The Talent

How Kapito Muller Launched an Interiors Business in the Age of Instagram

Posting their tailored spaces on the app, the millennials behind this design firm are gaining likes, followers and clients.

Alyssa Kapito (left) and Vivian Muller founded their New York–based firm, Kapito Muller, in 2012, two years after they met as interns working for designer Bunny Williams. Top: In a children’s bedroom on the West Side of Manhattan, two Ellsworth Kelly prints — Orange/Green, 1970, and Green Curve, 1999, available from Susan Sheehan Gallery — hang over a pair of twin beds, providing the color scheme for the space. All photos by Nick Johnson

For anyone who has questioned the power of social media to propel a new business forward, the rise of New York interior design firm Kapito Muller offers a convincing case study. The partners’ savvy use of online platforms — including Instagram, where they have attracted more than 45,000 followers since launching four years ago — has brought in a multitude of projects while also establishing them as tastemakers for a legion of millennials.

“We got a lot of our clients through Instagram, which sounds so generational,” says Alyssa Kapito, 30, who founded the firm in 2012 with Vivian Muller, 28. “But Instagram was picking up just as we were starting, and we were sharing beautiful images — a mix of our own work and inspiration.”

Today, some of their followers have commissioned Kapito Muller to design such projects as a ground-up house in Beverly Hills, the gut renovation of a Carnegie Hill townhouse in Manhattan and a bachelor pad in Greenwich Village. Along the way, Domino magazine took note of the pair and recruited them as style contributors.

Of course, the duo’s ability to craft photogenic interiors embodying a polished, fresh take on traditional style has also been key. “Our aesthetic is very clean and tailored. People usually find it light and airy, and we love to hear that our spaces are relaxing,” says Kapito. Adds Muller: “We try to keep it eclectic and interesting and work with many different designers on custom pieces.” Before forming their own firm, Kapito, who studied art history at Columbia University, and Muller, who attended the New York School of Interior Design, learned from some of the most experienced designers in the industry. The two  met in 2010 while interning with Bunny Williams. Kapito went on to design commercial interiors at Perkins Eastman, while Muller joined Sandra Nunnerley.

 

In an apartment on Manhattan’s Central Park West, the family room features an oversized Lucite coffee table, for displaying and leafing through the clients’ collection of art and design books, many of which stand in the custom shelving and cabinetry. The chair in the far corner, with the Hermès throw blanket, is from Lawson-Fenning.

Another view of the family room reveals how the designers indulged the clients’ love for a bit of color: A brightly hued Gray Malin photograph depicting the beach in Positano, on Italy’s Amalfi Coast, hangs over a sofa flanked by light-blue Christopher Spitzmiller lamps. An Hermès red-lacquer tray sits on the coffee table.

Back in the West Side home, a low-slung custom-upholstered bed covered with Frette linens and, above it, a muted artwork by William McLure create a sense of serenity in the master bedroom.

Left: In the foyer, two vintage Italian stools nestle under a custom-made lacquered-linen console table. Kapito and Muller purchased the Brutalist artwork from Gerald Bland, and the client found the Italian mid-century sconces on 1stdibs. Right: The designers sourced the dining room’s mirror from Downtown and the table lamps from Donzella.

In the living room of an apartment on the West Side of Manhattan, two Tara Donovan works hang over the sofa. The T.H. Robsjohn-Gibbings chairs, modern French stools and Italian side tables are all from 1stdibs.

 

Although most designers have a client or two lined up before going out on their own, Kapito and Muller started with none. “The first thing we did was build a website, and the minute we launched it, we got our first client,” says Kapito. (A real estate broker friend shared a link with clients.) From there, Instagram seemed like an obvious tool for promotion. “A gut renovation can take two years in New York, with co-op board rules and approvals,” says Kapito. “So, it’s been very helpful to be able to get our work out there, even before it’s finished.” As projects reach completion, the pair is keen to have them documented more permanently, as well, in magazines, knowing that technology changes quickly. “Now, it’s all about Snapchat, so we’re not sure what’s next,” says Kapito. “We hit it just at the right time.”

 

Kapito Muller UES
“We love a work space that is as functional as it is beautiful,” the designers say of this home office on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. They found the Christopher Flach artwork that hangs above the desk at Gerald Bland and the Robsjohn-Gibbings chair at Lee Calicchio.

Early Influences:

The Museum of Modern Art, early John Saladino, Charlotte’s apartment in Sex and the City, 1990s Calvin Klein

Big Break:

Our very first project making the cover of Rue Magazine

Inspired By:

Currently obsessing over Scandinavian modern furniture and French modern furniture

Current Playlist:

Anything Adele

Favorite Artists:

Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Anish Kapoor, Chuck Close, Yves Klein, Andreas Gursky, Cy Twombly

Favorite Design Eras:

Right now, we love the bold lines of the Bauhaus and lightness of Scandinavian modernism. But also, Art Deco — we always come back to it

One Item You Put in Every Project:

Something bronze — it’s our favorite metal

 

The kitchen of a Madison Avenue apartment in New York is a study in white. A Charles and Ray Eames dining table and chair in the style of Gerrit Rietveld stand at the far end of the galley layout.

Left: In a corner of the Upper East Side apartment, a Giò Ponti–style sofa sits in front of a shagreen screen and artworks from Gerald Bland. Right: “A windowsill is an oft-overlooked opportunity to create a beautiful vignette,” the designers note of this spot in the home, where the curtains are of ivory-colored wool and the silver dishes are Christofle.

A series of woodblock prints by Donald Judd march across the living room wall of an apartment on New York’s Riverside Drive. The vintage Italian lamp is from Flair.

The Riverside Drive home’s master bedroom proves how powerful a neutral palette can be, especially when designers use contrasting textures to create aesthetic interest. The carpet is by Stark and the wallpaper is Thibaut.

 

kapito_muller_portrait2
“Our aesthetic is very clean and tailored. People usually find it light and airy, and we love to hear that our spaces are relaxing,” Kapito says of the firm’s house style. Adds Muller: “We try to keep it eclectic and interesting and work with many different designers on custom pieces.”

Designers You Most Admire:

Jean-Michel Frank, Stephen Sills, Thomas O’Brien, Delphine Krakoff, Mark Cunningham

Favorite Summer Getaway Spot:

Rome in the summer is incredibly romantic — and there’s gelato

Drink of Choice:

Kapito: Aperol spritz

Muller: Pinot Noir

Manhattan Watering Holes:

Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle and the private roof garden at the Surrey hotel

Go-To Dinner Places in New York:

Narcissa and the Mark Restaurant

On the Nightstand:

Kapito: A glass of water and a notepad

Muller: Vintage Cartier alarm clock


Kapito Muller’s Quick Picks on 1stdibs

“The shape of this table is simple yet beautiful. Marble is such a heavy material, but here it feels airy and open.”

“We love the work of Charlotte Perriand. This unit captures her classic sense of simplicity with an appealing mix of metal and wood.”

“This bench has such a great lifelike form. It would be a perfect statement piece.”

“This piece has a wonderful shape and mix of materials. It would be perfect over a dining room table or in a library.”

“Shearling is very chic right now. Here, it gives armchairs a soft and fuzzy appeal.”

“This is a totally timeless piece — great materials, great lines.”