Recently, I was given a very lucky opportunity to interview award-winning interior designer, Nate Berkus. Have you heard of him? Oh, you know, that design guy from Oprah. I’ve seen quite a few stories on him in the past, and with his recent collection with Target and his new book The Things That Matter, Nate is on fire! So, when the Target Inner Circle asked me to hop on a phone with him for a personal interview, I was ecstatic and dare I say, nervous!
I really wanted to use this interview wisely, so I focused on what I’m most curious about, and lately it’s defining my style. I’m drawn to anywhere from modern to classic to edgy to minimal to hollywood glam, but then is that too much? How do I pull everything I like under one roof? So I thought, who better to ask for advice than from an expert. Also, I was very curious about how a top designer like him, who constantly works with elite clients, brings himself to a level to please the mass market. So let’s see what Nate has to say…
SST: Your aesthetic to me has always been very classic and timeless. Would you say that’s your signature style? How would you describe it?
NB: “The goal of my design is to always feel fresh and combine. My aesthetic is never on one note and the things I have should strike a chord. I wouldn’t say I’m rustic or classic or modern. Instead, I go with what I’m attracted to and I’m attracted to a lot of natural elements like metal, wood and organic.”
Oversized Chain Link $12.99 (on my kitchen credenza with a tray I got from NYC and my new favorite teas.)
SST: I gravitate towards a lot of different styles and sometimes this makes me feel unsure on what my true style is. What advice would you give to someone who is trying to define their signature style?
NB: “Defining a style should be something you’re aspire to do. I think labeling a person to a certain style sounds very formulated. I believe more in finding a ‘personal style’ as oppose to a ‘signature style’. It’s something you hone and cultivate over time, allowing your greatest expression to come through. The best rooms I’ve seen and done is when the client really lets go, not thinking what is supposed to be appropriate for that particular room.”
Mini Decorative Bowl $7.99 (My bathroom vanity with my favorite candle, Jo Malone from my husband, my favorite soap, and vintage stamps I picked up from my honeymoon in Italy.)
SST: I love your Target collection. It’s very cohesive yet each piece is very unique and timeless. In the 1.5 year working with Target prior to the launch, what were your challenges to designing this collection?
NB: “Some of the challenges were how to edit, deciding which pieces make it to the collection, and trying to have a single point of view. I wanted to make sure this collection feels exciting, something that would make you turn corner. To do that, I included a lot of textures and patterns like the snakeskin oak washed box or the patterned picture frame.”
Rams Horn $15.99 (placed on top on some of my husband’s favorite graphic design books in our living room.)
SST: What are some things to keep in mind when designing for a mass market?
NB: “The price and offering good value is very important. I also have strict standard on the quality of my products so I made sure it was consistent throughout the entire collection. And when I design, I don’t try to cater to everybody. I stick to what I like and what has meaning to me. One of the best sellers of this collection is the tortoise shell and it was inspired by an actual tortoise shell I collected from my travel.”
Small Chevron Urn $22.99 (Also on our kitchen credenza with another one of my favorite handmade trays I got in Napa.)
SST: You emphasize a lot on “layering” your home. I love this concept but I’m also terrible at editing things down. Are their any tips or advice on “layering” your home without making it look like a junk yard?
NB: “I edit constantly and I believe a room has to evolve. Be aware of your surroundings. If you are surrounded by the things you love and the things that make you smile, it doesn’t matter if it’s there for a long time. However, if you catch yourself looking at a certain thing a few times and it bothers you, then it’s time to take it out. I think that’s why we love going to flea markets or Target to always find something that make us smile.”
SST: The holidays are upon us. What are some of your design tips on making our homes more festive this season other than a Christmas tree and stockings?
NB: “I love a traditional Christmas. For me, it would probably be finding items with reflective surfaces. New mirrors, new placemats – perhaps patent leather, interesting centerpiece. Like the small and mini gold decorative bowls in my collection, you can group five of them together and it would make a really nice centerpiece.”
I was truly inspired by his answers. Even with just the little conversation we had, it opened up my mind so much on the true meaning of defining your style and design. I’ve always thought I have to pick sides and “label” myself a certain style. But after speaking with Nate, I feel that it’s absolutely ok to allow myself to have more than just one style. Which now I come to think of it, I find it so true because when I see a room that’s all decked out in one particular style, I find it to be cliché and feels impersonal.
I can certainly see why so many people adore Nate and that he is so widely accepted. Nate doesn’t tell us what we should or should not like. Instead, he encourages us to empower our surroundings with things that matters most to us. He even said in some of his other interviews that he doesn’t expect us to buy his whole collection, what he really wants is that you pick one or two items that really strikes you and incorporate it into what you already love at home. And I did exactly that (well, I picked 5!), but I made sure it would be under a budget I would be comfortable with, which was just $100. And I can’t tell you how happy I am with the little redecorating I did just by implementing a few of Nate’s design philosophy.