His Journey is the Narration of His Flawless Style and Home
Written By: Tamara Philips
Photographed By: Natasha Lee Nate Berkus
Styled By: Desi Aguilar
Grooming By: Brie Leach
Artwork By: Pierce Meehan
Originally an Orange County native, design mogul Nate Berkus has been designing as an East Coast man and a West Coast man throughout his lifetime, and finally this year, he made the decision to create his family nest in Southern California with husband, Jeremiah Brent and daughter, Poppy. It’s the perfect sunny corner of the country to continue his role as Artistic Advisor at LG Studio; his booming interior design firm, Nate Berkus Associates; his line at Target; and his new TV show “Married to Design.”
“The thing I love and what I’m really grateful for, is that I’ve been able to build a business around what I prefer to do on a Sunday afternoon, ” Nate says. “So, for me, it’s when your true love is combing through antique shops and moving things around in a space until you find a balance that feels right to you, and you get to do that for a living every day, I think that’s a really great thing.”
Nate walks onto set relaxed and sporting jeans and a t-shirt. He flew in from Chicago late the night before and caught a case of the sniffles, but with a cup of tea in hand, he was seemingly in tip-top shape to chat with me, throw on some different outfits (all from his own wardrobe, of course), and found a bit of energy to cruise through A’maree’s and tell shoppers how “chic” their outfits were in between looks. A stunning August day on the Newport Beach peninsula seemed to be just the prescription for him.
Every once in awhile, you just need to take a load off and partake in some well-deserved knick knack shopping—like Nate and the team did during our LOCALE cover photo shoot, we couldn’t resist. While this type of browsing can be mindless and meaningless to many, for Nate, it’s personal. It always has been. Since he was his mother’s coveted design sidekick as a child, he continues to see this influence in his life today. “I grew up going to auctions, antique stores, fabric showrooms, and garage sales, ” Nate says. “And although my mom and I have completely different styles, one of the things my mom taught me is the value of finding special things and using vintage things. So, even today, I see myself gravitating toward sort of French and English antique furniture that could have been in the house I grew up in, just interpreted in a different way.”
While his mother’s french country home was his first introduction to design, his style today is more edited and decidedly less colorful. And as his own style has evolved over the last 20 years, he has learned that travel is also a leading source of inspiration. “For me, travel has been so informative—seeing how other people live and their cultures throughout different countries, ” he says. “Travel is sort of the great equalizer: When you think you’ve got a style set and figured out, and then you visit the origin of where that style came from, you find yourself asking questions you wouldn’t even have thought are necessary to ask.”
When asked to name a favorite item in his own home, he couldn’t do it. He asked for a pass on the question because every item is placed with thought and intention. Whether he found it at a vintage store or during his travels, all of the items are close to his heart and give you a glimpse into who Nate Berkus is. And he is this way whether it’s his own home or working on behalf of a client. “I’ve always believed that our home should tell our stories, and the way we do that is through our things, ” Nate says. “I’ve always been drawn to homes and rooms that tell a story—where they aspire to go, who they’ve loved, what they’ve seen—that for me, is the narration of a well-designed room.”
He doesn’t just like to design homes, but curate them, and stresses the importance to live with things that you love. Though not every piece in a room is going to have the same value, there should be a connection when someone shows you something and asks you whether you’d like to have it in your home, wherever it came from. For Nate, he’s a lover of the unexpected and all things vintage. He spends an incredible amount of time working with his staff, searching for things your neighbor wouldn’t have, and tends to stay away from buying a lot of reproduction furniture. “I’d rather have something that’s genuinely old and recovered than something that’s new and made to look old, which typically is a more expensive route—shockingly, ” he says.
Nate’s style is more collected and assembled over time. Ultimately, he aims to buck trends. He suggests leaning toward what’s classic and timeless when investing in a home to avoid becoming enamoured with what’s “current, ” but doesn’t believe there are “design rules” one must follow. “I think the greatest interior designers are those who went and broke the rules—they saw what everyone else was doing and went and did something that was intensely personal and just felt right to them, ” Nate says. “I have a library of over 3, 000 design books that I reference all the time, and the interiors that really stood the test of time, are not the ones that were trying to be ‘appropriate.’ There’s something really wonderful about that adventure.”With so many items to dress a home and bring it to life, his greatest joy as a designer is to help people figure out what their real style is, to expose them to an entirely new experience that they will love. Some of the items he likes to work with when figuring out this unique style with a client, and in his own home for that matter, are natural materials like old stone; brass, bronze, and iron; leather and linen; seagrass and woven materials; and things that are made by hand. Nate also gravitates toward contemporary or modern art. “I love the balance of a pair of beautiful 19th century chairs in front of a painting from 1960, ” he says.
He is making use of these materials and more in his new home with his family in LA. And having a home in Southern California with beautiful outdoor spaces, he is loving it, compared to the terrace of his New York City spot. This is this first time Nate is online looking at old garden statues, vintage garden furniture, planters, and balinese stone pots. He’s having a ton of fun designing in his own personal space where he can seat up to 10 people outside, entertain out there, and make use of the swimming pool. “[Outdoor living] is an area my design firm has done before since we have clients all over the country, but actually living it—it feels really free, ” Nate says.
You’ll be able to use a variety of items from Nate’s current Fall/Holiday 2016 collection at Target in your outdoor living space. He designs every piece himself. While designed for the indoors, it’s great enough weather here in Orange County to make use of items like the metallic woven accent rug, striped tassel throws, or some of the beaded/studded decorative pillows on your patio setup. “What’s great about the collaboration with Target is that the line is not meant to be all inclusive, ” he says. “It’s meant to for you to buy a few pieces and incorporate it into what you’re already living with. Fast design is like fast fashion, you can grab onto something without making a huge commitment financially and feel like you’re a part of what’s current and new.”
Nate has also been working with LG Studio as Artistic Advisor to create stylish kitchens for every look. He’s had a blast working with LG Studio to inspire the design of a new suite of black stainless steel kitchen appliances that was just released nationwide this fall, featuring a refrigerator, microwave oven, and ranges. It’s his ode to the marriage of chic and functionality in the kitchen! “When you start living with the kinds of features LG Studio builds into their appliances, you realize it frees you up to spend more time entertaining and hanging out with the people you’ve invited into your home, ” Nate says. “What could be better than that?”
Nate’s ability to achieve this duo of chic and functionality will be a leading aspect in his upcoming show on TLC, “Married to Design.” As executive producers, Nate and Jeremiah will use their design expertise to rescue homeowners who have found themselves overwhelmed by renovation.
“I believe the state of our homes reflect everything else going on in our lives, ” Nate says. “So, if there’s laundry piled up and haven’t gotten to your paperwork, chances are, there are other areas of your life that feel a bit disorganized. A lot of living well outside the home begins with living well inside the home. It’s really one of the messages we’re delivering with the show.”
The show will begin with TLC following the pair in their own home. “It shows us very honestly and openly as two new dads and the challenges that we face with that, ” Nate says. “Our world is in the show as we’re doing these renovations. For me, it’s the very first time I have let cameras follow me around in my personal life.”
While cameras inside his home is a new adventure for Nate, this role isn’t new for him. Back in 2011’s The Help, he hopped on board as an executive producer. “The film was with a group of friends who had been living in LA for several years, and they came to me before the [movie] was published and asked if it was something I wanted to invest in, ” Nate says. “And I read the book and thought it was a terrific story and…when you read something that you really believe in, you take a risk with it. You think, ‘This could turn into nothing, ’ but instead, I found myself sitting at the Academy Awards. It was great.”
Whether it’s through design or getting involved with awesome TV shows or films, if Nate’s passionate about it, he’ll pursue it. Hence Nate Berkus Associates’ success since 1995. There’s no stopping him once his creative juices are flowing. “I think creativity is universal, and everybody has an outlet for creativity, ” Nate says. “Some people like to cook, I can’t make myself a grilled cheese. Some people like to bake and make beautiful things, and I don’t know how to turn my own oven on. But the truth is, we’re all very much the same and have a creative outlet. It could be [anything]. But when your creative outlet is in sync with what you do professionally, that’s a really lucky and great place to be.”
Nate’s Fave Vacation Spot: Patmos, Greece
Go-To Spots in Orange County:
Vintage and Pawn shops in Newport
Life Motto: Everything happens for a reason.
Dad Life: “I have never in the last 20 years had anything made out of red plastic in my house, and now I have several things laying around my living room that are made of red plastic.”
2241 West Coast Highway
Newport Beach, CA 92663
Nate Berkus Ditches Design Trends for the Home