Celebrity decorators Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent have more than just a few things on their plate. Between the birth of their second child, Oskar; their adorable 3-year-old, Poppy; and a complete remodel of their forever home, the duo is mighty busy. But the pair doesn't stop there. Their TLC show, Nate and Jeremiah by Design, is another major undertaking during which they help homeowners who are in over their heads with renovations and use the leftover budget to bring the project to stylish completion.
The couple's bubbly personalities make for great TV, but the show is also full of handy tips for decorating and renovating on a budget. One episode after another, Brent and Berkus reveal stunningly renovated homes to shocked homeowners who, quite frankly, can't believe their luck. Naturally, we had to investigate and chatted with the couple to discover their best tricks for stretching a dollar when decorating. If their last breathtakingly beautiful New York apartment is any indication, you'll definitely want to take notes from these two design pros.
Make Your Dollar Go Further
You guys are incredible at making a homeowner's dollar go further. What are your top tricks for stretching a dollar when decorating?
Shop for special materials and finishes online. Backsplash tile, hardware, cutting boards, mirrors—there are so many beautiful options out there that you can find for prices that don't have to break the bank.
Don't skimp on construction. The truth is the basis of any renovation has to be done correctly the first time, so a licensed, reputable contractor is always a must.
Spend money on items that have a big decorative impact, and go basic in construction materials. Think plain subway tile with a set of beautiful towels or a small and interesting vintage table next to a simple white bathtub.
Reuse what you love, and repurpose it. A little imagination can go a long way in making something feel fresh and new.
Prioritize. Invest in big-ticket pieces, like sofas and chairs, that are timeless and transitional. Throw pillows and accessories can be less expensive and serve as a great opportunity to play with trends.
Focus on One Room Only
When decorating an entire house on a budget, which room deserves your attention the most?
NB: I'd say the kitchen, as it's one of the hardest-working spaces in the home.
JB: It entirely depends on you. Ask yourself this: Where do you spend the most time, and where do you get centered? I firmly believe in always creating a space that can be a sanctuary wherever or whomever it's for. For example, for parents, I always suggest starting with the master bedroom—an unpopular belief, but the truth is that you need a place to collect yourself, recalibrate, and create the mental space to tackle the responsibility of kids, family, and work.
Don't Skimp on Important Pieces
In your opinion, which items can be purchased on a budget, and which ones are worth the investment?
NB: Don't skimp on anything built-in, like the countertops, appliances, plumbing, etc. Rugs and pillows are a great place to go for a deal, as are lighting options and accessories.
JB: Invest in these key pieces: sofas, chairs, dining table. The pieces that are going to get the most use. If you're working with a tight budget, don't stress about the small stuff like pillows, candles, bowls, and other accessories.
Pay Attention to Details
When picking out furniture, are there any fabrics or materials to avoid? What should you look for instead?
NB: Prints are tough on large-scale furniture—keep your sofa (and other large-scale items) to the basics. Linens and cottons in solids can be dressed up or down easily and tend to look expensive.
JB: Honestly, no. It's all in the eye of the beholder. For example, I don't prefer ultra-suede, but you may love it. My recommendation is to get a fabric swatch and really pay attention to the details of the piece's construction.
Splurge on Big Statement Pieces
If you only buy one high-end item for your house, what should it be and why?
NB: A vintage or antique gilt mirror. You will always find a place for it, no matter where you move or how your home evolves.
JB: A great sofa or an amazing light. Both items can transition seamlessly with you through the many chapters of your life.
Mix in Vintage Items
Designers often say not to push furniture against the wall in a room. What are other layout tricks that make a room look more high-end?
NB: Mix old pieces in with new ones. Vintage finds have a patina that makes a room look collected and assembled over time.
JB: I don't believe that anything looks more high-end than a room that feels curated. When furniture isn't a full set, it inherently feels like you have been collecting items for years. Explore and experiment—even if you do happen to buy a full furniture set, spread the pieces among different rooms and mix with different accessories.
Consider Usability and Scale
When choosing furniture for an entire room, how do you ensure that every piece will work together?
NB: It's all about scale. If you have a high-backed sofa, low chairs are probably not going to sit with that attractively. Stay away from sets of furniture, or if you already own them, break them up into different rooms.
JB: I care more about creating a moment in a room than I do an "anchor" piece. What is the moment you or your family have in a space every day? It may be reading a book, playing with the kids, or quiet time at night. Then you translate that identity into your room. That's a beautiful space. Some of the most elegant, special homes I have been in had nothing to do with money or furniture—they were rooms that you walked in and felt you knew the person who lived there just by standing in their space.
Next up: Don't make these mistakes when renovating your kitchen, says Nate Berkus.
This story was originally published on April 15, 2018, and has since been updated.