Nate Berkus on Family, His New Show, and Collecting Inspiration

Nate Berkus is one of the most recognizable super-talents in interior design in America. And, he’s incredibly inspiring. With all the hats he wears – from running a design firm based in Chicago and appearing on Oprah for years to hosting his own TV show and collaborating on a Target Home collection – it’s hard to miss his mark on design.

His new show on TLC, Nate & Jeremiah by Design is a testament to his people-first, home designing philosophy. Nate and his equally talented designer husband, Jeremiah Brent, team up to help families who have run into major crisis in the midst of renovation finally complete their homes. While it may sound like a home makeover show, when you see the families, hear the stories, watch the spaces evolve and get a glimpse into the genius of this duo and their power to transform… I cry tears of joy during every episode, and that’s a tall order for home design!

I was recently asked by The Shade Store to interview Nate during the Dwell on Design event. His new line of roller shades – full of subtle and refined patterns that are calming yet so smart – was about to debut. I jumped at the chance to meet a true design hero.

Not only do both Nate and his husband Jeremiah absolutely glow, I was blown away by the passion and dedication to excellence and deeper themes of design – creating a story, elevating the lives of people who live in a home, always striving to learn more and create more. Plus… in a huge testament to the power of authenticity, they are both incredibly nice and so generous with their ideas!

First lesson – take your time and assemble a home grounded in all that you love.

When you’re helping people change their story of their home, if they’re really overwhelmed, where do you begin?…I know it’s a big one.

No, it’s not a big one, it’s actually, I think a really, I think it’s a really powerful question. I think that part of being a good designer is mining for stories and even when people have a tough time communicating what it is that is important to them, it’s the designers responsibility to pull that information out of them.

Whether it’s visual cues, going on sites like Pinterest or 1stdibs or getting a sense of how they dress or what their ethnicity might be, what their family history might be, their favorite places it they’ve ever travelled, all of that information.

I think a solid designer has to be a good listener and so you take that information and sort of mix it up and then put your skill set and your ability to blend scale and periods and all of those things.

But, the best interiors are really the interiors that have been assembled over time, that really do reflect the people that live there, and so you can’t do that unless you can draw somebody’s story out of them.

That’s beautiful. You’re one of the only designers in the world that gets that philosophy and communicates it broadly in a way that really strikes me.

I think it’s so important. I really do.

I think that’s why your new TV show makes me cry every time I watch it!

Well, my husband, Jeremiah and I are very like-minded.

Next: Collect inspiration everywhere you go.

You are both amazing! Both of you really communicate so well with people to get that from them. How do you find your own inspiration?

Um, it comes mainly I think from, from travel, from people and their personalities and what makes all of us different from one another, also what makes us all exactly the same. You know, for instance, the inspiration for this collection of roller shades is that I have never travelled without bringing back textiles, whether it’s something hand woven in a flea market in Mexico or embroidered placemats, in Bangkok. It’s something that, even though I work with a pretty tight color palette in my own home, I’ve always been fascinated with printing, and textiles and weaving and all of that in terms of craft. So, I would say travel being the first thing, because wherever I go, I’m the guy online or at the concierge like begging for information of where the locals shop.

Most vital lesson: love who you collaborate with and bring out the best in one another!

My final question is one about innovation. If there were something you could say that has been a game changer for you in your creative process, like an app or a habit or something else, what would that be?

I would say getting married.

That’s amazing!

Yeah, I really would because I come from an auction house background, understanding and learning and physically interacting with the history of decorative arts and design and my husband doesn’t. So when we look at a space, especially our own home here in Los Angeles that we just finished renovating, I tend to err on more classic things, be more obsessed with proportion, be more obsessed with proper layouts… So you know, when you marry somebody who works in the same industry and you do a television show together, number 1 – you have to really like them, but 2 – there is a fundamental respect that I think he has for what I bring to a vision or a space and vice versa.

That’s so beautiful. Thank you so much for everything that you are doing in design. You do it all so brilliantly!