Washington - Designer Nate Berkus joined Washington Post staff writer Jura Koncius recently for online chat with readers. Here is an edited excerpt.
Is it still possible to decorate using oriental rugs? I have several that I dearly love. Every decorating magazine shows plain or modern patterns. I don’t want to chuck my rugs!
Nate: I think you have answered your own question. You love your rugs, so absolutely, yes, you should be living with them. I personally find oriental rugs timeless. Design is really about finding a style that represents who you are and not following the trends in magazines. To update the look, consider pairing your rugs with simpler upholstery.
I’ve lived in my house for four years, and I still can’t decorate the fireplace mantel. Any ideas?
For the mantel, I go with one of two choices: a large statement piece like a mirror, painting or photo hung above it, or several smaller framed pieces leaning against the wall. If you choose the first option, keep the accessories on the mantel simple:
A beautiful pottery bowl, a pair of candlesticks or a series of handmade pottery in complementary colours would be beautiful.
In honour of my house being built in the 1920s, I incorporate as many art deco elements as possible. What are the pros and cons of wallpaper as opposed to paint? I’m concerned wallpaper may make the rooms feel smaller.
Wallpaper is more expensive. I prefer to use wallpaper in smaller rooms, like a foyer or guest bath. Or pick something really spectacular in the dining room and paint the surrounding walls.
Many times when I travel I’m inspired by the landscapes and colours but dumbfounded on how I can translate them into my life. Any suggestions?
The best palettes for decorating have always been found in nature. You can easily apply your travels to your life. For example, the camels of the sand on the the seashore, mix of blues in the water, the pale blue of the sky and the white clouds floating by, and the bits of black shell in the sand. These are the perfect palette for a master bedroom, bathroom or beachy family room.
I would love to add a mirror to my little studio but am perplexed by all the shapes and sizes.
A large mirror in a small space is always a good idea. My first flat in New York was 45m2 and I hung a 2m-by-1m mirror on one wall. The best part is, I’ve moved five times since and because I invested in that piece then, I’ve always found a place for it. Resist the urge to scale down your furniture in a small space. Keep the sofa large. No one will be comfortable in your tiny chairs!
I can’t find a tile backsplash I love enough to live with for years to come. So I’m thinking of painting the walls a high-gloss black or silver. My cabinets are white with white-quartz counters and the appliances are stainless steel. What would you do?
I would go with a classic subway tile. Either Carrara marble, which is readily available at home improvement stores, or a white or pale grey ceramic tile. The tile lasts longer than paint and is much more hardworking in the kitchen.
Is it possible to decorate an entire flat with mid-century modern furniture and decor without it looking dated?
The most successful rooms are ones that are assembled over time. The majority of pieces can be mid-century, but it’s more interesting to add something different. Mid-century frames with fresh fabric in an all-white room can be beautiful, and timeless, when mixed with natural and handcrafted accessories.
I love having an open feeling on the first floor where I can see from my dining room to the kitchen to the family room, but it perplexes me how to design a cohesive space.
My recommendation is to use complementary paint colours throughout and make sure everything is at varying heights. Nothing in the room appears higher than the back of the sofa, so place a tall bookcase or armoire against a wall to draw the eyes upward to appreciate the full space.