IN CONVERSATION WITH BOBBY BERK
Interview by Marie-Pauline Cesari
Design expert and Emmy-nominated TV host of Netflix’s ‘Queer Eye’, Bobby Berk is releasing his first book ‘Right at Home: How Good Design is Good for the Mind’ today (12th September). Bobby’s upcoming book is about how design affects our mental health and how we can use design that we are in control of to better our lives, a mantra Bobby lives and has formed his career by.
Where does your passion for interior design come from?
From a very early age, I was into art and all things creative. I remember wanting my room to look and feel a certain way and that was really when I discovered interior design. But it wasn’t until much later, when I started working in the home furnishings business and later opened my own store, that I found my passion for the field. Being around products, I was inspired to start putting things together, which led to designing spaces and it all just clicked for me.
You have been a part of Netflix’s series ‘Queer Eye’ as an interior design expert. How has this experience been for you?
It’s been so incredible. Being a part of ‘Queer Eye’ has changed my life in so many ways and given me opportunities I never could have imagined for myself. It’s also been really wonderful meeting so many amazing heroes and hearing their inspiring stories over the course of 7 seasons.
Tell us more about your new book ‘Right at Home: How Good Design is Good for the Mind’ and what inspired you to write it?
I’ve always been an advocate for mental health and throughout my design career I’ve learned how our living spaces and daily habits at home can have a big impact on our well-being. A home is so much more than just a physical space. It’s a place that can lift you up, comfort you, make you feel safe and bring you joy. I wanted to write a book that would be an easy-to-follow guide for anyone looking to really improve their home and learn how to make small changes that will really enhance your life too.
In your book, you discuss how design can impact mental health. You had a complicated adolescence, being rejected for being gay. In what way did design help you in overcoming your hardships?
Design was always a comfort to me, no matter what I was going through in life. When I didn’t have stability and felt rejected, I did have control over my space. Even if I was living in my car or in a tiny studio apartment, if I surrounded myself with objects that were beautiful, brought me joy and a level of comfort, I felt at home. And that allowed me to keep pushing myself for something bigger and better.
Your personal journey from being homeless in Missouri to becoming a successful designer in New York City is inspiring. How has this experience impacted your career and your life in general?
Not having a home really instilled in me the importance of safety and security. Everyone deserves to have a place where they feel protected and comfortable, and I’ve always returned to that thought when working on any design project. I also learned to not take anything in life for granted and to be thankful for each and every opportunity that comes my way.
Could you share an insight or a strategy from the book that our readers can use to create a living space that is more conducive to mental health?
One element I focus on in the book is how to utilize color in your home to improve your mental health. It’s a simple, yet totally impactful tool to boost your mood, increase your energy, get focused or create a sense of calm and relaxation. Whether it’s painting your walls or bringing in colorful pillows, art or accessories, selecting the right shade is a great way to make you, and your home, look and feel better.
You are also very active on social media and involved in the LGBTQIA+ community. How do you manage to find balance between your professional and personal life?
A work/life balance is very important to me and I think it’s essential for maintaining your mental health. There are times when work will be super busy and hectic, but I still try to take some time to unwind and relax at home with my husband and our dog. At the end of the day, you only have one life, so you have to prioritize yourself and your well-being. I always keep that in mind, not just for myself, but also for my team and anyone that I’m working with.
What were the main challenges you faced in writing your book? Did it make you want to write more books in the future?
The biggest challenge was really just getting started. It was a bit daunting to figure out exactly how to communicate all the ideas I had in my head and design knowledge onto the page. Luckily, I was able to work with a great editor and team that made that process a lot easier. While it was certainly a lot of work, I would be open to writing another book in the future.
In your career, which interior design project has had the greatest impact on you?
A few years ago, I was able to give my parent’s home, the house that I grew up in, a complete makeover. Their home hadn’t been touched since the 1980s, so it was quite dated and the layout was very closed off. I was able to not only modernize the space, but also make so much needed improvements. It really meant so much to be able to use my design talents to give back to my parents in a tangible way by giving them a beautiful new interior.
What are your plans and goals for the future? Will we be also seeing more of you on our screens?
I definitely plan to continue my interior design work and my firm is busy working on quite a few projects at the moment. I also have a new home decor collection that will be launching with QVC, rugs with Karastan and art with Leftbank. As for future TV projects, you will just have to wait and see.
Read more about Bobby’s book ‘Right at Home: How Good Design is Good for the Mind’ here