Design Advice from Designer Bobby Berk
Bobby Berk has won over our hearts by making over our living spaces as the design expert on the popular Netflix show “Queer Eye.” The celebrity designer has an extensive history of innovation in the design world, heading up Bobby Berk Interiors + Design, which specializes in the homebuilding industry, and the Bobby Berk Home collection for home décor.
Berk’s passion for the craft shows through in his work on screen—and it’s the real deal, as we quickly discovered by talking to him.
“Design has the power to change the way a person lives,” Berk says. “I love to create a space that people feel at home in, are excited by and feel represents their personality and tastes. There is no better feeling in the world than helping someone find their ‘home’ within the space between four walls.”
You don’t have to be in an episode of “Queer Eye” to benefit from Berk’s design eye. We chatted with the famed designer while he was in New York to celebrate the Delta Design Beyond program.
Here are Berk’s top tips for interior design.
Design inspiration can come from anywhere—if you’re looking for it.
A sense of design is like a muscle that develops the more you use it, Berk says. “When you start to see the world through a more creative lens, you start to find inspiration literally everywhere,” he says. “I take pictures of random things all the time because they have something unique that I think I can apply to my work. You have to just train yourself to open your eyes and look around.”
Design for what feels good to you, not necessarily what looks trendy.
One mistake Berk sees people make is designing spaces based on what is
trendy or might increase the home’s resale value instead of what makes the home enjoyable and comfortable to live in.
“Trends will come and go,” he says, “but design that stands the test of time is more about creating a space that feels special to the homeowner. I love to work with my clients by first finding out how they really want the space to feel more than how they want it to look. Do they want it to be warm, welcoming, cozy, quaint, simple, open? Once we home in on how they want the space to feel, then we can create something that is timeless for them and their home.”
If you and your partner don’t see eye to eye on design tastes, keep the basics basic. Then you can bring in each person’s personality through the accents and accessories.
Figure out your design style—and if you can’t agree with your partner, find some common ground.
A recurring theme on interior design TV shows—and maybe this is playing out in your own home—is couples who can’t come together on a style for their home. There is hope! Berk says:
“If you and your partner don’t see eye to eye on design tastes, then my first rule is to keep the basics basic. Keep your couch, sofa and rug all on the neutral side,” he says. “Just because you love the color pink doesn’t mean that you need a curved-back pink sofa. Alternatively, if your partner loves plaid, it doesn’t mean that you need a plaid rug in your space. Once you have your foundational elements in place, then you can bring in each person’s personality through the accents and accessories. This also allows you to swap things up if you want down the road, rather than getting stuck with a Pepto-Bismol-colored couch that one of you insisted on having.”
Don’t be afraid to be bold.
Fans of Berk know that he loves designing kitchens. He has a lot to say about expressing personal style in that space.
“Thinking about doing that all-white, bright-white kitchen because it’s timeless? Think again,” he says. “Instead, think about using some bold colors—a navy, a light blue, a green, all of which are going to stand the test of time. Sticking with a neutral palette in the kitchen can be OK, but I love using more bold colors. It really makes an impact and makes the kitchen a happier place to be.”
Feel free to mix it up (with some limits).
In the kitchen: “Mixing finishes is OK—you don’t have to match them all. It’s OK to have a champagne bronze faucet and a stainless steel appliance—it still looks good, and it looks like you meant to do it. When mixing metals, at least make sure they’re the same finish. Don’t do a brushed and a polished—stick with either all polished or all brushed.”
In the bathroom: “If you’re going to mix patterns, make sure that they’re at least a cohesive color scheme, so that way it looks intentional and not like multiple remodels. Using patterns in a small space can make it feel a little crazy, so my trick is to just do a pattern on the tile on the floor and keep everything else above neutral.”
Hire an interior designer …
Berk recognizes having an interior designer to help you transform your space is an additional expense in your budget. Don’t be tempted to skip it. These design professionals usually pay for themselves, he says, by preventing mistakes that you might have made on your own.
“It’s not just about picking the right colors and finishes you like,” he explains. “It’s about making sure you measure the cabinets correctly, making sure you find materials that are going to last and finding the right contractor to do it.”
… And really get to know that person.
Because your interior designer can be integral to your renovation’s success, you want to be thorough in selecting one.
“You have to find a designer that you really click with, both in personality and in style,” Berk says. “Take some time to go through their portfolio. If you love the way that their work looks and could imagine yourself in any of their rooms and be proud to call one of them your own, then reach out to meet them for an initial consultation. The biggest mistake someone can make is hiring a designer and then asking them to create and design a room that looks totally different than what their taste and design style is.”
Renovations can be hard … but they’re so worth it!
Berk has some words of advice for anyone about to take on a renovation:
“Be patient and flexible. Don’t get discouraged if things go wrong, have to be changed or need troubleshooting,” he says. “Your designer will take the lead on all of this and guide you through the process—and provide the emotional support when needed. Know that at the end of all of those little headaches, you will have a project that you are proud of.”