MapSO Spotlight: Designer and Consultant Kitty Nguyen

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Village Green presents a series called Spotlight, which gives you a chance to get to know your neighbors better. We ask questions. Our Spotlight personality does the rest.

We continue Spotlight with a profile of designer and consultant Kitty Nguyen.

Kitty Nguyen


Kitty Nguyen

How long have you been part of the SOMA community?

Our family moved to Maplewood in 1999.  Our daughter was two at the time, and I was pregnant with our son – who turns 21 this week!

SOMA or MapSO?

MapSO. Our daughter graduated from Columbia High School; I picked it up from her and it has stuck ever since.

What do you do?

I am a designer and consultant.  I spent most of my career at Barneys New York and founded a business last year called Semifinalist (  It’s a direct to consumer brand focused on your favorite things, or what I like to call “humble everyday masterpieces.”

As a consultant, one of my preferred gigs is being the sidelines buyer at [words] bookstore in town.  “Sidelines” are all the non-book items you find in bookstores like gifts, stationery, apparel and such.

So funny enough, one of my sidelines IS actually sidelines!

Why do you live here?

We moved here for the convenient geography, halfway point between my work (NYC) and my husband’s (Morristown) and have stayed put because of the awesome community.

Which book have you been meaning to read?

There are so many!  I have a book hoarding problem and was delighted to discover that there is Japanese word for this, Tsundoku – how cool is that?  Anyway, back to the question.  If I had to name just one, it would be The Fortune Cookie Chronicles.  It’s a deep dive into the American love of Chinese food and explores the intersection of food, race, and immigration in the US.

If MapSO was a car/type of music/flavor of ice cream, what kind of would it be?

Car:  A vintage Ford wood-paneled station wagon, retrofit to be fully electric

Music:  Classic Rock

Ice Cream:  Mint chocolate chip (the green kind, of course).

How can you tell if someone is not from MapSO?

I think MapSO folks are generally good citizens that try to be considerate.  Whenever I see a car blocking traffic on Maplewood Avenue in the Village – just hanging out waiting for a parking spot – I crankily conclude, “this person is NOT from MapSO.”  At least, historically this has been the case.  If this is you reading…Kindly circle around! It’s the MapSO way.

What’s your favorite dessert in MapSO?

Easy.  Able Baker scone.  Any flavor that’s available.  They sell out for good reason.

What’s your favorite place to shop in MapSO?

[words] bookstore. No surprise.  I can get most of my shopping done here.  There is no better place for serendipity or buying a gift. Nine times out of 10, I will run into a friend among the stacks – bonus!

What’s your favorite thing about living here?

There is this hokey, old-fashioned vibe to MapSO.  It feels like a village and an extension of my home.  It’s difficult to describe it to people who don’t live here, but those who do, recognize the experience.  And like my home, it can get agitated and messy.  But at the end of day, I feel grounded and supported living here.

What’s your favorite place to go on Saturday morning?

I have a thing for good bakeries.  I plot our vacation itineraries around them. We are fortunate to have wonderful bakers in our two towns.  I toggle between Able Baker and The Bread Stand – and have been known to go to both on any given Saturday.  Saturdays are for comfort and decadence.

What is your favorite place to park in Maplewood and South Orange Village?

We purposely chose to live within walking distance to Maplewood village, so parking is not a preoccupation of mine.  If I had a favorite place, I would be tempted to keep it a secret given that parking has become sort of a blood sport.

Have you ever seen the MapSO fox? Is it scary or awesome?

I have not seen the MapSO fox!  Everyone else in my family has, however.  I have received elaborate reporting.  It seems that there may actually be two foxes in our midst?  One is beautifully healthy and the other is rather mangy.  Therefore, scary AND awesome?

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