high energy, sophistication and big thinkers. The arts, culture, and design are everywhere here,” Sepulveda ruminated. “It is the most generous city ever!”
What is New York’s…
Best hotel? The Bowery Hotel
Best place for breakfast? The Regency
Best place for lunch? Locanda Verde
Best place for dinner? Dell Anima
Best bar/nightspot? Roberts at the Museum of Arts and Design
Best boutique? Zero+Maria Cornejo
Best bookshop? Idlewild
Best art gallery? Cheim & Read
Best place for people watching? The Central Park Reservoir at 7 a.m.
Best-kept secret? MY BEDROOM
Best hotel? The Gramercy Park Hotel is located by one of my favorite parks, and has easy to access uptown and downtown. The renovation is unique and it’s a historical building.
Best breakfast? A new restaurant for down home comfort food, my new favorite is Tipsy Parsons in Chelsea. Still best NYC bagel and smoked fish is Murray’s!
Best place for lunch? Bottino on 10th Avenue in Chelsea provides the most scrumptious sandwiches, fresh salads, friendly help…makes it the best take out when rushing about on appointments or we use them to cater our presentations. Everyone love them.
Best place for dinner? Locanda Verde rocks!
Best bar/nightspot? Lure in Soho is always fun, people there know me and always treat me and my friends special. Love Josh who give Lure great energy.
Best store? Paragon Sports is not a boutique which right now most clothing stores bore me, but Paragon excites me when enter the store because it represents fun to me.
Best bookshop? 192 Books is a small neighborhood store where they are always helpful and have great selections of books.
Best art gallery? I live in the center of ART in Chelsea. Love the whole area.
Best place for people watching? SNY!!!!
Best kept secret? Under my building there is an Olympic size swimming pool only open to residents which is awesome. It’s my sanctuary in this city where I can relax and swim with huge arch windows over looking the courtyard, beautiful tile and always clean.