Star interior designer Nate Berkus headlines the NHA’s Nantucket by Design luncheon next month.
In the world of interior design, few are more multitalented than Nate Berkus. The star of several popular home design television programs, Berkus has also flexed his creativity in bestselling books, lines of home décor products and even in an Oscar-winning film, The Help, on which he served as a producer. Above all, this father of two remains a dedicated interior designer, driven by the same passion that inspired him to begin his own design firm at the age of twenty-four and that later won him an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey Show, which catapulted him into pop culture stardom. Next month, the full range of Nate Berkus’ talents will be on display on Nantucket as he serves as the keynote speaker of the NHA’s Nantucket by Design luncheon. Held in person on August 5th, the luncheon can also be enjoyed from the comfort of your home via Zoom. As a preview to his appearance, N Magazine spoke to Nate Berkus about his thoughts on coastal design, new trends in home decor and what actually happens behind the scenes of his home makeover shows.
How would you breathe new life into the Nantucket design aesthetic?
I think it’s time to focus on blending the time-honored coastal aesthetic with a slightly more international style—a few pieces of French or Italian mid-century paired with primitive American antique furniture and modern art is a very current and thoughtful direction.
As it relates to antiques, how can pieces from the past be reimagined in today’s coastal spaces?
The thing that has always compelled me to work with antique furniture is its inherent character and patina; I think the visual energy comes from pairing things from different eras and different places in a fearless, imaginative way.
What new trends are you most excited about in today’s coastal homes?
The movement toward a softer hand and less gloss. Paint for millwork shifting from bright, shinier whites to papery and chalky putty and off-white. Plaster-like finishes that make the walls feel warmer and architecture that respects his- tory in a slightly more pared down way. Bronze instead of brasses, reclaimed stone floors instead of ceramics, etc.
My priorities of importance have always been as follows: people, pets, then things. An interior space where everyone doesn’t feel welcome is a colossal failure. We use outdoor textiles or patterns on highly used furniture, and a lot of vintage and antique furniture that already has the character and patina of years of use. Even our three-year-old son can’t do any damage…and he is a bit of an animal.
Let’s say you were hired to design a home office located in a space with limited window light. What three elements would you immediately think to introduce to the space to make it unique?
Reclaimed paneling for the walls, modified to fit the existing walls. Perhaps a series of small Josef Hoffmann lights in a grid and on dimmers in the ceiling, and some beautiful, well-chosen vintage pieces.
When taking on a project with your husband, who is also an accomplished interior designer, how do you divide the responsibilities?
We both work on an initial concept and then throw our individual ideas on the table to be discussed. With us, there is zero ego involved; the best idea always wins. Period.
I think Nantucket design tends to be more elegant than the Hamptons, so not really.
What’s one design element that you believe should be banned from homes for stylistic reasons?
You are multitalented—between design, products, television, books, film—is there another industry you’d like to explore?
Not at all, I remain so inspired every day by architecture and design and that I get to do what I love for a living.
You’ve had a number of successful home design television programs. What happens behind the scenes that would surprise most people?
Sometimes people don’t love the outcome, but feel obliged to pretend they do for the cameras. I always go back and make it right.
I love old, Waspy jewelry and collect pieces from the sixties and seventies for our daughter.
What’s a key to keeping your creative juices flowing?
Sourcing one-off and unique things online or at markets. Also, travel—of course.
What are you most excited to experience during your upcoming visit to Nantucket?
I love Nantucket. I’ve been many times, and have extended family here…I love the whole place.
Purchase tickets for the NHA’s Nantucket by Design Luncheon with Nate Berkus and learn more about other events being held August 5-7 by visiting nha.org.