Photo: Stephen Lewis
We love our stuff, we hate our stuff, we can't live without our stuff. We lust after other people's stuff. We smile politely when relatives offer us their old stuff (anyone for a lovely hand-knit toaster cozy?) and when friends bring us artfully wrapped stuff (enjoy this lovely hand-knit toaster cozy that I am now quietly regifting). We donate our stuff to charity, stick our stuff in a bookcase, auction our stuff on eBay, and then we go out and get...more stuff!
Maybe what we need is somebody who's got the right stuff, a house whisperer who has somehow figured out how to peacefully coexist with a home stuffed with stuff. Somebody like Nate Berkus, the 39-year-old decorator, Oprah show correspondent, product designer, best-selling author, and host of The Nate Berkus Show.
Nate's home is both classic and quirky, rough and refined: a corduroy couch here, a leather rhino head that was a wedding present to his parents there ("This rhino has lasted a lot longer than that marriage," he says). A model of Frank Lloyd Wright's 1934 masterpiece, Fallingwater, built entirely of Legos, shares a shelf with a black-and-white Wedgwood dish and a crusty hunk of pyrite. A sepia photo of a Joshua tree has been sliced into strips and woven back together—made whole in a new way. Prior to being cut, the photo must have been lovely; now it is riveting. It was shot and reimagined by Nate's former partner, photographer Fernando Bengochea, who was killed in the 2004 tsunami while the two were vacationing in Sri Lanka.
Tonight Nate is recovering from an appendectomy. ("Best week of my life. I just lay in bed getting soup and OxyContin.") But he's not too tired to put out a bowl of caramel corn and share what he's come to understand about paring away the stuff that doesn't enhance your life, embracing the stuff that does, and what it really takes to finally be at home in your home.
Next: How Nate Berkus describes his design philosophy
We Hear You!