Firstly, let us preface this by saying that Nate Berkus doesn’t follow trends—he starts them. Case in point: the subsequent boho-chic boom after the launch of his nomad-inspired spring/summer line for Target, and we can only expect his new fall collection to spark a major glam movement too. Instead, the lauded designer creates a timeless foundation that’s relevant year-round. His inspiring blend of classic aesthetics peppered with modern elements has earned him a global following, not to mention a string of celebrity clients—there’s so much we can learn from his successful career.
While he might not adhere to trends, Berkus loves to welcome in the new season, and fall is his favorite time of year. “Quite frankly, I’m never going to be the guy who tells somebody they need to recover their sofa and patterns because the seasons have changed,” he told MyDomaine on the phone. “But I am the guy who says, ‘okay, let’s take a look at those vibrant beachy pillows and think about cable-knits, tassels, fringe, and softer materials, and then layer things on top of what you already have to make the space feel a little cozier and a little bit warmer.’”
Any updates you do make should be affordable. Even switching out the curtains between summer and fall is too big of an investment—the designer says there are better ways to give your home a seasonal lift. Ahead Berkus shares his simple tips for transitioning your home to fall, including his favorite colors, affordable décor swaps, rich textiles, and the one thing he’s loving right now (we predict it will be the next big trend).
While most of us would love to go shopping for a whole new wardrobe each season, our bank accounts don’t share the same enthusiasm. This theory applies to our homes too. “For me, it’s very much the same philosophy (as fashion): You don’t ditch your favorite khakis and jeans or even your favorite T-shirt when fall or winter comes around, but you do have the opportunity to layer,” said Berkus. “Fall is by far my favorite season, only because you get to wear the hat, you get to wear a cardigan, and you get to wear your favorite cashmere crewneck, and I think the home is kind of the same way.”
That philosophy has translated into the way Berkus crafts his line: “We have pieces that we keep in linen closets and pillow covers that we have dry-cleaned at the end of the winter; in the springtime, we bring them back out. Throws get a little bit chunkier; pillows get a little bit more tactile; bedding kind of shifts. Even though we keep our bedding primarily white, what we throw on top of the bed changes, and there’s something really nice about that,” he said.
If you stick to a neutral base, layering in different tones each season will add depth and unique visual interest without impacting the overall aesthetic. For Berkus, the basics are always the basics, but he does prefer the rich, earthy hues for fall.
“I’m definitely reaching more toward deep camels and that terra-cotta brick red, the darker greens and tones like that, even in my clothes,” he said. “I think it’s really about what you’re adding, as opposed to what you are taking away. I don’t have a comfort level around primary colors in the wintertime or in the fall. I like things to feel a little earthy and a little bit more subdued, but I like a lot of it.”
The designer stresses that it’s not making a drastic change or giving your home a complete overhaul but instead picking out one to two deep, earthy colors that you connect to. Perhaps it’s a deep British racing green, red brick, or terra-cotta that you can mix in with what you have or introduce with various textures. But think outside the usual throw pillows.
“Can you paint the inside of a lampshade a deeper hue? Could you change out your lampshades? Could you add a trim or a tassels or fringe to your door knobs throughout the house to create additional detail?” he asks. “What are the accessories you’re serving with when you’re entertaining? Can you incorporate a bit more black? Can you incorporate marble in darker tones? Is there a way of transitioning into the season by making small upgrades to what you have on your coffee table, as opposed to changing everything completely?”
If there’s one style rule that never fails in fall, it’s layering your textiles. It’s one of Berkus’s favorite ways to play with the season and introduce unexpected details. “I love the idea of throwing textiles over the backs of chairs or over a headboard—even a small rug,” he said. “I love the rugs that are in Target’s fall and holiday collections right now. I would throw one of those over a headboard in two seconds.”
When layering your pieces, don’t stress too much about making them match as long as they’re similar tones. “I have these beautiful textiles that are scarves from Guatemala and Mexico, and I layered them over the back of upholstered dining chairs in our L.A. home. They don’t match, but they’re similar tones—all sorts of camels, khakis, and creams, but they’re heavily fringed on the end. I would throw that on as I was leaving the house with a jean jacket, but it looks so much better flanking a chest of drawers or thrown over the back of two dining chairs.”
“I wouldn’t want that extra layer in the summertime,” Berkus adds. “People come in and they have lotion on them and bug spray, and you don’t want to be sitting on anything unnecessary, but at this time of year, when it’s just a little bit crisper in the air, it feels right,” he said.
Creating a luxe new look each season doesn’t have to be costly by any means, Berkus explains. “It’s an opportunity to change the color of your hand towels to something a little bit richer and deeper to mix in with the white, off-white, or pale gray that you have,” he said. “Change the hardware on the chest of drawers that you have in your bedroom (or are using as a console in the dining room) to something that has agate or bronze, or something that feels very handmade.”
One thing Berkus says he’s really into right now is metal, in particular, perforated metal. “I think it feels really modern,” he said. “I based mine on the designs of Mathieu Matégot, an industrial French designer in the 1950s. I did a lamp for Target (that has since sold out) that’s a square out of perforated brass that’s reminiscent of his body of work, and right now, it just feels right. I can see a pair of those on a console in a living room or one in the corner of the kitchen counter. Throw some African beads over the neck of it in black and white or in coral.”
As the heat of summer is replaced by fall’s crisp air, days become shorter and darker. But instead of feeling sad about the change, Berkus urges us to embrace the moody weather and lighting. “It’s about developing a habit of turning on floor lamps and table lamps, and lighting candles,” he says. “Allow yourself to really appreciate the coziness that comes from dusk in the autumn as opposed to railing against it. There’s something really lovely about just accepting the seasons and catering to them through design.”
If you really aren’t a fan of the shorter days, Berkus suggests adding a lamp to that side table in a dark corner so you can turn it on at 4:30 p.m. “[That way] when you come down the stairs, you can walk into the room and it feels warm, it feels good to you,” he said.
The same idea applies to the walls and furniture too. Berkus loves the idea of hanging brass garlands and leather tassels from door knobs, or having a pair of them flanking a mirror in the powder room. “For me, it’s really about how you make it personal,” he said. “How do you add those layers? Accept the fact that it’s colder, a little darker, and a little crisper outside, and then think about how you can make it softer, warmer, and cozier inside.”
Berkus has one crucial style tip to add that finishing touch each season: “Head out into your garden,” he said. “My advice is to get a properly designed ski mask and hit your neighbors.” But in all seriousness, adding fresh clippings and seasonal greenery to your home is one of the designer’s favorite ways to bring fall into your home.
“I have never once styled a makeover (without fresh greenery),” he said. “In the over 200 makeovers I’ve done, there isn't one where I haven’t gone outside with kitchen shears and clipped some branches and some green leaves and thrown them in a well-designed bedroom. It’s never once not happened. That’s something that looks beautiful all season long. A big lush branch with green leaves stuck in a ceramic vase on your entry table or on your kitchen table—there’s something that feels so lovely about that and alive without being like, whoa, where’d my hydrangea go?
How do you update your home each season? Will you incorporate any of these tips into your fall home design?
This post was originally published on September 15, 2016, and has since been updated.