CHICAGO — Nate Berkus’ life has been a little bit chaotic — mostly in a good way — for the past few years. He married fellow designer and television personality Jeremiah Brent, relocated from New York to Los Angeles, started up a new television show with Brent (TLC’s “Nate and Jeremiah By Design), and the couple welcomed two children, Poppy and Oskar (born this spring.) “I absolutely wanted all of this,” he says. “It’s all elective, and I love every minute of it. I really do, but I am tired.”
Lucky for Berkus, some things have remained constant, including his unerring ability to create a haven at home, with a style that manages to be timeless, personal, and relaxed — yet still completely chic. Lucky for us, he’s shared that design wisdom in the form of great ideas for our own homes. We pulled together some of his best ideas for getting your house in great shape.
Don’t forget the love: “I have always really believed that our homes tell our story,” Berkus says, “and we do that by the things we allow into our space. Live with things you love; that remind you of people and places that are meaningful to you. It can be as simple as a black and white framed photo next to the bed. Or a textile you brought back from a trip.” That personalization, he says, becomes a part of your signature style, keeping your home comfortable and beautiful no matter what changes.
Change up the sofa: Don’t ditch it, switch it, Berkus says. “The easiest option is switching out the pillows and throwing a great textile over the back of it, like a chunky knit throw. If you have a basic English roll arm sofa with two modern pillows it changes that look completely.”
Check your chairs: A new dining room not in the budget? Try just changing the chairs. “It’s always about having things that don’t match at all. I love wood-framed upholstered chairs around a stone or glass table. One style that matches everything is the Louis XVI chair, with a rectangular back and upholstered center and upholstered back. The chairs are more important than the table.”
Embrace slouchy chic: “Slouchy glamour for me is not having everything in a room be new. I like dings, knicks, faded paint, worn wood surfaces. I like things that feel like they have a sense of history to them. My rule of thumb is that upholstery is new and everything else is vintage.” Berkus adds small doses of glam — metallic votives, a special serving bowl — to the mix when he’s ready to amp things up for entertaining, or just for fun.
Maintain your clean: Berkus makes no apologies for his detail-obsessed nature — instead, he blames the stars. “I’m a double Virgo, so keeping the house clean and organized happens on a daily basis. Organization, people — it’s the key.” This is tough love, but remember that 10 minutes daily spent putting things away or quickly vacuuming the rug pays dividends: if your basic maintenance is solid, there is never a need for frantic, last-minute cleaning.
Plus, you get to enjoy a more calming environment every day. “Our home always looks like it’s ready for guests,” Berkus says, “but it’s really ready for us because that’s how we like to live.”
Edit unapologetically: “It’s funny to me that with the rise in exposure to design, Instagram, Pinterest, all the stuff we can all access, the result is you have to really be a ruthless editor of your life. Beauty trumps everything in the choices you make to cross the threshold of your front door. If you’re going to love something for a minute, you need to save your money and keep moving. I don’t see the point of buying things that are temporary, even a set of juice glasses. So I’ll have a set of vintage juice glasses that I love, and I use them every day.”
Set a great table: “My mother didn’t cook, growing up,” says Berkus. “She was a designer, and she cared more about the plates than what you were serving on them. I’m the same way.” Thus, Berkus leaves cooking alone and focuses on creating a beautiful setting. His go-tos? Standard white napkins from Williams-Sonoma, for starters but also custom-made napkins. (Take a favorite fabric to the dry cleaners and ask for it to be hemmed into 18-inch squares.) Finishing touches come from an inventory of interesting textiles and serveware from the couple’s travels.
Primp that kitchen: “Everybody always ends up in the kitchen,” says Berkus. “It doesn’t matter how great the pillows are on your living room sofa — everyone is at the island hanging around.” Assume guests will camp out in your kitchen, and give it a touch of style. “Greenery always feels festive and welcoming,” says Berkus. “Pull from your garden, or visit your local flower market. Grab eucalyptus or palm leaves — anything that brings the outside in and feels dressed up.”
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