Nate Berkus shares how he developed his interior design style – plus his best advice for discovering your own aesthetic

Celebrity designer Nate Berkus describes his ever-evolving style and reveals his current design obsessions in an exclusive interview with H&G

Interior designer Nate Berkus sitting in a bedroom wearing a brown jacket
(Image credit: Nate Home)

Nate Berkus has made a name for himself in the interior design world, and his aesthetic is unmistakable. A reflection of his personality and accomplished career, his work strikes a lovely balance between vintage and fresh. But Nate says that his design style took some time to develop – and admits that it's changing every day.

In an exclusive interview with Homes & Gardens, Nate shared the design influences that keep him going, offered some advice for those who are still searching for their own personal interior design style, and explained why the most iconic design looks happened when someone 'busted a move.' This is what Nate had to say.

Nate Berkus for 1stDibs
Nate Berkus

Since Nate’s first appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2002, he has become one of the world’s most recognizable interior designers. He has authored two New York Times bestselling books and stars alongside his husband, Jeremiah Brent, in HGTV's Nate & Jeremiah Home Project.

Nate says his personal design style 'continues to evolve,' changing gradually as time goes on. He finds inspiration all around him, and his tastes shift accordingly. At the moment, he says his style leans transitional.

'It’s a combination of modern meeting historic references. It feels well-traveled, assembled and layered over time. And I probably lean toward the masculine side of things – even when I'm working with florals and things like that, they're always paired with something that I feel has a little bit of a masculine or a streamlined perspective,' Nate tells H&G.

Design inspiration is all around us, so personal taste is never static. But Nate says a treasure trove of ingenuity can be found in timeless, long-lasting spaces. He often looks to historic homes, classic architecture, jewelry design and fine art for design ideas, and regularly picks up inspiration while traveling. Nate also notes that crafts and handmade goods from different cultures catch his eye.

'I continue to evolve, and my style continues to evolve, but I have an absolute fascination for things, and objects and spaces and places that have stood the test of time,' he says.

In his own design projects, and with Nate Home – his collection of bedroom, bathroom and home goods – he attempts to distill beautiful spaces and objects into functional, modern-day items that make life more stylish.

'I feel as a designer, it's really my responsibility to always have my eyes open, always be thinking about how to take the essence of an idea and translate it into something that's really decidedly usable, and easy to incorporate and live your daily life with something that feels a bit more luxurious – whether that's a space, or a towel, or a bath rug, or a vintage gilded mirror from the 18th century,' says Nate.

Aside from the excitement he gets from historic spaces and world travels, Nate says that home organization has 'fascinated' him as of late. Nate says that his interest in home organization has made his home life more coordinated, explaining that he spent much of the pandemic scrolling through videos of aesthetically pleasing, highly organized drawers and shelves.

'The feeling of satisfaction I have when I open a drawer and everything is exactly where it is, or I put my kids' clean clothes back in their closets or dressers and I know exactly what goes where, has been valuable,' he says.

But the designers' main interior focus at the moment is reflected in Nate Home's product range, all high-quality home essentials. Nate says that 'focusing on the core things,' and evaluating what brings your life the most value, is of the utmost importance when building your space.

'You're going to spend hours on Etsy trying to find a hand-painted lampshade, but the towel that you dry off with every morning is not something that makes you happy. Or you're sleeping for eight to 10 hours a night on threadbare sheets or sheets that have holes in them. What is that saying about your own priority system? I think you have to get that first layer right and then start creating on top of it,' says Nate.

Defining your own design style is difficult, and happens gradually over time. Nate says that struggling with your personal style is par for the course – it's hard to know what you like when you haven't lived with it. He admits that, at the beginning, the process involves 'a lot of guesswork.'

'The most important advice that I can give to people is to sort of shut out the noise around them. Don't ask everyone for their opinion when you're about to make a decision – make the decision that feels right to you, and build on it,' says Nate.

Although getting expert advice is invaluable, sometimes the best approach is sitting with yourself and listening to your instincts. After all, Nate says spaces that have been created with an individualistic approach have made the most significant impact on the design world.

'The most important spaces, the spaces that are the most copied or the most recreated – or attempted to be recreated – in today's world are the spaces where people took risks. Even though they might have been unsure about a color, or a decision, or a choice, they did it and they stood behind it and the room evolved around it. The most interesting spaces have always been the spaces where somebody busted a move,' he says.

Nate says he's 'always subscribed to' highly personalized design styles, and loves to see what people do with the products he creates in their own spaces. To build your own repertoire of design favorites, Nate suggests picking out pieces that speak to you slowly over time. By curating a collection of favorites, you'll learn to instantly recognize items that are up your alley and those that will fit in with the rest of your space.

'It's really important for us to take the time to assemble a visual diary of things that make our heart sing, things that our eyes land on as they travel, and make us smile or just make us feel really good ... You'll start to notice naturally a through line:  I'm drawn to these heavy, dark, moody colors, or I really am drawn to these beachy, light environments. I'm drawn to ornate things, or I'm drawn to things with really clean lines. Once you have that vocabulary, you’re ready. You're ready to take risks on your own,' says Nate.

Some of the greatest design ideas started with rebellion, and Nate says points to surrealist Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli as a pioneer of individualist spaces. Working closely with Jean-Michel Frank – the iconic French decorator and furniture designer – she brought color-drenched, ornate spaces new life.

'When you look at pictures of these amazing interiors, and these spaces that people were really decidedly creative and knew themselves well enough to assemble a space around them that felt authentic – that's always been what I've been after for the greatest part of 30 years,' he says.

Nate adds that his goal is to impart his knowledge to others, no matter where they are in their design journey: 'It's giving people the tools to craft that and sharing what I've learned over the course of my career, so that somebody either starting out, or in the midst of a renovation, or with $20 left to spend at the end of the month, feels really good and empowered to make those decisions,' he says.

Nate's focus on unique, collected spaces has brought him a long way, and he's proved that there's no dearth of design inspiration. Think about what's important to you, and identify the design elements that bring you joy, and you'll be one step closer to curating the interior of your dreams.

Abby Wilson
News Writer

I am a News Writer at Homes & Gardens, with a focus on interior design. Most recently, I worked with Better Homes & Gardens, where I wrote and edited content about home decor, gardening tips, food news, and more. Before that, I studied Journalism and English Literature at New York University. I’ve moved around quite a bit in the last several years, most recently making the trip to London, and love transforming each new space into a comfortable retreat that feels like home. When it comes to decor, I’m most drawn to unique vintage finds and calming colors.