After we’ve all spent a year at home, our houses have transformed just as much as we have. Interior design went from a luxury to a necessity as we shifted our spaces — reorganizing home offices, carving out workout corners and study areas, setting up socially appropriate outdoor gathering circles — to better suit our constantly changing lifestyles. While households have had to work overtime, so too have interior designers. And as a result, the thriving design industry is moving into a new era, one filled with urgency and excitement to make residences not just beautiful, but grounded, peaceful and personal. We asked five top talents to share their perspective on how things have changed, what clients want and where interior design goes from here.
One of the most recognizable faces in design, Nate Berkus has spent most of his adult life in the industry. After growing up in Minnesota, he opened his firm at age 24 and quickly became a household name with his 2002 Oprah debut. Now, he’s celebrating 26 years in business, during which he’s starred on even more TV shows (most recently HGTV’s Rock the Block), penned best-selling books, created coveted retail collections and designed countless interiors. With a growing empire, including 20 employees and a million Instagram followers, one thing remains true: his belief that every home should tell a story.
Arguably the industry’s current It Girl, Brigette Romanek is one of today’s most sought-after designers. She launched her eponymous studio in 2018 then quickly hit Architectural Digest’s AD100 — for three years in a row. Today, she rocks a megawatt client list, including Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Demi Moore. Yet however grand things get, the former handbag creator stays grounded by “designing by feel” and focusing on sensory, soulful rooms. Big on plants (a black olive tree grows in her living room), light on trends (even the word makes her cringe) and high on real life, she’s primed for what interiors need right now.
He’s been called gusty and provocative by magazines like Elle Decor, but Cliff Fong, founder of Matt Blacke Inc., is mostly an editor who blends basics with statement pieces. He began his career in fashion with specialty retailers such as Maxfield, Fred Segal and Ron Herman before shifting to interiors. Whether curating a good outfit or a great house, he understands high-profile clients like Ryan Murphy and Ellen DeGeneres, with whom he’s had a 30-year friendship. And he’s a true master of the art of high/low, unafraid to mix Prada with Gap or wild art with antiques, often from his own Los Angeles–based Galerie Half.
Kathryn M. Ireland has been described as having the ability to create something out of nothing. This captures her very essence, from her accidental start in design to her undecorated aesthetic to her collaborative website, The Perfect Room. Raised in London and Scotland, she now divides her time between California and France, where she’s taken a farmhouse from two bedrooms to 12 to accommodate guests from around the world. Both her dinner table and her client roster are filled with A-listers — Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Drew Barrymore, Arianna Huffington, Chiwetel Ejiofor — who are drawn to her joie de vivre.
Known for his star power on Bravo’s cult favorite Million Dollar Decorators, Jeffrey Alan Marks embodies California cool. After stints in London, New York City and Los Angeles, he’s settled into the quiet seaside town of Montecito, where he’s redefining the all-American beach vibe with his recently renovated 1920s English-style cottage. He spends his days taking morning walks on the beach, working with clients coast to coast, and designing lines for Kravet, Palecek and WestPoint Home. And he’s convinced this will be the summer to remember.