In our latest issue, we featured a small-space makeover by designer and author, Nate Berkus. The project was one close to his heart, as the Brooklyn apartment belongs to his longtime assistant, Kelly Engstrom. You see, when Kelly decided it was time for a new sofa, Nate offered his assistance in making the selection. Though, those who know Nate won’t be surprised to find out that he didn’t stop there. Kelly and her husband had been in the apartment for 8 years, and, though cheerful, the furniture felt mismatched. Nate decided a full makeover was in order, and the project quickly turned into a labor of love.

Obviously, the outcome is stunning. We love every last detail, and as we pored over the images again and again… we realized there were many takeaways that we should be applying to our own homes. Here’s what we learned:

1. First and foremost, your home should tell a story. “The way you do that is through your things,” says Nate. “I wanted the space to better reflect how their family has evolved over the years, and to use [their] things in a new way.” One of the most noteworthy pieces in the new design is the black and white photograph above the dining table. It was taken by Seth, Kelly’s husband, on a trip to London. It looks striking (and expensive!), but is a personal memento they love.

2. Always mix & match. This might be the Nate Berkus signature. In this space, Nate wanted to blend both Kelly and Seth’s personal styles – Kelly prefers quirky and fun, while Seth leans towards clean, modern lines. Each piece was chosen with care to ensure cohesion and flow. Nate also mixed price points effortlessly – choosing pieces from his affordable Target collection (metallic pillows, a neutral rug, and geometric wall hangings) as well as luxe vintage finds from shops like

3. Maximize vertical space. When you’re lacking square footage, this is essential. The vintage hutch, found on, draws the eye upwards and makes the space seem much larger than it is. (It also fulfills another major need for apartment dwellers – storage!)

4. Everything should have a purpose. We believe this applies to all spaces – big and small! Nate explains, “Start with a cleanup. It’s amazing how things just accumulate – things we no longer use or care about. Make room for what you do love.”

5. Don’t be afraid to go custom. The drapes are made with fabric from Nate’s collection at Jo-Ann Fabric and Crafts, the chairs were reupholstered in an easy to clean vinyl, the screen behind the dining table is covered in temporary wallpaper from Etsy… the list goes on. This allows for a home that is truly unique. And if you find DIY a little intimidating? Hire a handyman! “We worked with someone who did everything from hanging the light fixtures, to installing the kitchen backsplash. Kelly even had him build new radiator covers with chic painted grilles to replace the existing metal ones. It’s these small details in your home that will totally elevate the way you live.”

Click through the slideshow to see the space in more detail, and at the end – we share the products you can buy now to get a similar look in your own space.