• The Best Unpacking Advice Ever

    To work at Nate Berkus Associates is to know the importance of an install kit. The handy, brilliant, finely-honed collection of essentials that accompany the team to the most sacred (and exhausting) day of a makeover: the install. The day where the truck arrives, the fanny packs get strapped on, and the house becomes transformed into everything the team worked toward.


    But first, let’s back up. The “install kit” can be different for every home. And the supply closets at NBA in Chicago are homebase for such varied delights. Extension cords, painters tape, Command hooks (for installing artwork on top of kitchen tile – brilliant, right?), it’s all there, and ready to be sorted for any size of install.


    At left you’ll see a sampling of some of the goodies in that closet, but the secret of the efficiency and ease of an NBA install is a person, not product. Meet Alison Wilcox.

Alison is the firm’s director of project management, the one who works with the designers, architects, contractors, and homeowners to make sure every drawing, finish, and dimension is exactly right, and that everything else is on schedule. And install day is her Super Bowl. Not only does she curate the kits, she’s the one answering every. single. question.


So: when she shares her essentials for move-in day success, we listen. Here’s what makes her short list.


Garbage bags (more than you think you’ll need), screwdrivers (Phillips + flathead), lightbulbs (otherwise you’ll need to stop once it gets too dark!), and a variety of extension cords. A portable speaker brings the tunes to keep everyone energized throughout the move-in process. A pen and notepad, because you’re going to think of a million more things you need. Hand soap, toilet paper, and paper towels. A hammer and nails, because artwork should never be left for “later, when we get to it”, and do not, under any circumstances, forget the felt furniture pads.


“Before any piece of furniture is brought into the house, we assign someone to make sure it has pads underneath so nothing scratches the brand-new floors!” she warns.


One note about the actual truck-to-house process. Alison unpacks the boxes outside, not inside, which makes an enormous difference. “That way, none of the dirty stuff comes in the house, and when you open the boxes and Styrofoam popcorn flies everywhere, it’s not in your new home!” An added bonus? “Boxes take up too much room inside – it makes it much harder to set anything up.”


We can’t all have an Alison to move us in, but we can follow her lead. So use her list as a starting point, and add in pieces that will be essential for your individual move. The final step is editing things down to what you can keep in a fanny pack for quick access. And who knows – with the 1990’s fashion revival going on, maybe you’ll want to wear yours beyond install day. Maybe.

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