I’ve had a couple of close encounters with Nate Berkus over the last few years an am about to have another one at the 2017 Antiques and Garden Show of Nashville, running February 3-5 at the sculptural wonder that is Music City Center. Nate is the keynote speaker in a lecture series filled with design powerhouses. I’ll give you more details in a minute.
Actually, make it five minutes and we’re good. I have a Nate story to tell first, heaven help you.
The first time our eyes met was in 2002. Nate was sitting on a stage in Chicago talking to directly to me about design, while I was sitting on my behind in Nashville, watching him on Oprah. I was smitten. It was easy to see how much of his heart he put into the designs he executed for her lucky fans, especially for those coming out of trying times or people in tough situations. The joy he received from transforming people’s homes was palpable and infectious.
The first time I actually saw Nate in person, the encounter had nothing to do with design…or Oprah. My husband and I were in Las Vegas for a business conference in Summer 2004. We had a little free time one evening and, since it was over 100º outside, decided to have dinner at one of our hotel’s indoor *outdoor patio* restaurants.
I swear, the architecture and design of Vegas’ casinos confounds me sometimes.
I graduated from design school a few weeks before the trip and a getaway to anywhere was a welcome change. As we sat on sidewalk in Italy, enjoying our delicious Italian dinner under a beautiful, star filled Italian sky, an absolutely adorable couple strolling down the cobblestone street caught my eye. They were so full of light, I couldn’t help but stare at them.
Staring itself is unusual for me. Growing up in a city full of famous people, you learned not to stare or interrupt celebrities who were out just trying to enjoy their lives like everyone else. In Nashville, it’s considered inappropriate to fan girl Faith Hill at the mall or Keith Urban in the pizza line at Whole Foods. You learn to smile at them, like you would anyone else, and go on about your business. That’s why people with as much notoriety as Nicole Kidman feel so comfortable settling down here.
Anyway, it’s 2004 and I’m in Vegas, sitting in a fake Italian world, downing some pasta and staring like a crazy woman at two beautiful men, when one of the two looked back at me and smiled. It suddenly hit me I was staring at Nate Berkus. That dazzling smile snapped me out of my trance and I smiled back. He and his partner, photographer Fernando Bengoechea, laden with shopping bags, were having what appeared to be an animated and engaging conversation.
They radiated joy.
I remember telling my husband how nice it was to see two people so genuinely happy together. He had no clue who either of them were at the time but became painfully aware a few months later, when their Christmas vacation in Sri Lanka made the news after a 9.1 earthquake in the Indian Ocean caused the worst tsunami in modern history, sweeping Fernando and more than 250,000 other souls into the sea.
I vividly recall watching as Nate, speaking publicly about the devastating event for the first time, told Oprah what he saw and how it affected him in 2005. It was a gut wrenching interview. Here’s a short clip from the episode::
Fast forward to 2012. The hilarious Canadian duo Joy and Janet of Moggit Girls ran a contest to give away signed copies of Nate’s new book “The Things That Matter.” Mine was the first name they pulled out of their antique bin.
Winning! In few days, the book was in my hands and once I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down.
The majority of design books are either about the designers, the elements of their style, or the spaces they transform. “The Things That Matter” is about the clients who inhabit the homes Nate designs and the things they surround themselves with.
He opens the book by telling his life’s journey and taking the reader on a tour of his home. He also shares how he continues to honor Fernando’s memory in his home’s design and in his life. Again I was moved to tears, recalling how joy-filled they were that night in
Some of his most interesting and eclectic clients open up and share their stories too, making for a very compelling read, well beyond a typical design book. The Things That Matter is actually more of a memoir about life, as seen through the lens of the things we choose to hold on to. It just happens to have some very beautiful photos and intimate stories about people and their homes.
Fast forward again, this time to January 10, 2017. I was in Orlando with Modenus’ Blog Tour for the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS). We got to the convention center early that morning and I had a few minutes to kill before the Champagne and Cupcakes opening reception with industry newcomer Signature Kitchens, the luxury appliance division of LG. The majority of attendees hadn’t made their way to the show yet, so things were pretty quiet.
I love that bit of time, as it gives you a chance to photograph product before people start
stepping into your shot filling up the booths.
The Orange County Convention Center is huge, so I knew I could only move within a limited area without getting separated from the rest of my group. As I walked around a corner, who should appear but Nate Berkus. He was filming a video for his collaborative venture with LG.
I stood behind his press and camera crew for a few minutes, as they shot the spot. When they decided to do another take, I stepped forward a foot or two and raised my camera at exactly 8:01am EST (it’s not weird to know, it’s embedded in the photo’s info), right as Nate looked straight at me and gave me a second flash of his beautiful smile. I had once chance to get it right.
When I got the chance to see what I’d captured, my first thought involved hurling curse words aimed at the video crew’s lighting bouncing off the back wall of the booth. My second thought was how comforting – how remarkable, really – to know that someone who experienced tremendous loss, and witnessed horrendous tragedy on an enormous scale, eventually stepped back into his life and found a way to be happy again.
You can see it in his eyes.
Now married with a young daughter and a new television show debuting this fall, Nate is a shining–literally, because he’s one of those people who are lit from within–example that experiencing great loss doesn’t have to mean your life is over. You can choose your own path to healing. One read of his book and you know Mr. Berkus spent quite awhile regaining his footing after the tsunami, but he never gave up hope and now has an even richer life as a reward.
I look forward to hearing what he has to say on Friday morning and hearing from others in the afternoon, as well as the assuredly strong design opinions of a slew of megawatt design stars on Saturday and Sunday, and seeing loads of incredible antiques and beautiful gardens. I’ll be sharing straight from the show on my IG feed, in Instagram Stories, and will post here about my favorite finds soon.
In its 27th year, the Antiques and Garden Show is one of the largest in the country, drawing dealers, buyers, and lookers from coast to coast. If you’d like to attend – you won’t be sorry! – I put the requisite ticket and show info below.
I also scattered affiliate links (I might earn a very small commission) to his book in this post, in case you want to take your own copy for him to sign after his Q & A on Friday. They will have books available for purchase on site, but, with an event as popular as the Antiques and Garden Show, there’s always a chance they’ll sell out.
Stranger things have happened.
If you see me there, please say hello!
American interior designer, author and television personality, Nate Berkus, will headline the Keynote Program at the 27th annual Antiques and Garden Show of Nashville at the Music City Center, 201 5th Ave S, February 3 – 5.
Each year, the Antiques and Garden Show presents more than 150 fine antiques and horticultural dealers, making it the largest show of its kind in the country. Proceeds from the show will benefit Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art and the charities of the Economic Club of Nashville (ECON).
Berkus, a renowned interior designer, who has transformed countless homes around the world through his design work, home collections, books, and television shows will present his take on the show’s theme this year – Cultivated Style – on Friday, February 3 at 11 a.m.
“Your home should tell the story of who you are. What you love most, collected and assembled in one place,” Berkus says. “Whether it’s a family heirloom, or a piece you found on your travels. Everywhere your eye goes in your home, it should land on something that resonates.”
Berkus will sign copies of his book, The Things That Matter, following his presentation.
Other notable participants at the show include:
- Brooke and Steve Giannetti, California-based design duo and authors of Patina Style and Patina Farm
- Mary McDonald, an LA-based award-winning interior designer and star of Bravo TV’s “Million Dollar Decorators” and “Property Envy”
- Robert Leleux, author and founder of the Southern Style Now Festival
- Jesse Carrier and Mara Miller, interior design power couple behind Carrier and Company Interiors in New York City and authors of Carrier and Company: Positively Chic Interiors
- Nathan Turner, California-based interior designer and special projects editor at Architectural Digest
- Tara Guérard, Charleston-based award winning wedding and event planner
General Chairmen Linda Graham and Mary Smith said the line-up of speakers was chosen because of the diversity of their design backgrounds.
“From traditional architecture, landscape and interior design to wedding and event planning, the speakers this year have such unique design styles.” Graham said. ” We want attendees to be entertained and take home a few tips from some of the top designers in the country.”
This year, the show will be larger than ever and celebrate Gil Schafer of G. P. Schafer Architect, PLLC as Honorary Chairman.
“Gil has served on our national advisory board for years and has always been a loyal patron of the show,” said Smith. “We are thrilled to honor him to say thank you for all of his contributions to the show.”
Tickets are now available at www.antiquesandgardenshow.com. For the latest show updates and speaker schedule, follow the Antiques & Garden Show of Nashville on Facebook, Twitter (@antiquesgarden) and Instagram (@antiquesandgardenshow).
About the Antiques and Garden Show of Nashville
The Antiques & Garden Show of Nashville is an annual charity event whose purpose is to raise funds for Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art and the Economic Club of Nashville (ECON) charities, by exhibiting the highest quality antiques, landscaped gardens, and horticultural items and by offering a related educational outreach program. Learn more at antiquesandgardenshow.com.