Tag Archives: Nate Berkus

Fridays at Home: Nate Berkus

8th March 2013

The rule in my home when it comes to decorating is this: If I don’t love it, I don’t buy it. That may mean that I live without the right piece of furniture for a while. It might even mean a wall remains black for four years (ahem). But I’m not a Kirkland’s fan. I’m not going to buy something just to buy. The result is a very “me” home. It’s certainly not to everyone’s taste, I’m sure, but I love it. The downside of all those meaningful objects? Well, all that meaning. Makes even cleaning out the closet very difficult.

Via Goodreads

Via Goodreads

When I first heard about Nate Berkus’s new book, The Things That Matter, I instantly loved the title. Then, when he was a surprise guest at the Random House Reader event during BEA last year, I was (ask Lori or Tara) ridiculously excited. Like, trembling. When they finally convinced me to go up and talk to him and take a picture, I felt like I was floating – partly because he’s Nate Berkus, and partly because when he talked about treasuring the things around him, I felt he was talking directly to me.

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I was the little girl who lay awake at night thinking about which route I would take if my house was suddenly on fire. Yes, I would get my family out, but I had my belongings strategically placed so that I could stuff them in my pillowcase and run. The only thing that worried me was my dollhouse. How to lug that sucker out the window?

(In answer to your unasked question, I actually did have a stomach ulcer in high school. Stress related.)

At times I’ve felt badly about this relevance I give to my belongings. Does that make me materialistic? I knew that was not likely. I’ve never had much money and certainly haven’t been wasteful. And here was Nate Berkus, a true force in the design world, telling me that a home should reflect its owner, not the decorator. As silly as it may sound, that was powerful for me.

My sister bought me Things That Matter for Christmas, and I waited until a quiet evening to pore over it. It was unexpectedly delightful. Not that I didn’t think it would be good, but as most coffee table books go, I thought it would be heavy on pictures, light on text. What I found, instead, was a lovely tribute to the things with which we surround ourselves. The book is broken up into its introduction, which Nate delivers and that had me tearing up within 12 pages as he discussed coming out to his family and later, the death of his partner. After the introduction, Nate focuses on the interesting, well-cultivated spaces of his friends. It ends with his own current space and his reflections on how he got to the place he calls home now.

Aside from Nate’s own story, the most poignant was Dr. Ruth Westheimer’s. The famous radio sex talk show host left her family home in Germany as a young girl, never to see her family again. She learned later, both of her parents died in the Holocaust. When she asked Nate to take a look at her place, she told him she wouldn’t get rid of anything. Challenged, he went to learn more about her and her things, and he shared some of the most meaningful pieces and how he crafted her space to highlight them. His reverence for her objects and her memories was touching and lovely.

At the same time, Nate also touches on the beauty of editing, and this is the heart of good design, in my opinion. Editing a room is also the reason I never feel fully pleased with a space. It’s never quite right, but as insane as that sounds, the tweaking is part of the enjoyment for someone like me, and as he talked about his own tweaking, I felt the joy he gets from crafting his house, as it’s much the same as my own joy. To physically be able to touch and move my grandmother’s sofa, to glance over at my other grandmother’s typewriter or my aunt’s paintings, books from a particular trip – these are all important to me.

The things that matter. For you, it might be something seemingly insignificant. But there is a beauty there, regardless.

If you love design or things, I’d highly recommend The Things That Matter.

Add this to your Goodreads shelf.

BEA/NYC in Photos

18th June 2012

Ahh, New York. I was still in recover mode last week, thus the smallish number of posts. But today! Today I give you a gratuitous number of photos to share my time in New York, so even though it’s Monday, you can escape for a bit. Wednesday I’ll be back with the books I picked up and will even share! Mark your calendars.

My brother lives in this wondrous land called Long Island City, or the LIC. Don’t tell, but it’s a fantastic secret neighborhood. Ok, not really, but it feels like it. One short stop from the city, and it’s right by the water and has a fantastic park. When I got in Thursday afternoon, the weather was perfect, and we took a tour of the area.

And, of course, had to get a skyline shot.

Friday, my brother, Matt, took off work, and we wandered the city, eating Cuban corn, seeing the dude from the Mayhem commercials, and watching books hang themselves.

Saturday was a picnic in Prospect Park with friends and fruit, tomato-mozzarella sandwiches, prosecco, and rose. Oh, and the Radical Fairies, a group of men in drag. Never a dull moment.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which was free for the day, was our next stop. I’ve wanted to visit for years but have never made it until this trip. Lovely.

The bark on this tree was unlike anything I’d ever seen.

Matt and his beau Christopher relaxing in the softest. grass. ever.

Me and Matt relaxing in the softest. grass. ever. Seriously, I hate grass, but this was almost better than my mattress.

Monday and Book Blog Uncon, which I wrote about last week.

Lori from TNBBC, one half of the reason I had the most fantastic time at BEA. Tara from Book Sexy Review is the other.

Monday evening I went to the IPPY Awards and met Larry Closs, whose fantastic book Beatitude I reviewed here. He won a gold medal in the LGBTQ category, and he and his friend John and I chatted for a good while. It was so nice to meet him!

Amy Shamroe and I. Amy was nice enough to include me in this really cool event, and it was so great to meet her in person.

Tuesday was the official start of BEA, and I met up with Julie from Julz Reads for breakfast before heading to the Javits.

For lunch, the “3 Shades of Jenn” Jenn from Jenn’s Bookshelves, Me, and Jenn from Literate Housewife (not sure I’ve ever been so thrilled to meet a Twitter person in person!) sat down with some great audiobook narrators, including Xe Sands and Karen White, both of whom I know from Twitter.

This was also shortly before I made a total fool of myself in front of The Novogratzes. (Seriously, I called everyone I knew afterward because I was so darn excited to meet this interior design SUPER duo.) I love their style and saw them from a row over. They weren’t signing, but the publicist dragged me over and introduced me because I was a fan. I was shaking and kept saying ridiculous things, but Cortney and I chatted about the Brooklyn Flea Market, and she gave me tips on a couple other places to check out. It was thrilling.

Ashley, Tara from Book Sexy Review, Amanda from Dead White Guys, Rachel from A Home Between Pages, Lori from TNBBC, Me, and Alix from Romance Books Forum

Wednesday may have been the best day ever. Ok, Wednesday was the best day ever. First of all, I attended the Power Reader breakfast at Random House. Just being in Random House? Amazing. Meeting these ladies? Even more amazing.

Farin from The Redheaded Reader, Jenn from Literate Housewife, Jenn from Jenn’s Bookshelves, Swapna from S. Krishna’s Books

I made the rounds, also getting to meet Farin from The Redheaded Reader for the first time.

But this. This right here. How can this not be “best day ever” material? I talked to Nate Berkus, and he was so friendly and kind and handsome. I seriously could barely focus on anything else I was so excited to meet him.

Then I spent the day touring booths. This was at the Chronicle booth where Chris Bonanos had this amazing camera and was taking photos for each copy he signed of his book Instant: The History of the Polaroid.

Wednesday evening I got to meet the fantastic Lydia Hirt of Riverhead Books, who organized a cocktail party for bloggers who were part of a book tour for Laura Moriarty’s The Chaperone.

After that, I dashed over to Central Park where my brother (an event planner) was helping to supervise an important soiree. Christopher (on the right) and I made the most of the evening, watching how the 1% live. ๐Ÿ™‚

Friday I walked the High Line, which is absolutely beautiful. One of the highlights was seeing the artwork some of the residents have as you walk. This installation actually glows in the dark at night. So cool. Shortly after this I went to the Chelsea Market.

Friday afternoon I walked for ages, trying to get to the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum. When I was two blocks away, I see a sign stating it won’t be open until Fall 2013. So I ducked into the National Academy instead. They had an exhibit called “Women’s Work” – it was really interesting, and they also had a collection of Mary Cassatt’s work, which I love.

Then it was time for some Billy’s Bakery. Banana cupcakes. I don’t even like banana, but these are amazing. I told the guy behind the counter that this craving was a year in the making. He wisely got a big box out. ๐Ÿ™‚

Lusting after a brownstone in Chelsea.

Me and the bro before I left Saturday morning. A huge thanks to both him and Christopher for letting me crash in their dining room – and for making an air mattress the most insanely comfortable thing I’ve slept on aside from my own bed. Love you both.