For seven years, Nate Berkus contemplated the meaning of home as a living, breathing space.
The interior designer with the refined aesthetic, first invited into our collective living rooms by Oprah Winfrey, would nestle into the sofa of his New York apartment, shoes kicked off, and write and write and write until his story quietly emerged, told through beautiful objects, memories, the spirit of love and the wounds of love lost.
That’s how The Things That Matter (Spiegel & Grau, $35) was born, a narrative as much about making homes authentic and deeply personal as the formal discipline of design. A fluid blend of personal and professional — part memoir and part celebration of life — Berkus treats the concept of design as a journey, a way of self-discovery that manifests in furnishings, accessories, art.
“My hope is that [the book] will free people up … that it will give them permission to create spaces that they truly love and that show who they really are. Your home should always tell your story!” said Berkus, 41, owner of an eponymously named interior design firm. He comes to Miami Saturday for Miami Book Fair International. “I want people to be confident in their choices and to know that if you love something you can always find a way to have it in your home.”
Berkus, who recently launched a Target lifestyle collection and for two seasons hosted the Nake Berkus Show, shares some of his favorite interiors whether he helped design or simply admired them: a rustic Hudson Valley cottage, a modern high-rise perched in the Chicago sky; an art-centric townhouse in Marfa, Texas.
More than anything, the dozen homeowners are bound by the concept that their spaces say — whisper, scream — something about them.
In that way, the foundation of the book is built upon the idea that the things that matter are those objects collected that reflect great travels, meaningful relationships, precious family moments, even possibilities.
In exploring how we live with our possessions, Berkus offers his own chapters: his full childhood; the emptiness of losing his partner Fernando Bengoechea, swept away in the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia; the healing; the eventual move from Chicago to New York City; a new love and the process of them together transforming a new space into a home.
He calls home a 19th century Greenwich Village duplex, with soaring white walls and awash with shards of the city’s light.
“My space reflects the life I’ve lived so far, and it’s filled with stuff that has been with me for years, stuff that reminds me of where I’ve traveled, who I’ve loved, and where I want to go next,” he writes in the final chapter of the book.
Two weeks ago, as Berkus passed through a Los Angeles airport, he exhaled long enough to chat with The Miami Herald about the new book and his next chapter.Q. Why did you decide to write The Things That Matter?
I wrote it for a couple of reasons. One of the most important reasons is I felt that so much is said about design that people have become more and more confused. There are television shows, magazines, websites. Everyone is writing about design and telling people what they should do and I think in all that, we have lost our connection to our own things or our own personal style. I wanted to showcase interiors where the people threw out the rules and created a space that truly reflected their own personalities.Q. What are the design lessons, the life lessons that readers should come away with?