Celebrity designer and Minnesota native Nate Berkus shares tips on making home spaces work for you

Home design, just like people, evolves through the years. Minnesota native and celebrity interior designer Nate Berkus is an expert at reimagining space for changing needs, whether that’s downsizing, moving or reimagining extra rooms as an empty nester.

“The story of what a successful interior communicates is who you are, who you’ve been, and who you aspire to be,” said Berkus, whose recent design partnerships include Amazon and PetSmart. We caught up with him on the phone from his home in New York, which he shares with husband and fellow interior design star Jeremiah Brent and their two young children.

Here are highlights from the conversation.

On downsizing or moving

You need to be a ruthless editor of your space on a regular basis, especially if you’re looking to downsize. It’s easy for things to accumulate, and you start to forget what you live with. My rule of thumb is to ask: Do I absolutely love this object or piece of furniture, or textile, etc.? If the answer is no, then put it in the donation pile. Once you’ve done a thorough edit, think about how you need your spaces to function. Is it a kitchen banquet where you eat versus a formal dining area? Can that kid’s bedroom be converted into a home office that doubles as a guest room? You want every room to be hard-working, so take time to figure out what’s important to you and how you want to live.

On extra spaces

New carpet or pre-engineered wood flooring makes a huge difference. A fresh coat of paint makes an enormous impact. Create storage solutions — turn a blank wall into a wall of built-in cabinetry so you can use it as a craft room or another space you need. Consider creating an area for pursuing an activity that you’ve never really had a dedicated space for, whether that’s listening to music, reading, or wrapping gifts. The first thing people need to do is define what they want to use the space for and then inexpensive ways to update it.

On dedicating room for doing what you love

It sets the intention in a way that’s like sending a love letter to yourself. This is an activity that I’ve always wanted to pursue. This is an activity I’ve been pursuing, but I feel like I’ve always done it at the corner of the dining room table. And now I’m going to give myself the luxury of dedicating a space to it … I’m going to mark this territory as something purely for me. That is giving ourselves permission to take a deeper dive into something we love.

On discovering your style

The problem for people on this adventure to try and define their own design style is that it leads you to all this new information. It leads you down this path where you’re ping-ponged by all these trends. … It’s overwhelming and it makes people start feeling insecure because they feel like they have to connect to what they’re reading about in some way. Are they granny chic? Are they modernist? Are they minimalist?

To have a house that really represents who you are … it leaves space for who you will continue to evolve to be. Take the time not to look forward but to look back and look at historic interiors, the classic famous interiors that have stood the test of time. Take stock of the decisions that you’ve made that have been successful and give yourself credit for them. Then, start researching and trying to collect a visual diary of ways to continue with the things that have worked for you. Maybe getting older, you’re a little bit more sure-footed, you’re a little bit more confident, more comfortable in your own personal style.

On looking for inspiration

My job as a product designer of all these different categories and licenses that I have, as well as an interior designer, is always to have my eyes open. Always be open to surprise and also taking an idea of something that I see and turning it into something practical. For instance, the pattern of the floor of a cathedral, sometimes I’ll turn that into the pattern for a pillow or a duvet cover. When I was a kid, I was up and down Mainstreet in Hopkins in and out of all those antique malls. Everybody knew me. I was probably 4½ feet tall and marching back and forth asking people to open the cases for me so I could take an object out or see if I could afford something. I’ve always been open to inspiration and open to ideas.

Home design resources

Kirsten Meehan and Lindsey Uselding, hosts of “Renovation 911,” offer home safety tips — including adding lighting to prevent accidents and accessibility modifications — to make your home safer.

In her new book, “House + Love = Home: Creating Warm, Intentional Spaces for a Beautiful Life,” Jenny Marrs, who hosts “Fixer to Fabulous” with husband Dave Marrs, has a chapter called “Working, Making & Doing” filled with ideas on designs for home offices, studies and creative spaces.

Co-creator of the Magnolia enterprise, Joanna Gaines’ latest book, “Homebody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave,” helps readers identify their design style and offers a pull-out design template to sketch ideas.

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