I started my design firm, Nate Berkus Associates, in the basement of a rented house and barely had enough money to print my first set of business cards! I’d like to take credit for what the company has evolved into today, but that would be ridiculous. The people that have come into my life…friends, employees, employers, clients, and my family, they are the ones who have truly shaped my company.
We have so much more than a collection of beautiful spaces and accessories to show for the last 20 years. We have the memories and the adventures from 20 years (2 DECADES!) of building a brand.
What’s Changed In The Past 20 Years
1. eBay! Etsy! Chairish! 1ST Dibs!
2. Design used to be shrouded in secrets…it was all about access to private showrooms, and sources that no one was willing to share. Now that everything is so accessible, and it’s so easy to find wonderful furniture, objects, fabrics, and crafts, it’s about what really counts: Talent, creativity and experience.
3. Design is so global now. It used to feel very regional, but now you see so things from all around the world that can be used or translated for any project. Things like tiles handmade in Mexico have a place of pride in Manhattan….20 years ago that was very rare.
…And 5 Things That Have Stayed The Same
1. Scale, and knowing how to play within it.
2. Design is still an intensely personal process.
3. We will always be held accountable for managing expectations.
4. Service has to be stellar and unforgettable.
5. Mistakes have always been made and will continue to happen. Having solutions and staying with the project until they are resolved is the truest test of how skilled your company is.
How I’VE Changed In 20 Years
I think I’m more creative and more definitive, because I’ve been lucky to travel and have those experiences change and shape who I am as a designer.
Also: My hair. And certain shirts. Let us never speak of them again.
…And How I Haven’t
Design has always been something I love to do in my spare time. On free weekends I find time to shop antiques malls, look at interiors online, and visit local markets.
The thing I’ve learned is, that when you do something you love every day, you change everything around you because you are happy. I love my staff, I love the energy around the projects we bring, and I’ve never lost my sense of wonder in seeing something interesting for the first time.
20 Years In, I’m MOST Proud Of…
The work we, as a design team, have done – including all the product lines and collections. And I’m intensely proud about the relative lack of turnover in my companies. For me that means that there is something cultural – beyond a paycheck and health insurance – that keeps people working for me.
The Best Advice I Got Along The Way
“When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.” -Maya Angelou through Oprah Winfrey.
‘The power of marketing is so important.” – Leslie Hindman, my first boss in Chicago.
…And My Personal Best Advice
You have to bet on yourself, and always look for the lesson when things don’t go well.
Work should be…
Satisfying, fulfilling, and it always teaches you something. No matter how long you’ve been in the business.
The Top 5 Things A Successful Company Needs
1. Empathy. For your staff first, and then your clients.
2. A clear point of view…not only for the aesthetic, but for how you want the company to function and be perceived.
3. A sense of joy and discovery. If you lose that, it becomes just a job.
4. A solid system for accounting and internal organization. Without that it’s not really a business.
5. A sense of humor. In the end it’s just furniture.
But honestly? I can’t believe I’m old enough to be celebrating the 20th anniversary of my company….now that’s scary.