Nana Nate Berkus

I am no decorator. To make up for this deficit I was blessed with not just a mother, but also a step mother whose sun rises and sets over HGTV. When my mother came to visit she rearranged our furniture to create some ‘spaces’ in our newly acquired 2 bedroom apartment. She divided the living space into a ‘conversation area’ and a ‘home-theatre area.’

page 1 of Nana’s 2 page outline

With those bones in place, Nana (my step-mother), planned a visit for a couple of days. Unbeknownst to us, she channeled her inner Nate Berkus and created an actual outline of ideas to pull our space together with just some paint and the crazy eclectic ‘pieces’ we already had. I saw these ‘pieces’ more as gateways to my husband’s own hoarders episode, but now I have to admit I was wrong. Ouch. It hurts.

To give you a vague idea of what our apartment looked like when we moved in in January, think white. White, white, white, whitey McWhite. Our last apartment was the floor-through of an old brownstone built in 1882. It had exposed brick and very high ceilings so it absorbed a lot of my husband’s ‘pieces’ very well. Now we had all these things in a whitey white apartment. What to do??

Enter Nana. We had already assembled our Wall of Fame (or as my Dad likes to call it, our Wall of Shame) in the foyer, along with a chandelier and a red Turkish rug I secretly wanted to replace with something more neutral.

this old spider back chair worked well as a place to take off your shoes

NaNa said: Rather than adding anything new to the space, why not add your drop leaf dining table in lieu of a credenza and paint the whole space a greenish gray?

She chose Benjamin Moore’s Chelsea Gray (the same color as Ms. Shield’s living room recently featured on the cover of Architectural Digest….shhhhhhhhh…don’t tell her!).

Not only did the paint bring out the dark gray tones in the Turkish carpet and make it look stunning, it made the entire entrance way into a little jewel box.

NaNa said: Why not put the big silver urn Deborah gave you on the drop leaf table? We can open it and fill it with some sort of arrangement to cover the unsightly hall phone?

Our former land-lady left us this urn and silver serving tray, truthfully I was ready to put both these items into hiding, but once they were polished up and placed just so, they really did look perfect. NaNa made a Michael’s run and picked out an arrangement of peacock feathers to place in the urn. Now we’re just on the hunt for the perfect antique mirror to put next to them.

So perhaps now you wonder, why the helmet on top of the books? Well, our hero, Michael owns an actual suit of armor from the 15th century. We tease him about it relentlessly, but deep down inside I think it would be very sad if he ever got rid of it. It is such a part of who he is, and the various methods of torture devised to tease him about it would be sorely missed. That being said, in this very white, clean-lined apartment, I really didn’t want a full suit of armor assembled to scare the wits out of me in the middle of the night when I went to the loo.

NaNa said: What if the armor was deconstructed into an installation piece and hung on the wall?

Michael added the helmet in the foyer and you know…I like it…and you have to pick your battles in life.

As we moved into the ‘conversation area’ both Michael and NaNa came up with the idea to move a restored antique tansu chest, also from Deborah, up against the wall. Our fabulous Peter gave us this wall hanging that used to live in his parent’s house above the front door. I will admit again, that I didn’t think we had any place for it…BUT…it actually looks perfect here.

And while NaNa did not design the wall of mirrors above the sofa, I thought I should show a photo of it anyway…since Michael and I had the rare opportunity to do it together.

While it’s hard to tell in this photo, the former armor stand (far left) now houses a vintage Royal type writer because, why not? The antelope antlers were smuggled back into the country due to one of the many vagaries of Michael’s life, a horseback riding safari in Africa. A fancy provenance for part of an animal skull, no?

Lastly we have the eat-in kitchen, it’s still a work in progress. Again…white white white.

NaNa said: How about a rustic, French country table with a lighter base to make it feel warm and homey?

Then like magic I found this table from Zentique on One King’s Lane. I was about to get some chairs from Restoration Hardware when NaNa stopped me dead in my tracks.

NaNa said: Look at this month’s cover of Architectural Digest! They have vintage Tolix chairs. Those would look great at your table and they’d pull in the metal from the armor and silver in the rest of the apartment.

Tolix chairs from Design Within Reach

Then to warm it up she chose a fantastic gold color, that I will confess, freaked me out at first. But once we moved everything back in the kitchen, we all fell in love with it.

We have this plate collection up for now…but it’s not perfect…

While we’re still a work in progress and I am still not a decorator, I would like to share a little inspiration. If you want to peek at a fun and fantastic blog, even if you’re not decorating anything, you should look at one of my favorites: A Detailed House. This is a Mom with an IT background who has a rambling house outside DC. She loves crown molding and architectural detail. While she works on refining her own home, she shares her research with us and the ‘how to’ for some of her projects. It’s easy to get lost over there.

And if you were looking for a peek at the little man…while NaNa was visiting, he repeatedly tried on her glasses…upside down.


  • The aprtment looks great and I’m amazed that many people could all agree on the same things, great minds run along the same channels I guess. You have a lovely place to live and I’m happy for you and know “Nate” would approve as well. Enjoy/ Enjoy/. Love GG

  • This looks totally amazing! Do you think Nana would adopt me? Great makeover, and some gorgeous eclectic pieces too (I love the armour…). Love the bold grey too… love it all!

  • Nana needs to go on HGTV’s Design Star!! You have some amazing pieces – I simply adore the sofa and armchair – and I like the helmet placement!

    Also, I am shocked, overwhelmed and so flattered at your kind words about my blog, *especially* because your blog is so brilliant; it’s visually stunning and intellectually engaging. Thank you so much and I know that I enjoy getting lost in your blog as well!

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