nate berkus

Nate Berkus believes your home should tell your story. Not who your decorator is. Not who your friends sometimes think you should be, not who your family occasionally wishes you would be, and not who any number of style magazines say you "must be."

Here are five other lessons adapted—with Nate's blessing—from his beautiful new book: The Things That Matter.
nate berkus

Photo: Roger Davies

Plan out the "why" and "what for"
When you're starting over—for instance, like one of Nate's clients who moved from his old apartment with only a favorite black-and-white picture of his late mother—it's important to decide what kind of home you want to create. In that particular case, Nate understood that new apartment had to have richness and it had to have weight. Those two questions were applied to every object under consideration. Those questions also helped them decide that the flimsy French doors typical of new construction should be exchanged for floor-to-ceiling metal ones. In the end, those doors convey permanence—even majesty. Once you've figured out the "why" and "what for" of your space, it's much easier to figure out the "which"—as in, "which of all these sofas/end tables/crystal candelabra really seems like me?"
nate berkus

Photo: Roger Davies

Do some living in your living room
Nate writes, "I think we all have this misconception about our living rooms. We somehow get it into our heads that they need to be spare and formal, while the family room is the place that's relaxed and playful and filled with our stuff." It's just not true—you can be surrounded by the signs of a well-lived life, the things that provide perspective and comfort. And to which client did he give this advice—plus a bright pillow with the word Love on it for her [sofa]? Dr. Ruth Westheimer. "I couldn't help but throw in the love pillow," writes Nate, "because that's really what she's about."
nate berkus

Photo: Roger Davies

Be your own stuff police
One woman Nate admires doesn’t hesitate to say, "this house isn't big enough for the two of us," as she ushers out anything that no longer makes her happy. Most of our houses have so many overstuffed containers and cupboards and drawers and storage boxes that it comes as a shock to see rooms utterly pared down. The owner calls her space poetic, Nate calls it "meaningful minimalism" and others might call it impossible to live in. But her house makes Nate think that we should all stand in our threshold and guard what we allow in. "Sometimes I wonder," he writes, "Would I appreciate the things around me more if I owned, say one alligator picture frame instead of three?"
nate berkus

Photo: Thinkstock

Stop looking to other people for permission to do what feels right
Nate has a friend with a vintage apartment—light-filled with high ceilings and old metal doorknobs. The walls are painted pale gray to offset the apartment's original moldings done in glossy white—a color combination that looks expensive—but she's turned everything on its ear by throwing in an ottoman reupholstered in shocking pink. "Her space always makes me think of a very elegant banker wearing a chalk-striped suit with funny socks," writes Nate, who adds, "why not tie a piece of twine around an antique glass decanter, or perch a branch atop a bookshelf, just because you happen to like the way these things make you feel?"

Next: Nate Berkus: Why you should break the rules when decorating your home