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Nate Berkus on NYC home decor: Scent is what you'll be remembered by

Interior designer, author and TV personality Nate Berkus

Interior designer, author and TV personality Nate Berkus says how your apartment smells matters more than you think. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Bryan Bedder

Nate Berkus is an interior design and home style icon. We recently caught up with Berkus, 43, where he announced his partnership with the Unstopables Collection for scent décor, and how to best spruce up your home style.


Tell me a bit about the concept of scent décor and your recent work with the Unstopables home line.

Unstopables asked me to partner with them to explain what scent décor is. I've spent 20 years as an expert going over every single detail to create a certain pace. The best spaces and interiors are assembled and layered over time. Scent décor is interesting because the first thing that people notice when they walk into our space is what it smells like. One of my beliefs has been affordable luxury, incorporating reclaimed finds, like from the vintage 25th Street flea market every weekend. What sort of pieces are worn and interesting? I have a 25-year-old farm table in my place and other unexpected items that feel luxurious. Scent décor is an easy way to up the ante for not a lot of money.


I just moved from Chicago to a tiny studio here in the city. Any tips on how to best maximize your small space here and make it your own?

The funny thing is that it's such a tradeoff to be here. No matter who you are or how much money you have, everybody is making a concession to live here. When space is at a premium I think it's important to decide what you allow in your space and what you don't. Budget dictates design, and there's so much available right now in terms of furniture and decoration. All of these different elements should be considered when working with a small footprint. A home is an opportunity to make it our own; it should be a reflection of our personality and what matters. I have always believed that when working with small spaces, you should never use small scale furniture. I'd rather have a huge sofa that everyone can sit on than a specifically designed small couch.


Why is that?

I think that when people have a small space, they think they need everything tiny. But then you find you don't have anywhere comfortable to sit or set anything down, and the truth is that even within four walls, you need to make decisions about pieces that will stand the test of time. Invest in the best thing you can afford at the time, since you won't be in the space forever.


Any plans to get into menswear/fashion?

No. I enjoy fashion but I prefer to look at what everyone else is doing, and curate for myself, just like a room. I design products for the home but I work with things from all over the world. I like to take my time and create interiors that feel assembled and layered over time.


What do you love about New York City style and design? What sets it apart from other cities?

I think that the thing I find most interesting about NYC is that it's a marriage of all the cultures from everywhere. There's a lot of individuality and personality in peoples' interiors. New York is a place to break rules, not follow them. I've also felt that the best interiors are when people are bold and are what they truly thought reflected them in the best way. Whether that is changing up a floor plan, having less furniture in the place, using a bold paint color or textured rug, bringing in pieces from other rooms, or your travels, I think there's a tremendous amount of freedom here aesthetically. And finally, ask yourself: What do you want your space to smell like? What's your signature scent that people notice when they walk through the door? Because that's what people remember.


What's next for you?

I'm very excited about my ongoing relationship with Target. There is new stuff landing every day. There are fabrics that I've done that I'm proud of, that are very affordable.

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