We had a feeling we would like Kat Nouri, the woman behind Modern-twist, the company that produces smart, well-designed kids’ products (including these doodle-friendly placemats and these pillows). The (enviably balanced) San Francisco mom of three talks about how she runs a business and a household, and lets us in on her relationship, cooking, and beauty secrets.
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I grew up in the East Bay of California, with a mom that is a nutritionist and a father that was a world athlete. I spent a lot of time at the farmer’s market as my father by trade was always in the produce business. We cherished our time around the table, and cooking was a huge part of our creativity as a family. Exercise was right up there. My Dad, like a drill sergeant, had us up and at it, even when we just wanted to sleep in.
How did you come up with Modern-Twist?
My very first idea came about as my daughter and I were taking a nap in the afternoon. She was 2 years old at the time and we would take a nap then she would get up and take off her pjs and I would fold them and put them under the pillow. She thought this was such a fun game. She would simply walk by and chuck them on the floor. My husband and I had a manufacturing company, and one of our Japanese clients had gifted us a Japanese Anemone box. I came up with the idea of making this Japanese anemone box into a pillow to stash secret and wonderful things. It was a product that was of a traditional concept, but with new minimalistic aesthetics. That is how I came up with Modern-twist. The Modern-twist concept then was extended to taking what was originally made with off gassing plastics with a new concept of being made with material that is BPA free, non-porous/germ free and recyclable. Now that was the real Modern-twist. There were plenty of folks making products with fabrics, but very few with alternative creative sustainable materials that were easy to clean and not harm the planet.
What are your children’s rooms like? What’s your attitude towards their rooms—do they drive the design or do you?
They have their own artwork, or favorite athletes on the walls — go Marta (our soccer player daughter)! Kids do navigate towards junky things, but I am fortunate that I have my mom’s balanced attitude, as she did towards junk food. She used to say, if she deprived us we would want it more. So we got to pick our own junk food. Before you knew it, we had no interest, and we developed a taste of our own. We still like junk food once in a while, but 99% of the time we make a better choice because it is our choice and not someone else’s.
Who cooks in the house?
We all cook. As I mentioned cooking is a big part of our lives. The kids of course sometimes make such a mess that you are sorry you even started the meal. But overall, since I grew up in the kitchen, I can whip up a meal in 20 minutes. I feel like I am a great cook. I don’t measure anything and I cook passionately. We make a family event out of it — will get the groceries at the last minute often, and run in with the bags and we all attack. My husband and I have a nice glass of wine and we cook away. As a family, it is often difficult to just sit together in the evenings and talk to one another. This past year we have made a point of eating dinner together.
Do you entertain often? What’s a typical party like at your place?
We cheat—we often invite people to the club we belong to, and then we don’t have to clean up after the party. The funniest thing lately is that we come to the new M-t loft with couple friends; it has become our rendezvous, free of kids, and our own private adult space. Now my teenager is asking if they could have a dinner party at the loft. Oh boy, they catch on fast.
Tell us about a typical weekday.
Typical weekday, we all eat breakfast and my husband takes all three kids to school and I go off to work. The nice thing is, I love my work and my team. When I come to work, it’s just an extension of my home. I love the energy at work. We stress, we play, and we laugh. I’m so lucky to have created a job for myself. I have to confess, everyone helps with the kids, and they all love my kids. So if I have to go to a meeting or go across the world, they always have my back.
Any family rituals?
My husband and I are true believers in date nights. We really enjoy good food, and each other’s company. The kids say “we want you guys to go out like you do so you don’t get a divorce.” I think they see that a lot with their friends, and it’s nice they know that all good relationships take a lot of work.
What are your favorite activities for when you’re stuck indoors?
We love to pop popcorn and watch movies, and bake.
What’s the thing that always stays on your to-do list and never gets crossed off?
What I am in the midst of doing now… cleaning out my closet.
Top 3 favorite books—for your kids, for yourself? Last book you read?
I am reading a book The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk…and my favorite book is still Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham.
Do you have a fail-safe beauty product or routine?
Shiseido face cream and foam wash. I have been using it for 15 years. I am one of those people who never, ever goes to sleep without washing my face and flossing. My husband and best friend always roll their eyes.
What’s your favorite clothing item or accessory—something that makes you feel instantly pulled together?
My choker a really good friend made it for me from Verre New York. I almost always have it on.
Do you have any personal a-ha tip that you want to tell us about?
Olive oil. I convert all butter measurements to olive oil. It works and it’s much lighter.
Sitting on a plane and watching four movies at a time. So fun. I never get to just sit and do nothing. Going to New York and having fun when I am off for work. Going to Paris and walking in the Marais. I love having my cake and eating it too. It’s again I think having to do with having a good partner, that the kids love as much as their Mom.
What kind of parenting advice did you receive from your own parents?
Mom always said “be able to support yourself, especially as a woman.” Also my mom worked and went to school a lot, I always wished she were home more. I think that is why I kept my business at home for the first six years. I wanted my kids to be inspired by what you can do from your own home. Especially my daughter. I didn’t just want to be someone’s daughter, mother, and wife either. I wanted to also reach my full potential and have my family.