Marle Women is created to celebrate our philosophy of designing pieces for women of all ages and stages of their lives. Each feature profiles a woman we admire and we hope each interview inspires you the same way in which these women inspire us.
For our latest edition, we interview New Zealand born, New York based Danu Kennedy, Partner at Parts and Labor Design, a design firm specialising in hospitality, residential and retail spaces.
Please share a little bit more about yourself, your upbringing and any defining moments that lead you to where you are today…
I grew up in the South Island of New Zealand in the Graham Valley, which is just outside of Motueka. I had a very alternative, independent upbringing. The school I went to was a democratic model and most of the teachers were the local community parents. We chose when to take lessons and ran free otherwise, immersed in nature and the natural landscape.
My Dad is American so my brother and I have dual citizenship but I didn’t make it over here [to New York] until I had finished university. We didn’t travel much when I was young but I have always had itchy feet so as soon as I was old enough I started exploring the world. After I had finished studying Interior Architecture in Wellington I made the move to NYC and have now been here for about 12 years. I live in Brooklyn with my husband Tyson and two kids Nico and Noah.
I’ve always had the desire to shape the space around me, I would say a defining moment was the move to NYC as it really allowed me to explore my creativity to understand a bit more about what I wanted to be contributing to the space. Being here has also allowed me to grow my knowledge of business and how to relate to a diverse body of people that we work with - clients, manufacturers, contractors, artisans, creatives etc.
Had you always imagined moving to New York?
I spent a year in Sydney when I was 16 then went to university in Wellington so I had moved out of home and lived away from New Zealand at a young age. New York wasn’t necessarily always the goal, I think I had just established a desire to be transient and after spending five years in Wellington I wanted to continue exploring. One of my girlfriends who I studied with, Lauren, had moved to NYC a year prior so I came over and never left! New York always felt like a good place for me, it’s really fostered who I am in a lot of ways and is such a juxtaposition to my upbringing in New Zealand, I feel really appreciative to call both places home.
As a Partner at Parts and Labor Design, a full service design firm specialising in hospitality, residential and retail spaces, you’ve been involved in some incredible projects. What have been some of your most memorable?
We’ve been really fortunate to have such a diverse body of work, it’s definitely been a great way to explore the country. Every project is memorable for its own reasons but the ones that really stay with you are the ones where we’ve had a natural synergy and connection with the client. Projects like the Thompson Hotel in Washington DC where we’ve really been able to run with our vision and create something truly special. We designed a restaurant in Chicago, Pacific Standard Time (now called Avec) that will stay with us for the same reason. The onboarding process was us going to this special community kitchen where the chef made this incredible wood fired meal to really communicate his vision for the food. Our spaces are always places for people to gather, socialise and converse so we’re big on experience and connection.
Marle is a brand centred around timelessness in design, what are some aspects of architecture that you believe have (and will continue to) transcend trends?
Grounding a space in something specific to that project (site, landscape, local community, etc) often allows it to not be at the mercy of trends and gives you something real to respond to. Architecture and design is cyclical as is fashion, you see current trends being focused on past eras. We always try to design consciously instead of reactively so we’re not getting caught up in what the latest trend is.
The idea of a gathering place, creating architecture that allows people to come together and how the program responds to that, is something that definitely transcends trends as does using different sources of inspiration like art, music and nature.
We‘re about to launch our first collection of lighting and furniture and have really focused on what inspires us and what we see as classic and timeless forms, centering the collection around the home and what objects and materials we want to be surrounded by day in and day out. We’ve lent into classic materials and a natural palette rather than looking to fit in with the current trends.
What are some of the largest differences you see between architecture and design in New Zealand and the US?
I don’t think there’s a huge difference in the hospitality space as a global aesthetic seems to be more of a thing but there is a much larger difference in residential design and architecture.
Residential architecture in New Zealand tends to respond more directly to the natural landscape whereas a lot of what is seen in the US is based on either an urban environment or old world European architecture (colonial etc).
How would you describe your personal style (fashion and interiors) and how has this evolved over the years?
I love to shop the men's section, always looking for oversized silhouettes to pair with classic staples like vintage jeans. Comfort is super important to me, I typically wear something that needs to work from early mornings with the kids through to a dinner out in the city so clothing that keeps its shape and has a clear sense of style without me having to try too hard to stay put together is what I am drawn to.
And honestly, I would say it’s similar for interiors, our spaces always need to work from morning to night, adapting to the different offerings throughout that time frame, dimming down to become moody and then providing a bright and sunny start to the day. My personal aesthetic relies on clean lines and unfussy material combinations that provide an approachable but edgy environment.
I think my 30s has really been my era to find myself and allowed me to commit more to a particular personal style - although I will say I always like to keep things interesting by challenging myself to evolve and I hope that continues.
You’ve recently had your second child - congratulations! What does your day look like in terms of work life / family life?
Thank you!! He’s magic. We now have a 3 month old and a 3 year old at home so the routine can change daily, but typically we have a good balance. My husband and I both have somewhat flexible schedules that help us accommodate the juggle. My business partner, Jeremy, also has children so we’re able to support each other as we grow our families and business.
We’re lucky, our youngest Noah is a good sleeper and so is his sister Nico, so my morning typically starts about 6am, up with the kids and sorting them out until about 8am where we then switch gears into getting ourselves ready for the day.
Both my husband and I are big on meditation so we always work that into our mornings and I’m typically at the gym as early as possible (currently easing back into working out after having a baby). We also have an amazing caregiver / nanny who is essential to the balancing of careers and young children.
I am home with Noah full time at the moment so am working periodically throughout the day when I can but also taking time to enjoy being with my baby. Somehow I’ve timed a new child perfectly with the launching of a new business (our product line) but it’s actually been really productive and has meant we’ve had to get creative about time management. Hosting meetings here at home instead of at the studio and understanding what's truly important vs what you can let go of.
Marle is designed to add effortless ease to a woman’s wardrobe - how does wearing Marle make you feel?
Marle clothing has an understated chic vibe about it which I love, nothing is trying too hard but everything looks and feels great. Effortless style.
After having a baby there’s this phase of getting to know your body again and I feel comfortable and like myself wearing Marle.
What is your most treasured object and why?
All of the pieces in our furniture line, because we’ve poured our heart and soul into them and they are representations of what we love in design!
Favourite home cooked meal?
My husband is an amazing cook so pretty much anything he cooks but he does make an epic seared tuna steak with red wine vinegar sauce.
Something that feels like home to you…
Your non-negotiable daily rituals?
Spring/Summer or Autumn/Winter?
Last Book Your Read?
Fingerprints of the Gods by Graham Hancock
Current Podcast Recommendations
Revisionist History, The Curiosity Chronicle