There are some situations in life where the only answer is yes. Alice Waters asks if you'd like her to cook something up for dinner? Diane Von Furstenberg wants to know if you'd like a custom wrap dress? Beyoncé asks you anything?
, staring at your living room, asks if he can rearrange it? Yes, yes, yes, and oh my goodness, yes.
This last one actually happened to me. Berkus, whom I have been lucky enough to work with many times, is in my home for an unrelated photo shoot. During downtime, his eyes are tracking my living room, pausing on certain corners, quickly darting away, and then back. "I would love to rearrange this room. Can I?" he asks.The original state of the living room's seating area BEFORE. Photography by Kelly Stuart
...and there's that yes.
Then he's off, with the help of our on-set groomer, , who in addition to being a talented hair and make-up artist, is a strong and game furniture mover. Within several minutes Berkus has lifted my sofa, scanned the contents of my kitchen cabinets, and grabbed a necklace from my bedroom. He has a hammer in his hand and is sitting on the repositioned sofa evaluating if the TV works at this new angle. "Sit down. Will this work for you?" he asks, now appraising me on the sofa, turned toward the TV?
More yes. And so he keeps moving.
30 minutes in, my living room looks completely different. It looks more vibrant, more interesting. Somehow bigger? It looks like a room you walk into and announce "I'm home!" and feel actual joy in those words. It feels like the kind of space friends visit and move through effortlessly. And yet, there is not a single newly-purchased item in here. My living room has been transformed on a budget of $0.
"If you interview any of the mothers of my friends from elementary school, they'll tell you the same thing happened in their living rooms," Berkus tells me. "At a sleepover I'd be looking around the room, bothered that it could be better." And it's not just others' homes—it happens to his, too. "Jeremiah , Berkus's husband] knows that if my eyes fall on something and I go quiet, that there's going to be a major furniture move in a matter of hours."The dining area BEFORE. Photography by Kelly Stuart
He's also sensitive to the fact that it's not always as easy as just saying "Yes." "There are a million reasons not to rearrange a room," he says. "You're tired. You're working. There's going to be holes in the walls and you don't know if the new plans will work." And yet? It can change your whole outlook.
Here, the moves he made that made the room so much better.
1. Add Texture And Intimacy To A Gallery Wall
"When you have a wall of only framed pictures, it often falls flat," Berkus explains. "But there are a lot of ways to make a gallery wall more interesting. I especially like adding unexpected texture, like a necklace, a brass screw with beads hangings, or this sign." Here Berkus pulled the "Fantastic" sign that was hanging alone in my entry and this heart-shaped collage of wedding photos from a hidden corner to make this wall pop.
2. Reposition The Sofa
"When you're dealing with a long and narrow floor plan like this one, you need to be able to see a destination when you walk in—something that draws you through the space," he explains. "What you had before worked fine in terms of function, but you didn't see any soft place to land. Now the sofa anchors the whole room." The bookshelves were also moved, and the TV angled toward the sofa, so that we kept the original function in the new, far more welcoming layout.
3. Create A Collection
"Grouping things in threes makes them more impactful," says Berkus. "While you had vibrant colors mixed thorughout the living room, putting them all together in one spot makes you look at your things in a new way." Hence, the "color corner," as I've since dubbed it. Bonus: The pieces at play here were previously elsewhere in the apartment, usually in places where they were easily overlooked.
4. Merge The "Zones"
"If you have an open floor plan, you want to make it really easy for people to understand that they can pull a chair from the table and turn it so they can talk to someone on the sofa," says Berkus. "So we flipped the dining table so that it's now the same length as the room, and pulled away two of the chairs so it feels a bit less formal. It makes you realize that this furniture isn't meant to be kept in just one area." The result? A dining area that feels like a natural part of the room, not a partitioned-off space.
5. Rethink Where Pieces Are "Supposed To Go"Box from Nate Berkus's collection available at ; Block Printed Arches Art from ; Pedra coasters by . Photography by Kelly Stuart
"We get so fixed in patterns in our homes: These lamps must go on my nightstands. These four chairs have to be at the dining table. But design needs to be more fluid than that," says Berkus. His advice? Go through your own home, room by room, evaluating your pieces and trying to imagine new places where they might work. "It's all about experimenting: Put a bath towel under your furniture and slide it somewhere new; you'll know it's right when it feels better, functions better, and looks how it did in your mind's eye when you were buying all those pieces."
"The key is not being afraid to try," he says. And now I'm invigorated to try in other rooms in my home. What about you?
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