On the Couch with Bobby Berk
New York-based designer Bobby Berk is taking over the world. Sure, he’s a mere 31 years old, and his über-modern, über-fun brand Bobby Berk Home has only been breathing since 2006, but this Texas native is already making himself a household name across North America. With stores making waves in New York City, Atlanta, Miami and Los Angeles, and a new signature collection at Toronto’s Urban Mode that debuted this November, Berk may be on top, but he swears he still has a long way to go. As he readies himself to expand his brand outside of the American border, Berk settles in with City Life Magazine to talk about being colourful in a ’70s sort of way, being in lust with Scandinavian style and being the new kid on the block.
Q: Do you remember when the design bug bit you?
A: When I was a kid, I’d drive my mother crazy by rearranging the whole house — I’d put the living room in the kitchen
and the kitchen in the living room. I just loved putting spaces together like that. And you know, growing up in Texas, there isn’t really “interior design” — you’ve just got your basics, and when you’re shopping around, you might find something and be like, “Oh, that’s cute,” but there isn’t really much of a design element to it.
Q: You used to be a kid in Texas dreaming of bigger things — now you’re creating an international name for yourself in one of the toughest industries out there. How does it feel to be where you are now?
A: To be honest, it doesn’t feel any different. I still feel like I’m growing, like I’m still at the beginning. I was having lunch with the people from Umbra the other day, and when I was talking to them I felt like I was still like, (in a kid’s voice) “Oh, hi!” I know the brand is becoming successful, but for me this is still the early stages.
Q: Where do you draw your inspiration from?
A: I’m really inspired by the mid-century style — the ’60s and ’70s. You can see it a lot in my signature collection for Urban Mode, the clean lines and super-mod shapes and pops of colour that you recognize from that part of the century. But back then, remember, furniture was pretty stiff and uncomfortable — so I’ve also mixed in modern materials that bring a lot of comfort, like trillium which looks and feels like down, but it’s not. Travelling to countries like Iceland and Sweden inspires me, too — my designs definitely have a bit of the Scandinavian element to them. And the spaces of New York City, the tiny living spaces there, they inspire me a lot. More and more, people are living in these small units and apartments — even in places like Atlanta, which you wouldn’t expect — and I think this industry is evolving toaccommodate that.
Q: What three words would you use to describe your designs?
A: Young, fun and easy. Fun is a really important one. I think it’s so important to have fun with your home — to make it a source of happiness and comfort for you.
Q: What pieces do you have the most fun designing?
A: Our tables! I love experimenting with colours for our dining and coffee tables.
Q: What does a regular day look like for you now?
A: My schedule looks quite different each day. Now that the business has expanded to what it is, I don’t only spend my day as the designer, but as the head of sales, of human resources, of this, of that. So it’s evolved so that these things take up more of my day than I’d prefer [they] did. I’d much rather be spending my workday designing, you know?
Q: But would you say all these responsibilities are rewarding at times?
A: Oh, of course! It feels good to be in control of it all; it enables me to get really intimate with the business and pour myself into every aspect of it.
Q: Do you have a motto, or a piece of advice you’d share with anyone searching for success?
A: Be positive. I know it sounds cliché, but I sincerely believe that if you’re thinking positively, positive things will happen.