Nate Berkus Reveals The Best Holiday Design Trends Of 2021 - Exclusive Interview

The most wonderful time of the year is here, and we've finally gotten all of our favorite holiday decor out on display. Precious glass ornaments, candlelit centerpieces, and strings and strings of lights are some of the things that make our homes feel so magical each and every December — but if you have a small child, you may think twice before decking your halls with such dangerous decor. How are you supposed to have a sophisticated home without sacrificing the safety of your little ones? 

We sat down for an exclusive interview with dad and interior designer Nate Berkus to hear all his tips and tricks for making our homes the most magical spaces for every member of our family. Read on to see how Berkus decorates his own home during the holidays, the special parenting advice he learned from his time on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," and whether or not we'll be seeing his family of four on a second season of HGTV's "The Nate & Jeremiah Home Project."

Nate Berkus says simplicity is in style this holiday season

What are some design trends that are in style this holiday season?

Wow. Well, I mean, so many people are having, I think, issues with shipping and fulfillment and everything that I'm noticing a lot of people are bringing out, like, the more traditional things that they own, the things that have been stored in the basement and the linen closet.

But I think there's been a movement very much to natural materials and a sort of slightly more simplistic decor — silver and gold and ornaments and clear glass and woven wicker and reed and natural greenery throughout the house, even if it means going out in the backyard and cutting down some branches and bringing those in as a centerpiece. Garlands still forever. White lights. Ornaments in different bowls, in like metal bowls sitting on mantles and as a centerpiece, I think, is really gorgeous mixed with flameless candles.

I'm not sure that I'm noticing huge trends, but a lot of what I'm seeing on Instagram and what our clients are asking about is just a bit of a more neutral, sort of, cleaner look.

Are there any recent trends that you just can't wait for them to end?

Oh, yeah. Definitely. Lucite is over for me, and I feel like I cannot wait to not have anybody ever ask me about it again. I think, to be honest with you, some of this highly, highly textured fabrics are still very sort of solid right now. But I think that everybody who's rushed out and kind of reupholstered everything in shearling or faux shearling or nubby this, I think you need to temper that with some velvets and some linens and some simpler sort of flatter woven fabrics. Although, it is comfortable and super durable, so I get it. Those would probably be my two main.

Mirrored furniture, too. I mean, it's been around — the real stuff from like the 1930s is amazing, but the new stuff I can't really deal with anymore either.

Here's how Nate Berkus decorates his home for the holidays

You talk a lot on TV about sentimental items and how important those are.


Are there any special pieces of decor that you always have to bring out every holiday season in your own home?

You know, it changed a lot for me as a dad because I now look at the holidays through my kids' eyes, as opposed to just my own. And it's funny, because, as every parent knows, you have to relinquish control of a million things a thousand times a day, not just the holiday season. So I get more enjoyment watching our daughter go through, like — we just put up the tree [on November 30], and watching our daughter go through the bin and see the ornament she made in school or the photo of me and her little brother that's in a tiny frame that goes on a tree or the original one she got from meeting Santa in the mall, there's joy around that. As parents, we want to keep our kids joyful, and we want to keep them safe, so I'm not getting in the way of her displaying those.

We do give our kids mini fake Christmas trees that they can decorate in their room. They're only like two feet high, and that is a free-for-all. But our tree looks like, hopefully, the cover of a magazine.

My toddler is now at the age where she helped me decorate the tree. But her favorite thing is taking all the ornaments off right now, so having a little tree is a great idea.

Oh, yeah. That's a thing.

So your two little ones help you decorate? Is that a family tradition every year?

It is. It really is. We live in New York City, and we all walk as a family to the funny French couple that sells trees on Seventh Avenue, and we pick our tree together. So all of it is part of, you know, has become our family tradition.

Can you see either of them following in you or your husband Jeremiah Brent's footsteps and becoming a designer, too?

We don't have any expectations on our kids. We want them to be kind, and we want them to be satisfied with whatever they choose to do. Creative and satisfied.

But our kids are definitely very sensitive to their environment. If I, like, move something in one room, sometimes I'll find it pushed back. And it's our 6-year-old daughter who's like, "I really liked it there, Dad, so I put it back." I thought I was losing my mind originally, but both kids know where everything goes in the house, and they both know what piece of furniture should end up where and why.

Tips for creating both a stylish and safe home for small children

I want to talk about your partnership with Duracell because, as a parent, this sounds like a really cool idea. Can you tell us more about it?

The importance of it can't be undermined. I teamed up with Duracell because they're a company that really cares about safety and safety of children. First and foremost, I think everybody should go to the Duracell website and download a checklist that they've provided about holiday safety. [I've] been working with them and understanding. They've taught me a lot, particularly around lithium coin batteries, the little sort of coin-shaped batteries that we all use. Those go in string lights. They go in flameless candles. They go in remotes for our Christmas tree lights.

They have coated them with a super bitter coating that discourages kids from keeping them in their mouths. If they tasted it, it's really gross. They also have made their packaging virtually impossible to open without a scissors. You've done that, I'm sure, tried to get the battery out. Why is this so hard to do?

I don't know — especially for kids' toys!

I know, and they're waiting for you to put that in and let the doll speak. You're like, "I'm working on it! Just give me a minute." You've got to cut around the entire thing.

But the truth is, there's a reason for that. One tip that Duracell taught me was that when you put batteries into a remote or into your lights or into a flameless candle, tape the compartment that holds the battery. Like, why wouldn't you do that?

What we're really talking about is keeping the holidays as safe as possible for the little ones and having just an additional line of defense. Nobody wants to make a memory of, you know, having something happen, and so there's some really solid tips on to, hopefully, keep all of us safe this holiday season.

Yeah, I think that's the ultimate question as a parent. You obviously don't want to sacrifice your style and you want to live in a space that you love, but you also don't want to sacrifice safety for your little ones.

Yeah. I mean, listen, safety is a non-starter for us. We used to have a glass coffee table. Our daughter picked up a big bowl and dropped it on it and [it] shattered into a million pieces. She was 2 years old. No one was hurt. But as a parent, you just look through your environment, and everything is a disaster. You're meant to have eyes in the back of your head.

So this partnership with Duracell has been really great, especially at this time of year, because we're all rushing. We're all busy. Everybody's doing their lists and their holiday lists and cooking, and they've got a thousand house guests, and we all have a thousand things going on. And this is just a little bit of a re-centering to stop and say, "Okay, this is something that could be dangerous." This is what Duracell has done to make it less dangerous, and there's also a million tips so that you can keep your home safe.

Exactly. Because as a parent, you're always multitasking.

We all are. We all are. Something's going on the stove. You're, like, cleaning something on the other side. There's laundry. You're wrapping. We're busy right now.

This is what he learned on the set of The Oprah Winfrey Show

I've watched you for years on television, and you make designing a home look so easy. What is the hardest part about your job?

It changes. It's a good question. Sometimes it's getting the things I really want for a particular interior. Sometimes, you know, it's having to make a second or a third choice, because if something's unavailable, which is just real life, but it happens on TV and for designers as well.

But I think the hardest part is probably just trying to keep everything in balance. Like anybody else, I have my career, and I have my family. I have my business obligations and my television obligations and my friendship obligations and my daddy obligations. So it's trying to always achieve some semblance of balance with that.

I want to bring up Oprah, because that's how you were introduced to the world. What's the best advice she gave you when you were starting out?

Ooh, there's a lot. Yeah. I mean, I was part of that show for almost 15 years, and you have to really not be paying attention to be in that environment, in those studios back in the day in Chicago, and not learn almost every day, which is obviously why the show was so beloved by so many people worldwide.

But the best advice — I mean, give me a category but, actually I'll pick one — was probably parenting. Before I was a parent, and I'll never forget, someone asked in the audience, Dr. Maya Angelou, one day — I was in the control room at the time, and Oprah was interviewing Dr. Maya Angelou. Someone stood up and said, "What's your best advice as a parent?" And Dr. Angelou said, "Although I've failed many times as a parent, do your eyes light up when your child enters the room every time? Because that is our responsibility, so that kids feel seen and heard, and most importantly, that you're happy to see them." And I never forgot that. Many years later when I had my kids, I was like, "Do my eyes light up when my kids enter the room every time?"

It's important. Like you said, too, with multitasking everything, just taking a moment to realize like, "I'm home. I'm with my children. That's their time."

Yeah. "Hi." "Hi." "Good morning." "Welcome." "How was school?"

Nate Berkus opens up about fame and what he's watching on TV

So we all love watching you on TV. What do you like to watch on TV when you get a chance?

Well, I mean this past 18 months, basically everything, truly everything. My husband [Jeremiah Brent] and I are super into "Yellowstone" right now. We watched "Succession." We watch, I mean, we've absolutely watched everything, so you name it if it's been a series that has gotten any acclaim. We watched "Squid Game," albeit somewhat uncomfortably, but still did it. [Laughs] There's so much good TV on right now.

Do you watch any design shows, or do you like to take a break from those when you get home?

I can't really watch that at home.


Yeah. It's not for me. And also, I think it's helpful, too, because we want to approach every project that we're doing for homeowners on television as really tailored to them. That's what our show, "The Nate & Jeremiah Home Project," is about. It's really about getting to know these people through their things. We're not really looking to see — we're not looking over our shoulders to see what anybody else is doing because we're so focused on the people that we're actually standing in front of.

Do fans ever stop you on the streets of New York City and ask for design advice? Do you get that all the time?

Not New Yorkers, but tourists, yes. It's always followed up by, like, "Where are you from?" And it's like, "Dallas." "Wow! Great." But New Yorkers don't care. They're like, "Hey! Oh, yeah. There goes that family that's on HGTV. Hey, guys."

Is there a question that they always tend to ask you?

No, it's more like, "My mother would kill me if I didn't ask for a picture." That's more of a line. It's not necessarily design advice. But on Instagram and on my website, there's definitely a lot of people with a lot of questions, and we obviously can't answer every single one. But we take that information and try and, you know, craft what is some of the most common sort of questions and address that.

What's next for Nate Berkus?

You have had such a successful career. What's something you still want to do that you haven't accomplished yet?

You know what? I come from a place of gratitude. I feel very lucky to have the career that I have and to have had the career that I have. My work ethic hasn't changed since I started 26 years ago. I get to work with a team of people. Most of my team has worked for me, like, 15, 16, 17 years.

It's not ego-based. The way I work creatively is that everybody really has a voice, and the best idea should win and should win every time. So I'm not really focused on what I'm doing next. I've got a lot of projects in the works and different products and things like that that are happening, but we're about to start pre-production again on [Season 2 of "The Nate & Jeremiah Home Project"]. I really love what I do. I crafted this life. What I do is a series of decisions that I've made over the last 25 years, and I feel lucky to be able to do that.

Nate Berkus is partnering with Duracell in helping families #HolidaySafely with lithium coin batteries with bitter coating, encouraging parents to make sure their homes are not only festive but safe, too.