Bobby Berk’s professional roles include furniture designer, retailer and manufacturer. In recent months, Berk has also served as creative director for Builder Magazine’s Responsive Home Project featuring two show homes for the Las Vegas International Builder Show and produced in coordination with Hanley Wood and Pardee Homes. Recently, Berk talked with Design Today about some of the housing trends influencing interior design.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CULTURAL INFLUENCES DICTATING THE FURNISHINGS THAT CONSUMERS ARE CHOOSING?
Berk: There are a couple of factors that are at play when it comes to Generation Y. There is a bit of a contradiction with the fact that we tend to want more and yet are more cautious with our money, looking through multiple sources for the best deal. Unlike past generations, Millennials have access to so much more information with regard to design and that makes us more knowledgeable.
We have lived through a recession — perhaps some of our parents lost a lot of their investments or even had a foreclosure during the market crash of 2008. Some of the confidence that we had as a society has dwindled and we’re not quite as optimistic when it comes to things such as investing, the state of the economy in general, and trusting our political leaders. This diminished confidence carries over into our lifestyle choices and even our design sensibilities. People expect style for value and that often dictates their choices.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE LIFESTYLE PREFERENCES THAT YOU ARE INCORPORATING INTO THE COMMUNITIES YOU’RE DESIGNING? FOR HOMEBUYERS WHO DON’T CHOOSE AN APARTMENT OR CONDO AND INSTEAD CHOOSE SOMETHING “OUT IN THE BURBS,” WHAT FEATURES ARE MUSTS?
Berk: In general, homebuyers want more space, so the burbs are certainly a desirable option for young and expanding families. Most people look for new homes that are 15-30 minutes from the core of the city; as the prices fall in these zones, the ability to buy more square footage goes up. Buyers want not only larger floor plans, but more entertaining and outdoor space. When it comes to communities, they’re looking for suburban neighborhoods that have some community connections like parks, recreation facilities, community pools, access to public transportation and dog parks/dog friendly areas.
Another big lifestyle item we’re incorporating in our developments is transportation options such as ZIP car sharing. Most Millennial families don’t want or have the need for more than one car, so making sure they have easy access to services like Zip is a really big deal to us.
IF YOU HAD TO PICK THE TOP FIVE THINGS THAT WILL PLAY A ROLE IN FURNITURE DESIGN OVER THE NEXT FEW YEARS, WHAT WOULD THEY BE? HOW WILL THEY CHANGE WHAT IS CURRENTLY BEING DESIGNED?
Berk: First, I think manufacturing technology and materials are only going to continue to improve, so technology in general will affect the way we make furniture and the physical attributes and engineering that is possible during the manufacturing process. New technologies will in effect allow designs to be lighter and stronger (making them more durable and cost effective to ship). Dare I say… 3D printed chairs? Nanotech fiber upholstery? The sky is really the limit here.
Second, more and more eco-friendly products are on the horizon. It is more imperative than ever that we get a hold on climate change and this trend is affecting every industry. Construction, design and furniture manufacturing are no exception. People are beginning to use unexpected recycled materials in ways that are expanding the lexicon of design materials. The availability of more of these products in the future will offer even more options to designers and homeowners alike.
Third, people are starting to get excited about multi-functional furniture that serves a range of uses. From pieces such as benches and ottomans that offer hidden storage to the comeback of the Murphy bed, look for more of these utilitarian pieces that do double duty or offer design solutions for small spaces. Fourth, gone are the days of coordinated furniture and upholstery. We have moved to a time when people are less afraid of making bold and punchy choices when it comes to their homes’ interior. Finally, another thing affecting home design is emerging trends. There are so many styles out there that are being abstracted from old forms into new designs. The classic forms that are being updated with new twists are lending fresh products to the interior design marketplace.
IN YOUR TRAVELS ACROSS THE U.S., YOU LIKELY OBSERVE REGIONAL DESIGN PREFERENCES. CAN YOU ADDRESS THEM FROM AN EAST COAST/ WEST COAST PERSPECTIVE?
Berk: Having lived in New York, and recently relocated to Los Angeles, I definitely have a bit of perspective on the general preferences and tone of design as a whole. These are, of course, just generalizations, but West Coasters tend to have more of a relaxed sensibility and they are less afraid of color and eclectic design. On the East Coast, there is a longer history of architecture and design in the larger cities, so there will always be a bit of classicism and references to the past that are lent by the architecture you can find there.
HOW CAN INTERIOR DESIGNERS REMAIN RELEVANT TO CONSUMERS IN A DIY SOCIETY?
Berk: Interior design is as much a service as it is an art form. I think it’s commendable that so many people are taking up power tools and rolling up their sleeves to accomplish with hard work and tenacity what someone that is perhaps better off can simply pay to have done for them. However, anyone that has tried to do a DIY project knows how challenging home improvement can be for the inexperienced. I think as designers, the best way to be able to service clients at multiple pay-grades is to understand all of the different products that are out there in different price points, so you can produce beautiful, yet budget-conscious designs for a range of clients.
Originally hailing from Texas, Bobby had big dreams of the big city and moved to New York in 2003 with only a few dollars to his name and no job in sight. After working his way up in retail at Bed Bath & Beyond and Restoration Hardware to Creative Director at Portico Home + Spa, Berk decided that it was time he started his own brand.