Nate Berkus Spring 2014

by Maxwell Tielman

It’s no secret that I’m more than a little bit obsessed with the Nate Berkus line at Target. Ever since discovering his splendiferous wool arrowhead rugs there last year, I’ve been hooked—a fanatical devotee, making a beeline for the NB section every time I step foot in a Target store. It’s not just the accessible prices that turned me into such a Berk-aholic (but have no doubt, those are great, too), it’s the designer’s ceaseless ability to distill myriad sources into a cohesive, effortlessly compatible collection; as timeless as it is timely. This past weekend, Nate launched the most recent installment to his line—the Spring 2014 collection. Filled with the beautiful, multicultural aesthetic we have come to expect from Mr. Berkus, the collection is peppered with new shapes, patterns and objects—I’m loving those beach towels! In addition to sharing some of the pieces from his new collection, Nate was kind enough to answer a few of our questions. Get a look at the new line, plus the inside scoop on Nate’s inspirations after the jump! —Max

Above image: Patterned Ceramic Tray


1. Handwoven Pillow, in stores | 2. Water Hyacinth Basket | 3. Rope String Basket | 4. Grape Leaf Arrowhead Runner, in stores | 5. Metal Llama Figural | 6. Stamped Vase


Above: Yellow Beach Towel, Blue Beach Towel, Hourglass Beach Towel

DS: Your style, both in terms of your interiors and your Target line, seems to draw from a number of influences and cultures. If you were to describe your line in just a few words, what would they be? 

NB: The collection is very broad. I really wanted people to feel like they could turn an aisle and have the same feeling that I had when I’d been traveling and found that incredible object or that great print at the local market somewhere—whether that’s Mexico or Peru or the flea market in LA. The whole collection is really about handpicking a piece from it and mixing it in with what you already have.

Were there any aesthetic sources in particular that informed your spring collection at Target?

The spring collection, for the most part, was inspired by a fantastic trip to Peru that I took last year.

Everybody I know is going to Peru!

It’s so good. Seriously, if you can go, GO. It’s sort of final frontier where craft and things made by hand are still as important as it was two hundred years ago. You have to sift through a lot, but there’s just incredible design inspiration—hence a lot of the great colors that are going on in this collection.

You seem to have your hands in many places at once, in terms of media, design and clientele. How do your considerations change based on whatever project you’re working on? Can you describe what it’s like designing for a specific client versus the national market?

I think the fundamental difference goes back to what I’ve always believed—from 15 years ago when I started my design firm. I think that our home should tell the story of who we are. And the way that we do that is through our things. If I’m working with a private client, I need to understand who they are and what their real, legitimate goals are for the space. That is a very involved process that takes a tremendous amount of time. It’s something that my design firm and I take very seriously, because I really believe that when you’re done with a design project—even if it’s the most beautiful room in the world—if it doesn’t represent the people who have been living there, then you haven’t been successful. Because, ultimately, they’re not going to feel comfortable, they’re not going to feel at home—and that has always been the point.

I’ve tried to take that philosophy to designing the collections for Target. It was hard for me to actually let go of that philosophy, because I wasn’t in control of how people would use the things. How they would place the objects, what they would mix them with… But what I discovered along the way is that it’s actually just as exciting—if not more exciting—to be on social media and see how people are using the fabrics, how people were using the products—watch them take an image of a corner of their living room using some of the things that I’ve designed. People have created a lot of beautiful interiors mixing in my things. It’s been really fun for me to see.

Was there any guiding principle that informed or has continued to inform your Nate Berkus for Target line? What steps do you take to ensure that it is a true reflection of your ideals and aesthetic?

I’m actually no longer allowed in the downstairs of the Target headquarters in Minneapolis, because I start looking at everything! Even if we’ve developed a product three or four times—if it doesn’t feel right to me, if it’s not the right weight, if it’s not the right weave, if they haven’t gotten the color right, it doesn’t go in the line. That’s something I think a lot of designers in my position feel very strongly about. Because in the end, your name is on it. So, I’m very, very careful and my team is very, very careful about what the actual assortment looks like when it hits the shelves at Target. It has to have a point of view, it has to be of a certain level of quality. It has to be fun. It has to be something that people haven’t seen before, especially at that price. And it also has to feel very current for me. I don’t want to design things that other people have designed before. I want people to have that moment—it all harkens back to that moment of discovery that I’ve been excited about since I was a kid. I want people to have that same feeling of discovery when they turn the corner and see this grouping. That element of surprise—of “what’s next?”—it’s something that guides every collection. 

Where do you see your Target line—or brand in general—going over the next few years? What can we expect from Nate Berkus in the near future?

I think that it will always be a mixture—of me looking to the past for inspiration, me looking to other places for inspiration, and me looking a little bit to the future, for what I wish was available on the market that I haven’t personally been able to find. We’re expanding into tabletop soon, which I’m really excited about, because I can’t cook at all, but I can set a serious table. 

We have a consistency now that we’ve worked very hard to create. Where, when people come to our area of Target, they know when something new has been set out. And people get really excited about certain things within the collection. And that’s the excitement that keeps pushing me and my team forward.

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  • I’m with you on the beach towels: they are fun, practical, and good quality. I don’t feel that even Nate himself would purchase a mass-produced vase, animal figurine, pillow from Target and feel connected with that item. I don’t see how any of these decorative objects could tell the story of who you are as a consumer beyond “I bought this at Target.” Things like this should be acquired slowly, according to one’s experience. The whole thing seems to go against Nate’s philosophy on how to build a unique interior.

  • One way people create environments that reflect them is by shopping in stores and online. Stuff from Target, the local consignment shop, flea market, curb or foreign market can illicit feelings that make it meaningful to you. Purchasing an object designed by Mr. Berkus from Target could be just that thing that makes a house a home and reflects the essence of the buyer. It all in the mix.

    Thanks for sharing this interview. I love his book, but have not seen any of his TV work.

  • I love seeing how designs are inspired no matter where the product ends up, in a gallery or Target. Exploring Peru and designing beach towels is all a part of the creative process, we have never seen towels such as this. Not that I am crazy about the towel designs, I am making the comment about how the designs were inspired.

  • I love Nate as a designer (have his books, saves his magazine articles, etc… a true fan), but his collection for Target? Not so much. I feel I must say that many of the pieces are so cheaply and shoddily made that it just doesn’t excite me anymore. One or two items do stand out (those stone photo frames from his first collection were brilliant). However, with the multitude of different Target collections every year, of them all, I feel that Target is failing Nate in the execution department to most. Target’s ‘Threshold’ line acutally looks better and generally has pieces that show as having better quality.

  • I just bought Nate’s grape leaf arrowhead runner last week, I didn’t even know he had a new collection coming out. I saw the runner and I knew right away it was Nate’s. And I grabbed it. I was so happy at the quality. I checked and saw it was cotton and wool and that’s why I love Nate’s stuff because you are getting the Look and the Quality. Nate, I love you. I have 4 pillows and 2 runners and many accessories, it’s becoming a problem now. :-)

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