Designer Bobby Berk of Netflix's 'Queer Eye' - Home Front

Bobby Berk
Apr 19, 2018

Designer Bobby Berk brings all aspects of his design experience to his role in "Queer Eye," the Netflix remake of the popular reality makeover show. As a member of the Fab Five, Berk is in charge of improving the aesthetics in the life of the makeover subjects. He brings with him a savvy resume with experience in retail stores such as Restoration Hardware and Bed Bath & Beyond, plus background in manufacturing and licensing as well as interior design. He has his own Bobby Berk Home brand and design business. Ask him for advice on your own home makeover dreams.

Every week, Jura Koncius helps you in your quest to achieve domestic bliss. She and weekly guests, whether Martha Stewart, the Property Brothers or Nate Berkus, answer your decorating and design questions. Jura is always happy to whip out her paint chips, track down a hard-to-find piece of furniture or offer her seasoned advice on practical living and decluttering. For more than 10 years, Home Front has been an online conversation about the best way to make your home comfortable, stylish and fun. We invite you to submit questions and share you own great tips, ideas and gripes. No problem is too big or too small, send them over.

Great to have designer Bobby Berk, one of the Fab Five on Netflix's hit show Queer Eye, on the chat today. Bobby, who hails from Texas, moved to New York in 2003 and has been bringing his style to many aspects of the design world, from interior design to retail to manufacturing to licensing. He's now a member of the Queer Eye remake ensemble. Queer Eye was a huge hit in its first season and the second season is due to come out in mid-June. Bobby has his own brand and his designs are featured in retailers around the globe, including his wallpaper for Target and HSN. So let's chat! 

Good Morning everyone!

Super excited to be here to answer your questions about design!  Thanks so to Jura and the Washington Post for having me!

Which was your favorite makeover on the first season of Queer Eye and why?

I get asked this question a lot and it's really hard for me to pick just one.  My top three though are AJ, Neil and Remi. 

All three of those encompass more of my personal aestheticwhich is why I think I like them the most. 

Do you know Thom Filicia? How do you think your look is different from his and how are the decorating parts of Queer Eye different from the original?

I've know Thom for years now. He's such a talented designer.  Thom's designs lend themselves more on the traditional/transitional categories, while I'm more on the modern side.  I think the biggest difference between the original and now is that instead of being in NYC where there are mostly apartments, I'm now in areas with more family homes and I have more people living in that home to think of than just a single straight guy 

What's your favorite white paint color?

Chantilly Lace, Benjamin Moore

Where do you pick up accessories fast for your Queer Eye makeovers? Do you actually go to Home Goods or TJ Maxx?

A lot of my go to's during filming were indeed Home Goods and TJ Maxx.  I also spent a lot of time at Target, West Elm and Ikea. 

Got any ideas for styling the perfect coffee table?

I'm a big fan of stacking large books coupled with things with some good height. 

Do the people on the show get to keep everything you get them for their makeovers?

People ask me that a lot!  They do indeed get to keep everything.   How mean would it be of me to show it all to them and then take it back.  haha

Hey Bobby! Know any really useful dollar store "hacks" for decoration/storage? Thanks!

Yes!  The Dollar Store and $.99 Store is where we get most of the books to fill up bookcases both on Queer Eye and in my off camera projects. 

Hi! What are your thoughts/feelings about painting walls, doors (like closet doors in the middle of walls, not doors to rooms) and moldings the same color, with the goal of making short walls look taller/low ceilings look higher? In, say, Benjamin Moore Gray Owl? Would it work or is it just boring?

I love a good monochromatic moment with doors/walls.  I think it looks great!

What has been the best and weirdest fan reaction you've gotten from Queer Eye?

hmmmm.... I think the weirdest yet funniest is when I get a comment on social media from someone telling me they liked the outfit they just saw me in somewhere. Feel free to come say hi!  Don't lurk in the shadows.  lol

I love the reboot! I have personal experience with renovations and every time I see the show I wonder "how long did that take, and just how many people did they have helping?" Are you allowed to shed any light on that? Is it utter chaos? Does quality get compromised by a short timeframe and lastly, are you on a strict budget? I have allll the questions :)

Great questions!

I usually get the home on Tuesday afternoon and have to have it done by Friday morning.  There is a bit of pre-planning that goes into things like knowing dimensions of rooms, windows, etc.  All of the actual work of putting in floors, repainting, lighting and installing all the furniture and decor you see is actually done in that time frame.   

It is utter chaos!  I have an amazing team that helps me get it all done in that small amount of time.  I couldn't do it without them. 

Quality does not get compromised.  I can't stand those shows that come in and make things over and leave the homeowner with a mess to fix afterwards.  Not my style!

Yes!  There is a very strict budget!

Why is it almost cheaper to buy a new sofa than recover an old one?

The biggest cost in making a sofa is the labor/time thus why recovering one cost almost just as much as a new one. 

What makes you happy in your day-to-day life?

My husband pointed to this one and said "ME!"  (and it's true)

Hi there. I'd love to put up some board and batten in my dining room. Online tutorials make it look like it's something my husband and I can handle. Are we being delusional? Thanks!

haha.... those online tutorials always make it look so easy!  Hard for me to say whether you can or not though without knowing your skill sets.  If you decide to do it make sure to take your time and don't rush.  Rushing is when you make mistakes. 

Bobby: Where do you live and can you tell us about your own place?

I live in a 115 year old historic building in Down Town Los Angeles.  It's a very open and bright space with massive 115 year old windows(gorgeous, but no sound barrier at all).  I've mixed a bit of modern and midcentury modern into the space. It's pretty minimal though which is the way my husband and I like it.

Hello Jura and Bobby! Do you or any of the readers have recs for a good leather conditioner/cream to help prevent the leather from drying out or cracking, as well as reducing the appearance of scratches and blemishes? Is there something that would be appropriate for leather bags as well as furniture? I have done some research, but I am afraid of getting the wrong product and ruining the leather. Thank you so much for your ideas.

Yes. Look at the website of Christophe Pourny. He makes several leather products that you might like.

Got any recommendations for relatively inexpensive art?

I got all of our art for the show from Art.com.  They have a massive selection that wont break the bank

How do you even start to look for somebody to help with interior design? Other than getting cast in a fun Netflix show, that is. Any tips for telling who knows what they're doing, how much things should cost and so on?

I always advise on using someone that has been referred to you by someone you know.  If that isn't an option then make sure it's someone who has great reviews online and a portfolio showing their past work.  Once you've found someone you like, ask them if they can give you the names/contact of any past clients as references.  Most of the time when clients are super happy with their designer they will be more than happy to share their experience with you.

HF5231

Hi Bobby! What apartments upgrades are you a fan of?

I've switched out lots of things over the years in apartments.  Lighting is a good way to change the look of a place without spending much. 

A little paint can go a lot way in changing the look of a space as well OR you can slap up some removable wallpaper from Tempaper.

Often I see books covered in matching paper when books are displayed. I don’t like the idea of covering the books. What are your thoughts? Should I learn to like it so they match?

I've done this in the past as well.  The moments I've usually done this are in modern spaces that I'm wanting to be monochromatic.  Other than that I like to keep my books uncovered

Check out the Washington Post Magazine Spring Home and Design issue this Sunday April 22. The stories are already online, including my piece on Vice President Mike and Karen Pence's new look at the official Vice President's Residence. You'll find out who they chose as their interior designer for the project. You can read it now here.

Does that mean that your design is done and you have all the materials when you actually get the space, or are you still working out furnishings/finishing touches at that point?

I try to have game plan, ahead of time, but once I meet our Hero everything can change.  In the Episode about Cory(Police Officer) I had had a plan to redo his basement based on information I had gotten before meeting him.  Once I got there though my whole game plan changed and I decided to do the upstairs instead.  Thus everything was put together in those few days. 

Hi Bobby! First, I want to say that I am a HUGE fan of the show, and I'm very excited for the second season. You guys are helping men become more confident versions of themselves and I think that is amazing. I live in a small one bedroom with my wonderful boyfriend, and I've done an okay job of decorating so far, but I hate clutter and I want to hide some stuff away, (Iike his video games and work out equipment). What are your favorite ways to de-clutter and minimalize in a small space?

I try to use furniture that has multiple uses. For example using multiple storage cubes as coffee tables that can be used as storage for stuff as well as extra seating if needed. 

Is Season Two in Atlanta as well? Any idea what city you might hit next?

Season Two is indeed in the Atlanta area! 

What is your favorite part of a renovation? What is the biggest challenge during a renovation?

My favorite part is when it's all done and the homeowner gets to see it for the first time. 

Time is always my biggest challenge!

Hello. We enclosed our porch, and basically we now have a 6' x 18' space with two very large windows (almost picture windows) on one wall, which I hung bamboo blinds on. Other than that, I've done nothing, except for the fact that it's quickly becoming a catch-all for the dog food bin, gardening items etc. When guests enter our house, they just pass through it on their way to our hallway, but it probably could be a pretty sunroom if only I could figure out how to do it. Thanks for any suggestions. P.S. it doesn't have to be a sunroom.

Take a look at the Bobby Camp episode in Season one.  I turned their "catch all" front sunroom into a really cool multi-use room with lost of storage to catch all those random things that end up there. 

Hello! We plan to use our basement for tv viewing. It is a large rectangle (10 x 25 or so) and has a small rectangular window on the long wall opposite the tv with French doors at one end. We are installing a life proof vinyl floor in Sterling Oak (a variegated grayish color). I know most basements are painted in lighter colors but I really want to paint it a dark blue/navy color. The rest of our house is neutral so I’d like to do something different. I like Behr Adirondack Blue or NYPD. Everyone says it will be too dark. But I’d like it cozy and without a lot of reflection of light on the tv screen. What are your thoughts? Thank you!

I am all for a dark and moody room especially when it's going to be used as a TV room. I say go with with you love and forget what other people think.  They aren't the ones living there... you are! :-) 

Hi Bobby: Have you decorated any celebrity homes? And have you helped any of the other Fab Five members with their interiors?

I designed Tiffani Theissen's home for the holidays a few years back.  Since the show I haven't had a lot of extra time on my hands to help the other fabbers with their places, but I know that both Karamo and JVN with both inspired during the season to come home and change up their places and took a lot of inspiration from the spaces I did during the season

How do you suggest a couple with opposite tastes decorate to incorporate both styles? I love mid-century modern, while my boyfriend loves shabby chic/cottage. Should we stick to one style per room or is there a way to combine "city and country" decor that works?

My personal opinion is that you should win this battle. lol

HI Bobby! My wife and I have original oak flooring (recently refinished) in our mid-century style home, but they squeak a bunch and there are cracks and gaps we have to deal with. Restoring them seems more costly and time consuming than getting new flooring altogether, but then our flooring would no longer be original. What would you do?

I'm all for keeping original flooring when you can, but if it's too damaged and is going to be insane to restore it then there is nothing wrong with replacing it. 

Hello Bobby! I am a fan of your work on the show. I live in a small 1950s rancher. The hardwood floors are original and lovely but we are in need of an area rug in the living room. Should we have one in the dining room also? I like floor coverings for warmth and sound proofing but is two too many for the small space?

I like to make sure that the rugs coordinate in some way if I'm doing two in a smaller home that will be in the same view. 

Do you like subway tile? Or is it so popular that it's going to look dated soon?

I think subway tile is timeless.  It's a good and inexpensive way to update a bathroom/kitchen. 

Hi, I hope you can help us figure this out. We have a beach condo with a smallish 6 foot by 12 foot master bath with no windows that we're redoing. We're thinking gray-ish wood look ceramic floor tile and a bleached or distressed wood vanity, and a new 6 foot white bathtub to replace a jacuzzi tub that had pumped its last. But what colors for walls and wall tile? We talk about subway tile, then talk about using the floor tile on the walls, then using something else, and 2 hours go by and we're looking at cat picture on the internet. Any ideas?

Figuring out what to do with your condo on the beach can be hard(insert jealous sarcasm here) lol

I think doing the floor tile up one wall and then subway tile on the rest could be nice.  It will add some texture without overwhelming the space.

In the mean time..... http://www.wwwallaboutcats.com/top-cat-blogs

I think I’d like to have wooden kitchen counters but worry about whether they’d look bad — any advice? Ps Love you and the show so much!!!

I'm in love with wood counters right now!

Thank you! xoxo

I love QE2. Any plans to do an episode with the original Fab Five?

Not at this time.  The OG's all have tons of other things going on in their lives and it would be nearly impossible to get us all together at the same time.  We've tried to just get everyone together for dinner and can't make it happen.  haha

Hi Bobby! What are you favorite stores for unique furniture finds, whether in NY, LA, or DC?

In NYC I love going to Housing Works!  You never know what you are going to find there, so it's always lots of fun on top of it.  

I just want to say that I really appreciate how kind you all are, in this age of personal attacks. It is a big part of what makes the show so much fun, in addition to all of the personality you five bring into the mix.

Thank you so much!  We really try to always build each other up as much as we can!

What holds up well for the wall area above tile? I'm mulling paint or wallpaper.

If you're talking bathrooms where there will be steam from a shower then I'd do paint.  Wallpaper can be tricky in a bathroom as the steam will make it peel off.

Thanks so much to everyone who submitted their questions.  Sorry I wasn't able to get to them all today!

Thanks again to Jura and the Washington Post for having me! 

Great chat! What fun to have Bobby Berk on the chat today. Stay tuned for Season Two of Queer Eye and more makeovers. thanks so much Bobby. Next week: another great guest, Kevin Sharkey, executive vice president and executive director of design at the Martha Stewart brand.  Kevin is the co-author of  "Martha's Flowers", which was just published by Clarkson Potter. We'll be talking flowers and arranging them and displaying them. Until then...

In This Chat
Jura Koncius
Jura Koncius is a Washington Post staff writer who specializes in home and design. Read her daily twitter feed @jurakoncius for the latest in decorating trends, shopping, decluttering, organizing and DC retail.

Home Q&A archiveFind Jura on Pinterest
Bobby Berk
Recent Chats
  • Next: