Monday, October 29, 2012


+ all material and photos from this book review is copyrighted to Nate Berkus and taken from Amazon's book preview

With a title like The Things That Matter, Nate Berkus was setting himself up for skepticism from his readers. I thought, wow, this guy is daring to say that he knows something about things that matter, especially for a book about design which in the long run doesn't necessarily really matter. But let me tell you something, he knows a lot about the things that matter and he pulls it off well in this book. In fact, I LOVED THIS BOOK.

The book starts out as an autobiography of Nate's life. I am a fan of his, so hearing about how he got his start in life and as a designer was especially interesting to me. He has a great story and of course many of you know about how he and his boyfriend were in Indonesia when the tsunami hit. If you don't know the story I don't want to spoil it for you, and his first-hand account of it is so sad and terrifying and a great learning lesson, you need to read it yourself. I do believe it was in that moment Nate really grasped the meaning of "the things that matter".

Above is a picture of his first apartment. I love to see how we all start out so humbly.

The book goes on to have 12 chapters each dedicated to a different client and/or friend of his whom he either helped design their space or whose design he admires.

Brian Sawyer (a well-known architect and owner of Sawyer-Bernson architecture firm), is the first chapter. Above is a picture from his apartment. The only thing I didn't love about this book was that there weren't more photos of the homes/apartments Nate designs and loves. We get glimpses of the spaces and sometimes full page spreads, like this one...

but we only get so much. Nate will tell us about the fantastic things in the home and then no photo. He describes them so well it makes me want to see it, rather than quenches my need. Interior design is so visual, I was disappointed to not be as stimulated visually as I was intellectually but I think that was the point of this book. I believe he wants the reader to think about design rather than just see it and copy it. 

Most of the people in his book you will recognize after Nate describes who they are. Such as Chris Gardner who wrote The Pursuit of Happyness and is Will Smith's character in real life. His story was especially interesting to me since I am familiar with his history of being homeless. Being his designer would have been very intimidating for me (knowing how important he must feel his home is), but Nate does a fantastic job.

Some other chapters you might know are Dr. Ruth Westheimer (the famous sex-therapist), Dolores Robinson (the actress Holly Robinson-Pete's mother), and Fabiola Beracasa (the socialite and step-daughter of media mogul Randolph Hearst). All of the people in his book have interesting stories that he weaves into their interiors and how they chose to design them. 

This book truly is a bunch of "thoughtful design" posts that are better and more in-depth than anything I've done :) 

He gives great design advice, similar to what I too have given, by saying..."You have to just be in a room for a while, block out all the white noise, and honestly ask yourself, "Is this the hottest trend, the flavor of the month, or is this the navy blue blazer with brass buttons? My grandfather taught me well: I go for the blue blazer every time." (p. 294) This is GREAT DESIGN ADVICE. What do you LOVE! Think about what you have always loved. Are you a blue blazer guy, and have you always been? What color has always been a love? What textures make you happy?

My favorite part of the book was the last chapter titled "Nate Berkus". This chapter has photos from his current residence and it's beautiful. It is amazing and so him. It's the perfect ending to his book. You see how it all comes together in his home. How all of his memories of his past boyfriend and his current partner, how his internship in France and his upbringing influenced his style. It all comes together and that's what makes him a great designer. 

Here are my favorite quotes from the book...

"My job as a decorator is being able to distill the essence of people from their words, and tell their stories through objects and color and fabric and furniture."

"Surviving the tsunami helped give that priority shift a push. I used to stress out when a room wasn't perfect, or a piece of furniture showed up twenty-four hours late. These days, I shrug my shoulders. When you have lived through the worst thing you can imagine, it unlocks the shackles, creatively speaking." 

"I kept asking, Why?" It was not a rhetorical question. I needed something to start making sense. She (Oprah) was quiet for a long time, then finally spoke: "I've always believed that when the soul gets what it came to get, it goes."
And now that I've practically written a novel here on my blog I will leave you to decide whether or not to buy the book. Or if you want to borrow it, mine's available :)


  1. Loved his book!! I too thought the same thing with the title and was so in love and mesmerized by his words and passion, the title is perfect. Love all the quotes btw :)

  2. Hi there, the November edition of Books You Loved is now live. Here is the link Books You Loved November Edition Please do pop by and link in a post about a book you loved. Maybe this one? Cheers


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