Designer Nathan Turner has never shied away from a pattern—or a design challenge—for that matter, which made him the perfect fit to debut on A&E’s newest TV show, Working The Room. Follow top designers as they transform three forgotten rooms in desperate need of a design makeover.
We sat down with Nathan Turner to go over his design practice, philosophy, tips, and surprises while shooting his episode and more. Tune in on Thursday, May 9, at 9:00PM EST on FYI and Saturday, May 11, at 9:00AM EST on A&E to watch the premiere episode of Working The Room. Plus, shop the room, with Nathan’s personally curated design picks, exclusively on Sotheby’s Home.
What are your favorite objects at home?
My favorite objects at home are personal things. Nothing really of value—like old photographs from our family ranch and my great-grandfather’s old leather chair.
When do you consider a project completed and a success?
That moment when the client is finally quiet. [laughs] When they’re not saying things like, “Oh, we need this” or “Maybe should we put a pillow on that.” There’s always a moment when the client just stops, a moment of quietness and you say to yourself, “We’re done, they love it, it’s good.”
“The room was like clutter.com”
— Nathan Turner, upon seeing the room
Share your biggest design secret.
I would say it’s that I don’t necessarily follow the rules. You read in magazines and blogs [where] there are design rules, and I don’t adhere to them, because your home is the most personal environment for you. It’s where you live and where you build memories and create your life; it should reflect you, who you are, and how you want to live, so, do it the way you want to do it.
What is the biggest design mistake that you see?
Oh boy, not enough time here to go over them all! But I would say one of the biggest ones is a miscalculation of scale. I think that people get scale wrong a lot. I think a lot of companies, like big box retailers, do these giant sofas, and not everybody has the house appropriate to that, so people will put in too large of a sofa, or too small of a sofa, and I think that that’s a big mistake people make.
How do you balance style, comfort, and functionality?
I’m a Californian through and through, and I think that bleeds through my style; so part of what that means to me is there’s a casual nature to the way I live and decorate, but I’ve always believed that you don’t have to sacrifice style to be comfortable. Comfort to me means really great upholstered furniture that sits well, and cozy fabrics and things that make one feel good in their own home.
When it comes to vintage, do you find it easier sometimes to use vintage as a starting point, or when you shop, do you have something specific in mind? How do you usually incorporate vintage in a room?
Oh my god, I only incorporate vintage—I started as an antiques dealer before I was a decorator, so I am not one of those decorators that goes to the design centers often, I’m not out buying brand new furniture often. I always start with vintage. I think it’s the soul of a room; I think without things that are old in a room, it lacks a certain level of interest and patina, and honestly it’s the first place I start.
“Am I going to force the wallpaper on her? No.
Am I going to push really hard? Yes!”
— Nathan Turner, on his design pitch
For people who don’t have an interior designer, are there any tips you can share about shopping for vintage online?
Always check measurements. I’m guilty of not doing it, too. I get excited about something; I see it and I think, “Oh this is perfect,” and that’s just one hazard about shopping online period. I think that online is actually a really great place for people; it scares people sometimes because you can’t see it. You guys [Sotheby’s Home] always have multiple photos. Always click on the additional photos and check everything out. Different angles show you different color variations on the piece, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. I think that online is actually a great place to look for old stuff, because I always find that stuff’s cheaper online, too; you aren’t paying for the overhead.
More Nathan Turner Projects
About the show: Working The Room is an innovative new home makeover series that follows highly regarded interior designers, as they come to the rescue of overwhelmed clients to make over a room in desperate need of transformation. Featuring the unique talents of Nathan Turner, Mat Sanders, and Tiffany Riggle, Working The Room brings to life each designer’s creative process, including how they choose items to help anchor each reimagined space from Sotheby’s Home, the online consignment marketplace specializing in vintage furniture, decorative objects, and accessories.
Stay up to date on all things Working The Room by following along on FYI and A&E, and by checking out exclusive behind-the-scenes coverage on Sotheby’s Home’s YouTube, Instagram, and Working the Room online hub.