As the design guru on Netflix’s Queer Eye, Bobby Berk is perhaps the best-known interior designer working today. With his TV fans and following of 2.8 million(!) on Instagram (@bobby), you might even say Bobby is America’s decorator. His fresh and timeless style – not to mention the way he radiates warmth – resonate with so many because viewers can imagine themselves in Bobby’s world. They also get to see how he tailors each space to each individual–revealing the often behind-the-scenes work involved in creating a meaningful home.
Before his turn in the spotlight, Bobby worked first in retail in the home design space. Then in 2007, he opened his own design showroom in lower Manhattan; in 2015, he branched out into full-service interior design. Bobby’s years exploring all sides of the home design business give him a 360-view of how homes work, what makes them beautiful, and how they impact our daily lives. It’s this wisdom that helps him transform lives one room at a time. Here are Bobby Berk’s 15 design rules to live by:
“I think the best decorating advice I’ve ever heard is the Coco Chanel adage to take off an accessory before you walk out the door—or in the case of interior design: to simply edit! It’s easy to go overboard when trying to incorporate your ideas into a design, but oftentimes, allowing one major element to be the focal point, and everything else to be supporting players in your composition makes for a stronger overall statement.”
“This is something I repeat a lot. Allowing certain elements, such as elongated curtain panels, a large piece of focal art, or an accent wall of material to draw the eye upwards gives verticality to a space. We like to hang curtain panels nice and high to “Celebrate the Ceilings,” and wider on smaller windows to create the illusion of wider windows. This helps everything feel taller and grander.”
“Stripes are timeless. They are one of the oldest and most classic patterns, and they work with any style. You can use stripes to directionally widen or elongate a room, wall or ceiling. Picking the right scale for your stripes is key, and I tend to gravitate towards pinstripes or subtle stripes for a more tailored look. While bold, wide stripes can be effective in certain styles, such as coastal interiors.”
“So many people who wouldn’t think twice about wearing black clothing struggle with black on the wall. Perhaps it’s because black was historically considered a no-no for walls, and has only recently gained a foothold in the design world. Black is a wonderful, grounding neutral that gives depth and formality. It’s also timeless, like a black dress or suit. I absolutely love black!”
“Tricorn Black by Sherwin Williams is one I return to again and again: It’s a true inky back, that doesn’t have any undertones, making it a deep neutral that pairs well with most materials and colors.”
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“Rather than buying furniture all from the same ‘set,’ I love to bring in different pieces that work together to create a layered look. Creating eclectic arrangements with mismatched pieces is infinitely more interesting than using pieces from a set, which immediately adds character and reflects the uniqueness of your personality. One of the easiest ways to do this is to go vintage with a few items. Pieces with history, age, and character will immediately make a space feel more storied, unique, and layered.”
“While I don’t like to match everything, the repetition of something in a pair can provide unity and a sense of intention. Whether we realize it or not, we’re always looking for order amongst chaos. One of the things that separates us from other species is man’s adeptness at recognizing patterns and repeating elements. Pairing elements creates a feeling of symmetry and order, which innately satisfies us. Pairs are a simple, yet powerful device in our design tool belt.”
“A wool rug provides excellent natural texture. It’s a renewable, sustainable, and humane product. It’s resilient, and keeps its shape better than many other materials, which is great if you move furniture around, as impressions from furniture will recover better than in other materials. Wool is also naturally stain- and soil-resistant. What doesn’t wool do for a room?”
“It’s no secret that I absolutely love wallpaper. There are so many amazing options, from textural papers, to graphic, organic and geometric patterns and neutrals. My philosophy is to go for it while maintaining a few visual breaks so that it doesn’t become overwhelming.”
“I always encourage people that are weary of going really bold on their walls, ceilings, or upholstery, to consider keeping those elements neutral and adding pattern through pillows, throws, or rugs. Sometimes, you just need some personality, and the floor is a great place to add that impact!”
“Outdoor rugs have come such a long way, it’s often hard to distinguish them from indoor rugs, but don’t forget that they are going to be used outside. Light rugs are typically a nightmare to keep clean outside, so I try to pick something with some heathering, or different color variation (even a solid), so the rug hides dirt.”
“Defining your vignettes with a rug is a great way to create a foundation for an arrangement of furniture and immediately feels inviting and layered. Adding those elements that make it feel textural and cozy, such as pillows, throws and potted plants also helps bridge the gap between interior and exterior. Lastly, incorporating some lighting through lanterns, torches or firepits can create accent lighting that help things feel inviting and warm.”
“Pink can be a lot less ‘feminine’ than you might think. It’s all about picking the right shade. I really love this ‘pinky beige’ hue right now. It feels more like a neutral with a blush undertone and pairs really well with warm greys, black and white, brass accents, walnut wood tones, and warm leathers.”
“In the bedroom, rather than painting the walls pink, we painted the ceiling pink Pinky Beige by Sherwin Williams and carried that color down a few feet onto all the walls creating a cap of pink in the room. It lifts your eye up and also adds a fun punch of color to the room.”
“A single wall of color or pattern adds a sense of visual weight to a space that grounds a design composition. I like to use accent walls as headboard walls, inside niches, or along one side of a long hallway, to create interesting blocking that adds interest and weight to the physical space.”
“Whether it’s a few stems of greenery picked from the backyard, a potted plant, or a large tree, greenery instantly gives life to a room. A much-needed organic element, plant life balances all the lines and angles of a room’s architecture. And, don’t turn up your nose to faux greenery if you don’t have a green thumb. Faux greenery has come a long way – there are some really great options out there.”
“I love to display functional items that show off personality in an interesting way. In this case the guitars create an art installation that reflects the homeowner’s personality. This is not a new idea, but I love it for a music room, a teenager’s room, or for a client that plays guitar or just loves music.”
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