TORONTO - He has a well-attuned eye for sprucing up spaces, but Nate Berkus isn't a stickler for rules when it comes to design — and he doesn't want homeowners to feel beholden to them, either.
"I feel there's so much information about design out there that it's rendered people really confused," Berkus said during a recent visit to Toronto in support of his home accessories line for Target.
The affable American interior designer has been a familiar presence on the small screen dispensing design tips and conducting countless makeovers on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" and his own eponymous chatfest.
In his latest book, "The Things That Matter," Berkus showcases his own home and shares details of those who have helped influence and define his sense of style.
He also features a dozen different interiors where owners "throw out the rules (and) drown out the noise" to reflect their own personalities within their homes.
"We all want to live better. We all want to love where we live. It doesn't matter what country you're living in or how much money you have or don't have — it's something that I've found is really universal," said Berkus.
"And the book is about the idea that our homes, most importantly, should tell the story of who we are, of who we aspire to be. That involves getting to know yourself fairly well and breaking a lot of rules and not listening to your loudest girlfriend or your mother-in-law. It's really forging your own way."
Berkus said he wouldn't expect someone to purchase all the goods from his collection and feel their room is complete, which "goes against his philosophy about design." Instead, he wants individuals to zero in on particular elements — such as textures and shapes — to pair with existing pieces to help cultivate their own style.
Berkus said a good rule of thumb for design neophytes or individuals looking to refresh their interiors is to select a colour palette.
Uncertain of whether to opt for emerald green, ruby red, royal blue or another hue within the colour wheel? A peek into the wardrobe could offer some insight. Berkus said the colours individuals feel most at ease or familiar wearing could help with the decision.
"If the interior's going to be grey and white, or grey and white and citrus, then you have at least a loose guide that you know when you buy things ... that they'll all work together," he said.
"I think if vibrant colour — and lots of vibrant colour — is something that makes you smile and makes you feel good, then that's something you should be reaching for," he added. "If you're a person that wears all black or a multi-coloured pattern dress, it depends on what you reach for and what makes you the most comfortable and the most inspired."
Meanwhile, Berkus is taking the opposite approach in his own space, currently "subtracting colour" by reverting to white from grey for his walls and focusing more on bringing in texture.
Berkus personally favours well-constructed, good-quality items made by hand or of natural materials rather than decorating interiors with poorly made pieces "just for the look."
"For me, I'm much more interested in a basket that's $3 from a market in the Virgin Islands than I am in something from an art gallery or something that's made out of plastic.
"I tend to gravitate towards things that are made by hand or feel handwrought because I think that you can start mixing those things in with antiques, with traditional, with contemporary, with modern. And it just creates texture, and the home starts to feel layered over time."
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