Often dubbed as the member of ‘Queer Eye’ who “does the most,” interior designer Bobby Berk is known for transforming the drab living spaces of people whose lives undergo a dramatic change over the course of a week with the Fab Five. Each episode of the show—which has received four Emmy nominations—sees a nominee through a total overhaul of personal grooming, culture, wardrobe, home design and food. The result? They emerge as a more confident, positive and presentable version of themselves—and with a seriously upgraded pad.
Berk is currently in Kansas City filming the show’s third season, which is slated to debut on Netflix in 2019. He tells Forbes about the common misconceptions of the show, his favorite places to shop for interior decorations, and the three things worth splurging on when you’re looking to spruce up your living space.
When you walk into someone’s living space for the first time as you do each episode on the show, what’s the first thing you notice?
This differs depending on whether I’m with a client or filming the show. On Queer Eye, I really get to see the way someone lives. They know the Fab Five are coming, but they don’t know when or how, so our producers make sure they don’t clean up so that we can experience exactly how they normally live. Whereas with a regular client, they don’t necessarily want me to see how they live, so everything may be cleaned and put away. In general, I want to know how a space functions for their lives, or how it doesn’t function and what we can do to change that.
What are three pieces of furniture that are really worth investing in?
The places in the home where you really get your investment back are your kitchen and bathroom. It’s not difficult to make a kitchen look new. On the episode we filmed last week, the homeowner’s recently purchased home had these ugly oak builder-grade cabinets that made the house look cheap, even though it wasn’t. We spent less than $1000 on good paint, and now it looks custom-built.
In the bathroom, updating to matte black-finished faucets is really popular right now because its something that will transcend decades — and nothing’s worse than industry-grade taps. If you’re on a budget, painting the wall and vanity and changing out the faucets is enough.
Also, bedding. Nothing makes you feel better than when you get into a hotel bed and the sheets feel so good. Why shouldn’t you wake up like that everyday? Spend money on your mattress and bedding because these things make a difference on your sleep, and ultimately your happiness.
What’s something that you’re okay skimping on a little bit?
Rugs! They can cost tens of thousands of dollars and the markup is crazy on rugs, which you literally walk on. If a rug isn’t made of high quality wool it might shed, which will drive you insane, so don’t go super cheap. I like ones that are a few thousand dollars: not tens of thousands of dollars, but also not $100 because it won’t last. I also like to change my rugs around by season and store the ones I’m not using.
Where are your favorite places to shop?
Honestly, Target. They’ve really been knocking it out of the park with their accessories. Every local store is different, but when I shop online I find so much cool stuff. When I need accessories, especially while we’re filming, I have to go to places I know will have accessible stuff that’s cool and not super expensive. West Elm is also one of my consistent go-to places to shop for the show, and IKEA.
In last week’s episode, the size of the home was extensive and was one of the largest spaces I’ve worked with. I needed to get rid of these white wire racks so I went to IKEA got closet organization stuff, and MALM dressers. Everyone has had a MALM dresser. I added two leather accents to the dresser that cost me $7.99 and now the dresser looks so expensive.
We spend so much time in our office cubicles each week: what’s a simple thing we can do to improve the quality and atmosphere of our workspaces?
A plant is the most cliché thing, but a little bit of green has a great effect on happiness. Being at a cubicle all day is not pleasing, but a little life on your desk can give you a little life, too.
What is your favorite thing about your living space?
I live in a loft in downtown Los Angeles with my husband; it’s actually an old train station with huge windows overlooking the city. It’s not a sprawling home, but it’s decently sized. I love my living room: it’s the heart of my home where I get to chill and spend time with family and friends.
What are some commonly held misconceptions about ‘Queer Eye’?
Firstly, we don’t all live in the loft. We’ve never even slightly said that or ever shot a scene implying we lived there, but we definitely don’t! We all live alone, and close by. We love each other but if we had to live together we’d probably love each other a little less…
Another misconception is that I have an unlimited budget to work with to refurbish these living spaces: I do not. People think I have, like, $40,000 dollars to do all this, but the reality isn’t even half that, and some of it has to go towards building and construction as well.
People also think everything is planned out, but the great thing about our show is that we’re transparent. We go in that week not knowing what we’re going to do, and sometimes we’re up all night trying to think of ideas. We have amazing producers who make things happen for us, but the show itself isn’t produced. It’s not like we show up and are told what to do. On the AJ episode, a lot of people thought the harness we found in his closet was a funny placement by our producers to foreshadow the end of the episode – it wasn’t. That was AJ’s, and he was mortified when we found it.
What can we expect from the next season of Queer Eye?
Honestly, you’ll see a lot of the same stuff you’ve been loving, because we’ve really found a great recipe for our show and there’s not a lot we want to change. We didn’t know if we were going to make it our own, and we really did modernize it for 2018 and use it to help people and give them hope. You’re gonna see the same of us helping people become their better selves.
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