Nate Berkus on How to Curate Your Own Design Style

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As one of the world’s most renowned interior designers, Nate Berkus stands in a league of his own. Since his debut on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2002, Nate has consistently showcased his distinct transitional interior design style, characterized by thoughtfully curated neutral palettes, antique elements, modern touches and outdoor inspirations.

Last year, Nate launched the Nate Home by Nate Berkus product line in collaboration with mDesign, which includes bedding, bathroom products and organization accessories.

In an exclusive interview with HGTV Canada, the designer shares how to navigate decision fatigue in interior design, create a more functional living space, develop your own design aesthetic, and bring more natural elements into your home.

Related: Nate Berkus Just Launched a New Home Decor Line – See Our Top Picks 

Q: Social media makes it easy to follow design trends and replicate how other people design their homes. How can we incorporate these ideas while still creating a space that reflects our personal style?

Saving photos of beautiful interiors can be a great starting point for a design project. The key is to pick one specific detail: the floor pattern, the way furniture is laid out, or the use of something from one period juxtaposed with something from a different era, country or culture.

Don’t try to replicate the entire vibe or look. That has become a huge issue in design. We see clients making decisions, and then seeing something else on social media and changing their minds about the palette or colour of their cabinetry that they loved and decided on weeks ago.

Printed Shapes Cotton Comforter Set by Nate Home
Nate Home by Nate Berkus / mDesign

Related: How an Interior Designer Created Her Bold and Eclectic Mid-Century Modern Home

There’s always room for inspiration. I’ve always been vehemently anti-trend; as a designer, I want the spaces I work on to look just as good 20 years from now as the day I turn them over to the homeowner. And to do that, you have to really be trend-averse. You have to spend the effort and the time considering what you want.

It’s great to be on social media gathering all this imagery and inspiration. But can you explain why it makes your heart sing? What connection do you feel to it, and what, specifically in the image, feels like home to you? If you can’t answer those questions, you’re just copying somebody else. There’s nothing better than creating an interior that reflects who you are.

Q: Designing a room involves trial and error. What’s your advice for selecting significant investment pieces like sofas or dining tables?

This is where the help of consulting with a professional designer comes in. After thirty years of professional design experience, my first rule is: don’t be a snob about where anything comes from, whether from a department store or a more prominent brand.

With that said, I always like to look at vintage pieces first. You can find great deals from an online auction, antique malls, or a consignment store. Get a team of local people together (such as professional reupholsters or carpenters) who can help you customize these finds into things that fall into your style. Even in kids’ bedrooms, I prefer incorporating vintage items for their enduring charm and longevity.

Q: How do you make the most of small living spaces?

You need to be smart about storage. Even if you buy a store-bought cabinet that’s only ten inches deep but tall, you can use shoe organizers or plastic storage baskets to organize items like dresses, pyjamas, socks and underwear, maximizing space efficiency without taking up much square footage. Proper organization with the right storage solutions [such as the products featured in the Nate Home by Nate Berkus line] can make or break your available space, especially in small kitchens.

Perforated bins from the Nate Home by Nate Berkus collection.
Nate Home by Nate Berkus / mDesign

My other main rule of thumb for a small space is that I don’t like small-scale furniture. No one really has anywhere that comfortable to sit down. If you have to have less [furniture to accommodate bigger pieces], that’s fine. But don’t go for the loveseat. Generously sized, comfortable seating in smaller homes is the way to go.

Related: Jeremiah Brent Reveals His Corduroy Couch is Actually From IKEA

 Q: Bringing the outdoors in has always been a large part of your design philosophy. Do you have any plants or greenery you’ve been loving lately?

It’s funny because we could always have fresh flowers delivered for each installation during our HGTV show [The Nate and Jeremiah Home Project]. But Jeremiah and I would inevitably be out in the backyard cutting down branches, getting them inside and using them in vases. It’s something we do at home, too. You can do things with enormous height and scale, making the room feel finished without costing anything. In addition to branches, you can never go wrong with a potted olive tree.

Related: The Best Tall Indoor Plants for the Look of Lush Luxury

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