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Nate Berkus' guide to New York City living

Nate Berkus

Nate Berkus Photo Credit: Tiffany L. Clark

Decorating a New York City apartment is anything but easy. So we turned to home-design guru Nate Berkus — who became a household name in 2002 as a contributor on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and this fall began hosting his New York-based talk show, “The Nate Berkus Show” — for advice.

Love it or leave it
“Because space is at a premium, you have to be a ruthless editor. It’s about making sure everything you let into your door is something you love, from your doormat to the thing you put your umbrella in to your sofa.”

New York state of mind
“Take a walk outside in New York, snap some photos of how people are dressing that you think look amazing, and take that as inspiration for how to design your living room.”

Choose a theme
“There are two ways to go about [designing]. One — the goal can be to make it look coordinated. You can decide on a theme, like, I’m going to use white furniture but bring in a natural element. So I’m going to go to Long Island and bring a piece of driftwood back to put on my dining room table with white candles. And I’m going to frame black-and-white photography and keep things serene.”

... Or don’t
“The other way to go about it is to let loose and not make your apartment feel coordinated. I think one great example is that book called ‘The Selby.’ It’s about having the freedom to thumbtack something you tore from a magazine on the wall. I’m into that, too. Your home should rise up to greet you every time you walk through the door. And if that to you means this very cleanlined place, that’s great, but if what makes you happy is having photos of your friends taped floor to ceiling on your hallway wall, do it.”

Secondhand shopping
“I’m a big secondhand guy. I’m a big flea market guy. I go to Stamford, Conn., which has the largest concentration of antiques and vintage furniture in the world. It’s like big warehouse after warehouse after warehouse that’s all open to the public, and it’s a great day trip.”

Just a starting point
“When you find something at a flea market, it doesn’t have to exist the only way it is. Take a morning on a Sunday and paint something electric blue.”

Studio-sized issues
“The biggest mistake with studios is people fill them with ‘studio-sized’ furniture. I’d rather have one club chair that’s super-comfortable than five tiny chairs. I also love the idea of using an ottoman as extra seating — or beanbags.”

In the zone
“Create zones in a studio. I did my sister’s apartment, who’s 30 and lives in New York. We created a zone for her bed and a zone for her living space, and in a corner we tucked bookshelves and a table with two chairs, so she could have a date in her apartment without saying, ‘Come to my bed.’”

Blank walls be gone
“Obviously the galleries in Chelsea have a million things, but I’m about the fact that you don’t have to spend a lot of money. One of my favorite things to do is to go to any of the art schools in town — they’re always having shows of their students’ artwork, and you can buy an original piece of art and not a poster from a big-box store.”

DIY walls
“Buy shipping paper and take the pieces that you want to frame on the wall, lay them on the floor, trace them on the paper, and cut out the silhouette of each. Take painter’s tape and start taping them on the wall. See what looks good to you and play with it.”

Flower power
"I'm a big proponent of having fresh flowers in the house. Always. Even in the winter. That was my fascination when I arrived in New York — that you could buy a bunch of flowers for f$5, $6 on basically every street corner. I remember years ago on a trip to Paris, and walking through the flower markets and thinking, 'Wow, this is so Paris.' Guess what? It's at every deli on every corner in New York. To me that's me is a gift to buy yourself at the beginning of the week. You may not get around to painting your bathroom, but you certainly can have three beautiful stems of flowers in a little glass on your nightstand or on the corner of your sink.”


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