From dark colour palettes to hand-me-down furniture, Queer Eye’s interior design guru knows exactly how to transform your tiny home… and how not to, too.
I’m calling it: Bobby Berk is truly the MVP of Netflix’s Queer Eye. Because, while the others are busy – and they really are genuinely busy – helping their heroes dress to impress, cook up a storm (or, y’know, slice up an avocado), conquer their fears, and turn their daily grooming routine into a self-care ritual, Bobby is quietly transforming their entire home behind the scenes.
A skilled interior designer, Berk usually spends much of his time hustling to ensure each and every single hero who appears on Queer Eye – no matter what their circumstances – feels proud of where they rest their head each night. We’ve seen him update houses, apartments, trailers, cabins and basements over the past three seasons of QE, and, when I recently met with him in London, he informed me that he will be trying his hand at plenty more (including a barn!) in the fourth, which is due to hit Netflix on Friday 19 July.
Does this mean, though, that Berk will once again get less screen-time than co-stars Jonathan Van Ness (Grooming), Karamo Brown (Culture), Tan France (Fashion) and Antoni Porowski (Food & Wine)? Don’t count on it. In fact, he’s promised me that we will be seeing much more of him on screen going forward – primarily because he’s finally, finally learned to master the skill of delegation.
All of this means that the fourth season of Queer Eye – which is set in Kansas City, Missouri – will feature plenty of Bobby AND plenty of gorgeous property makeovers, all of which will no doubt inspire us to pick up a paintbrush and give our own homes a little spruce up.
If you’re anything like me, though, you’ll no doubt be in need of a little extra guidance. Thankfully, Berk has – after very little coaxing from myself – shared his tried and tested tips on decorating with bold colours, making the most of hand-me-down furniture, and transforming small spaces (because, let’s face it, who among us owns a mansion?).
What does home mean to you?
I like to think about home as a charger. When you’re out all day and you use your phone, it dies because you use it a lot. It’s constantly being drained, and so are you. Your home is where you plug your phone in, but you also need to plug yourself in and if your home is chaotic and it’s not a place where you can relax and find yourself, you’re not getting a full charge.
If you have a really small home, how can you maximise the space so you don’t feel hemmed in?
When you live somewhere small, you need to think about the space as three dimensional. Don’t just look side to side, but up and down, too: design up! If you have a high ceiling and can put your bed up on a higher level than the ground, then do that because then you can put an office or seating underneath it. Maximise the space you have, rather than focus on the space you don’t.
Which piece of furniture do you think is most important to invest in when you’re buying a new home?
Your bed, because again that’s your charger. Even when I was a broke kid in New York, I always had good bedding – when you go to sleep you should feel good, and when you wake up you should feel good, too. So invest in a good bed and good bedding, because you’ll thank yourself when you’re older and your back isn’t screwed up from sleeping on a crap mattress.
How can you make the most of mismatched hand-me-down furniture?
It kind of depends on the furniture. Even if it’s all mismatched, you can paint it all one colour – if it’s all different woods, then white wash everything so you have a blank palette to work with. Then you can mix in other colours and pillows and throws and paint on the walls and things like that.
Which DIY tools do you think everyone should own?
Ikea has the best little orange and white tool kit. It has pliers and a screwdriver with multiple different heads, a hammer and a tape measure, it only costs £8, and it’s just the best little tool kit because it’s small, so you can throw it in a bag if you need it or just pop it in a drawer under the bed. So if you’re not a super DIY person, then it’s the best little kit to have. At the very least, it’ll mean you can hang up pictures and you have a screwdriver when you need it!
Where do you go for design inspiration?
I find design inspiration everywhere, honestly. It’s just walking down the streets and seeing trees, or the way the shadows make patterns on the walls, or seeing the perfect pink that probably used to be red but has been faded because of the sun.
How can I use colour and it not become too overwhelming?
I think you should use colour in accessories. People sometimes go overboard with colour on walls or big pieces of furniture, and it can be a bit overwhelming – especially if you get bored of that colour and it’s an expensive piece and you can’t really afford to get rid of it. So unless you want to spend a ton of money, use colour with curtains, pillows, throws and rugs, because those are not expensive pieces. When you get bored, you can pass them on to friends and you can change things up a bit. I’d always keep your main pieces and walls neutral, except for maybe one wall at a push.
How many colours do you think work in a palette?
That’s so personal. If you think 20 colours in your room looks great and that makes you happy, then girl, go for it! Personally, I think 50 shades of taupe and black look great in mine. I’m not a fan of colour in my own home. While I love decorating with it in other homes, and I appreciate colour, I deal with it all day long, so I just want to come home to a blank slate. It’s all relative.
If you’re moving in with someone, how can you make it feel like home for both of you?
It’s all about compromise. Hopefully if it’s someone you’re compatible with in so many other ways, you will share a lot of the same opinions when it comes to design as well. I would find the pieces that are most important to the both of you and make sure that they take pride of place in the household.
if you can’t compromise and you have the budget to do so, though, go out and get new things together, because then it doesn’t feel like mine and his, or mine and hers. Instead, it feels like yours together. I always recommend that if you can’t start fresh when you move in together, then buy at least one key piece together – like a sofa or a table – because it will help to make it feel like home for you both,
If you have barely any money but you’ve just moved into a home, what is the quickest and cheapest thing you can do to transform the space?
Paint is always great. If you’ve moved into a home where the last owners were crazy and painted every room a different colour, then go in and paint it one colour or white. Not only will it make it feel fresh and new, but painting a home one colour makes it feel larger – a lot of people make the mistake of painting all the rooms different colours, and that makes the space feel much smaller. Also, painting doors different colours to the walls makes it look like a feature: even though it’s just a door, it suddenly has an intrigue to it.
If you’re renting a room, how can you make it feel like home?
To quote Marie Kondo, you need to find the things that spark joy. And, as I said earlier, you need to invest in good bedding. Bedding is all about the quality of the cotton, or the length of the fibre of the cotton – not so much about thread count. It’s actually the ends of the fibres that make sheets scratchy, so if you’ve got a bunch of short fibres you’ve got a bunch of ends that stick out: you don’t really see it but you feel it, so when you run your hand over it it’s rough. When you’ve got nice high quality cotton that runs a long way you don’t have a bunch of ends sticking out so it’s very smooth. Look for this over thread count and you can get smooth bedsheets for not very much money!
If you had to have five things in every home, what would they be?
A good comfy sofa – not a “couch”, because I hate the word couch – that you can curl up on and watch Netflix. You also need a great bed, good bedding, good towels and good cookware, so you can cook for yourself and cook dinner for friends and family. That’s what makes a place really feel like home.
And finally, what is the biggest mistake people make when decorating their homes?
Worrying about what other people think, and what other people think they should do, and the interior trends of the moment – it doesn’t matter what the trends are. If you get home and smile because the way it looks makes you happy, great. If you come home and feel like you’re living in a museum and you’re not comfortable in your own home but oh, it’s trendy, then who cares? I think the biggest mistake is having your home not feel like home, so do it the way you want. You do you, girl!
Queer Eye Season 4 launches globally on Netflix 19 July 2019.
Main image: Getty