Bobby Berk on Midwest Dialects, Katsu & His New Line of Furniture
'Queer Eye' design expert Bobby Berk talks about his new furniture collection with A.R.T. Furniture, as well as his favorite late-night snack and which Fab Five role he'd pick after design.
Bobby Berk can rock a maroon suit. It's the first thing I notice when we meet to chat about his new self-titled furniture line with A.R.T Furniture. The 38-year-old design extraordinaire is no stranger to furniture collections, having first forayed in 2006 with an online and brick-and-mortar store. But this line is different—it's selling all over the country, including an exclusive selection at massive retailers American Signature Furniture and Value City Furniture. Much like Berk's immaculate fashion choice, this furniture collection is spectacular.
It's no surprise that the line is flawless. Berk took up the mantle of Queer Eye design expert in 2018. If you're not familiar, in each episode he manages to completely redo some interior design aspect of the 'hero's' life—often entire sections of their homes.
It's hard work, but Berk remains incredibly down-to-earth and funny. During our interview, he quotes Mean Girls and ruminates on how much he loves Midwestern accents—because, as he puts it, they always sound so gosh darn nice.
This authentic quality is part of what paired Berk with ASF and VCF. The retailers are family-owned businesses within the larger Schottenstein group of brands (the same that includes faves DSW and American Eagle!), and they strive to offer high-quality styles at an affordable price. The intersection of quality and affordability is precisely where Berk's collection sits. Modern, warm bases and thoughtful details run through every piece in the line, including the Olafur sofas, for which ASF and VCF have an exclusive hue—a deep, beautifully rich blue. Berk shares his inspiration for the new line and talks all things food and Queer Eye.
Rachael Ray Every Day: What were your inspirations for the furniture line?
Bobby Berk: I started with what I would want in my own home, how I would want it to function. For example, all the upholstery has USB ports. The nightstands have USBs. I hate pulling my nightstand open and looking for a cord. There's storage in the bed—things that really make it function, with nice clean lines. It was also very important to me to make it attainable. A lot of people are instructed to go out there and do an expensive, high-end trend. This is still high-end, just not high price. I thought it would be very off brand and off philosophy when I teach people on Queer Eye that making your home a nice, happy, well-decorated, well-organized place can change your life, but then, oh, buy your furniture super expensive. It didn't make sense. I wanted to make sure I created a line that was high quality, looked good, and people could still afford it. That's why it's such a great partnership with VCF and their philosophy—bringing designer looks to everyone.
Do you have a favorite piece from the collection?
I love the Olafur sectional, the Ingel dining table, the Moller chairs, the Bauer cabinet. I can't pick just one.
Everything's probably a favorite since you designed it.
Yeah! There aren't things that are random in the collection. Everything that's in there is there for a reason—because I designed it to be in there.
Do you plan on using the pieces in Queer Eye?
You'll see a lot of them in season five.
How do you think your décor style has changed over time?
I think I've gotten more minimal as I've gotten older. All the times I've moved throughout my life… When you move you learn to let go of things, and so at this point in my life I can easily let go of things. I've evolved to a more minimal aesthetic.
You're a great designer, obviously. But if you had to choose one of the other Fab Five roles, which would it be?
Cooking. And Antoni actually would take design.
Will we see a swap season?
No. That would be a disaster.
You must have long days while filming QE. What do you eat to stay energized?
We usually have really great craft services. We go out of our way to make sure there's healthy food around. Jonathan and Karamo usually screw that up (laughs). But when we were in Kansas City, our trainer at a local gym there also went to culinary school. I ended up falling in love with him—not in that way! He's straight, engaged to a woman—and moved him to L.A. So he now is the chef for me and my husband at our company. He's the trainer and also the resident guru for food and health on our website.
The most recent QE season took place in Japan. What's the best thing you ate there?
Sushi. The sushi is great. Ramen. Everything. I don't think I had a bad meal in Japan. Oh, you know what? Katsu. That's my favorite. It's so good.
Favorite childhood snack?
Little Debbie's Snack Cakes.
Favorite late-night snack?
Favorite binge snack?
I try not to snack, honestly. Oh. Parmesan crisps because they give you the feel and texture of a chip but there's no carbs. You can eat 25 of them, but they're also so rich that you never make it to 25. Or honey roasted cashews.
The Fab Five recently voiced themselves in an episode of the Netflix show Big Mouth. How did that come about?
They just asked us. Nick Kroll and John Mulaney and Andrew Goldberg, they were big fans of Queer Eye, so they asked us to be on, and obviously it's [in the] Netflix family. I think I had seen five minutes of one episode before we recorded it and was like, "This is stupid." So we recorded without me really knowing the show. Then after I'm like, "All right, I should watch this." I gave it a whole episode and, oh my god, I love this show. It's so great.