'Queer Eye' Star Bobby Berk Shares His Tips for Travel-inspired Home Design
Apparently we have a lot to learn from New Zealand and Japan.
If you've spent any time watching Netflix — or simply consuming pop culture — over the past couple of years, then you know Bobby Berk. As one fifth of the iconic Fab Five on the streaming service's Queer Eye reboot, Berk makes his mark as an expert in all things home design and decor. So when Oui by Yoplait asked him to host an episode of the crafty new IGTV Heritage Workshop series celebrating the environmentally-friendly Oui Heritage Collection, he confidently stepped up to the plate.
In Berk's episode, airing July 14th on Oui's IGTV as well as his own, the design extraordinaire shows viewers how to transform one of Oui's collectible French yogurt pots into a stylish hanging succulent planter. We sat down with Berk to chat about the project — and what started as a sneak peek of his Heritage Workshop episode quickly snowballed into a conversation about his own current home projects, the hilarious nickname his neighbors have given him, and the design tip he picked up in New Zealand.
Travel + Leisure: What exactly is the Oui by Yoplait's Limited Edition Heritage Collection and the Heritage Workshop series?
Bobby Berk: "Oui came to me about their new Heritage Collection, which [are] these great, French-inspired, reusable glass jars. They sent me some and they're like, ‘Hey, what can you make out of these? We want to teach people how to do some really great crafting sessions while everyone’s at home, kind of bored.' Creating something design-wise felt like me, and it’s something that I do anyway, so it was perfect. I came up with this great little succulent bowl. If you’ve seen Queer Eye, you know Bobby loves plants, they’re a really great way to keep you happy.”
Will you be teaching everyone how to make the succulent bowl in your IGTV episode of the Heritage Workshop series?
"Yes, so on July 14th, Bastille Day, I’ll be teaching everyone how to do that, and then every week, [Oui will] be doing another [episode] with Design Love Fest, Wit & Delight, and A Beautiful Mess, and they’ll be teaching everyone great little crafts that they come up with, using the reusable Heritage Collection jars.”
Other than succulents and planters, what's the biggest home design trend you've been seeing that people should hop on board with now?
"The trend that I’ve kind of been seeing this year, and over the last year or two, is a lot of neutrals. You know, creating drama and texture in your space by layering different materials of the same kind of neutral tones. And that’s always been something that I’ve loved in my personal life. My home is very much just a layer of neutral tones, so it’s been very great for me to see that becoming mainstream.”
Have you been working on any design projects in your own home during this time of social distancing?
"Yes! I was just talking about this earlier. When people are like, ‘Oh, do you like doing DIY projects yourself?’ I’m like, I do, so much so that I still take on those big ones that about an hour into it, I’m like, ‘This was too much. Why did I do this?’ But when I got back from Austin [for filming of Queer Eye], I decided to redo our deck in our house. My trainer and I were doing an Instagram live workout, and a couple people commented. They were like, ‘Um, I think your deck needs a little love. It looks a little dry.’ And I’m like, ‘alright!’ But [they were] right! I felt the same way about it. I redid all the wood that’s seen on our property, and all the decking, which was a way bigger project than I expected it to be, but it turned out nice. It looks great now.”
Are there any specific pieces you plan on decorating your deck and outdoor area with?
"I did order tons of new planters this week. Going with the theme! We moved into our house a year and a half ago, and most of that year and a half I’ve been gone filming Queer Eye, so I feel like I haven’t even really lived in this house at all, so we haven’t really put those touches that make it feel like home. But finally I’m just like, you know what? I’m bringing in plants, I’m bringing in planters. Gardening right now, and planting, is really important to me. It’s kind of been my outlet to relieve stress and get outside. My neighbors have started calling me the Friendly Los Feliz Gardener because I run out of things to do in my own yard, and so I got an electric weed eater and leaf blower and chainsaw, and I’ve been trimming neighbors’ yards who aren’t quite taking care of them as well as they should have. I don’t go all the way up in your yard, but if you’re not taking care of the edge of it, I’m gonna take care of it for ya!”
It seems like besides design, you have a strong interest in travel. Where are you dreaming of traveling to once travel is a little less complicated?
"It’s funny, I think my favorite places in the world are often volcanic island countries. I can’t wait to go back to Japan, New Zealand, to go to Bali, Iceland. Those are four of my favorite places on the planet, especially New Zealand. I don’t know if you’ve ever been, but it’s one of the most wonderful places on the planet. Oddly, their dairy products, like yogurt, are amazing. They have the most delicious ice cream I’ve ever had in my life. I don’t know what it is about New Zealand cows, but it’s delicious. But those are four of my top favorite places I could go to over and over and never get tired of.”
Have you taken design inspiration from any of those places?
"I have always taken design inspiration home from Japan. I’ve spent a lot of time in Japan, and not just while we were filming there, but for years prior to that. The simple, minimalistic design aesthetic of Japan has always inspired me. Also New Zealand. New Zealand has got it going on with design! I’m a big lover of black paint, both exterior and interior, and they are as well. Like, New Zealand has embraced the color black. There are so many houses where the outside paint is black. It looks so chic amongst the beautiful, lush green and mountains of New Zealand.
Is there any specific hotel or resort whose design aesthetic has really stuck with you and inspired you?
"There’s a hotel that [my husband and I] stay at in Vietnam. It’s called the Nam Hai. We went there in 2007, and then we went there again in January, literally right as COVID was hitting, so we ended up cutting our vacation short to come home. But they haven’t remodeled it since it opened in 2007, and it still looks impeccable, because it’s this simple, beautiful, minimalist, Balinesian design that’s timeless. It’s classic. And I was kind of shocked when we got there, and I’m like, ‘I can’t believe they haven’t renovated this,’ but then I’m looking around and I’m like, ‘actually, they didn’t need to.’”
Editor’s Note: This interview was edited for length and clarity.