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Q&A: Queer Eye’s Bobby Berk Takes Inside His New Gilbert Development

“Queer Eye” star and interiors guru Bobby Berk shares details on his latest Arizona project, plus design advice for 2021 and beyond.

Bobby Berk is more than just a reality TV star. The design expert and Emmy-nominated co-host of Netflix’s “Queer Eye” is using his signature style to craft standout spaces across the country, including a new project with Domaine at Waterston in Gilbert by Tri Pointe Homes. We caught up with the Los Angeles-based tastemaker to talk about Pistache, Oak and Acacia—three models he designed in the new master-planned community—plus decor do’s and don’ts and, of course, what he loves about coming to the Valley.

Phoenix Home & Garden: Your aesthetic is highly distinguished. How would you describe it in just three words?
Bobby Berk: Warm, organic and modern. I like the contrast that’s created by mixing clean lines and neutral tones with soft elements, texture and pattern. That balance of hard and soft, to me, is so visually dynamic.

Tell us about Domaine at Waterston. How did your personal taste coalesce with the context of the surrounding area?
Gilbert has an agrarian past. A symbol of the town’s history is the water tower, which was built in 1927 and allowed water delivery to the small community of farmers. It was groundbreaking at the time and remains iconic today. The Domaine at Waterston site used to house giant cisterns, and the amenity planning and landscaping incorporate nods to this historic landmark and the town’s strong ties to water. The lots orient to community greenscape and water features, like those found in neighboring Veterans Oasis Park. When I begin conceptualizing my designs, I start with the architecture and let that inform the design direction. I had a ranch, contemporary and farmhouse elevation to begin with, so I let that serve as a springboard for the interior styles. Oak is a tailored, refined take on a midcentury ranch house. Acacia is a mixture of contemporary and desert-modern styles. And Pistache is a fresh take on classic farmhouse styling.

What is your favorite color palette right now?
Well, I’ve always had a strong affinity for black. It is an element that’s consistent in my designs. I’m also a huge fan of moss green (found in the Pistache model), and navy blue (seen in the Oak model). Another color story that I love is the rust and blush desert hues employed in the Acacia model.

Which design trends are currently exciting you?
I’m definitely loving the use of so many natural materials in design, from cane and rattan furniture to woven baskets, to jute and sisal rugs. They’re great versatile pieces that can be incorporated into lots of different styles. Plus, natural elements bring in texture that creates so much visual interest and depth in a room.

Berk opted for a modern farmhouse motif in the Pistache plan for Domaine at Waterston.
For the Acacia plan, Berk referenced hues in the surrounding landscape: “I used sparse touches of black to add depth and graphic punches,” he says. “I used oak woods and paired them with desert hues like rust and sand.

What are some of your “secret sources” for projects like Domaine at Waterston?
I love supporting small makers and craftspeople, and one of my favorite online marketplaces for unique pieces is Etsy. Since our Phoenix projects are out of state for me, I typically do all of our ordering online, but I do undoubtedly have to run to local stores in the area, and the Crossroads Towne Center is one of the best shopping districts in Gilbert.

What’s the biggest design mistake rookies make?
Choosing a rug that is the wrong size for a room. Sometimes it’s hard to visualize what it will actually look like in the space, and you end up with a small one that feels out of proportion with the room or a large one that makes your furnishings feel under scale. To find the right size, I always advise making sure that all your furniture is at least touching the rug and you still have at least 15 inches of space between the rug and any perimeter walls.

Is there such a thing as a timeless design style?
Midcentury modern is still as relevant and in-demand as ever, and I don’t see that changing. There are so many timeless, iconic pieces created during this period that changed the way we looked at interiors and furniture. I think it will always remain a great period of inspiration and a style that will continue to be embraced for decades to come.

Projects such as Domaine at Waterston and your previous endeavor, Avance in South Mountain, have you coming to Arizona quite a bit. What’s inspiring you about this locale?
Exciting trends in the worlds of architecture, design and even more progressive cultural movements in the area. Phoenix is such a dynamic and beautiful place with a lot to offer. It’s a pleasure spending time and working with our teams there. I can’t wait to come back!

“High-contrast neutrals play off warm woods and cool gray tiles,” Berk says of the Oak model.
1. To create that youthful and modern mix that client Tri Pointe Homes wanted at its Waterston community in Gilbert, Bobby Berk thoughtfully layered a variety of textures and shapes, as seen in the primary suite of the Acacia plan. When using muted hues, like in this palette of blush, sand and beige tones, consider adding a few black elements to ground the design. (Photo by Mark Boisclair Photography) 2. Use earthy, textural materials to create visual interest in your designs, like the great room seen here in the Acacia plan at Domaine at Waterston. Remember it’s all about form and function. Providing stylish, conversational, yet comfortable furniture makes a room more flexible for entertaining or relaxing. Here, a generous sectional provides plenty of seating for a growing family to mingle or watch TV. (Photo by Mark Boisclair Photography) 3. In the kitchen of the Acacia plan at Domaine at Waterston, a built-in banquette integrates with an L-shaped island, which is highlighted by a sculptural pendant and Jeanneret-style dining chairs. Berk says that when purchasing or building a newly constructed home, be sure to utilize your builder’s expertise and the design center for ideas and recommendations. Here, Bobby worked closely with the Tri Pointe Homes team and personally selected these Mustang quartzite countertops, which imitate stratified layers of sedimentary desert rock. (Photo by Mark Boisclair Photography) 4. In the primary suite seen here, an up-lit coffer around the perimeter of the room gives the space a very contemporary architectural detail. Other architectural elements such as baseboards and beams can make a big difference, so it’s worth paying attention to these items too. Here is Bobby’s tip: Incorporate at least one big nod to the style you’re aiming for. Here, a Flag Halyard chair and ottoman provide the perfect salute to the mid-century feel in the Oak plan at Domaine at Waterston by Tri Pointe Homes. 5. Monochrome is in! Here, flat sheetrock beams are painted in the same color as the ceiling. This adds a subtle, linear architectural element to the ceilings in the great room and kitchen while a textural sisal rug grounds the seating arrangement. Rugs aren’t the only element that will help define a space. Artwork, mirrors, lights and paint are also effective, so be strategic with how and where these are used in your home design. (Photo by Mark Boisclair) 6. Bobby envisioned the game room in Tri Pointe Homes’ Oak plan as a functional space that offers study opportunities for young children. Floating work surfaces provide a built-in desk solution that feels customized and frees up space for a collaborative table in the center of the room. (Photo by Mark Boisclair Photography) 7. Create a serene and soft look by layering elements like the primary suite here. A black canopy bed draws the eye up to the generous ceiling height, which is further accentuated by linear wood beams. Berk’s advice here is to not be afraid to mix it up when it comes to textures, colors, and even styles. (Photo by Mark Boisclair Photography) 8.  In the Pistache model in the Domaine at Waterston, modern architectural details find traditional counterpoints through rustic beams, a graphic plaid rug and farmhouse furniture forms, while accents of moss green enliven the fresh yet warm palette. (Photo by Mark Boisclair Photography) 9. Repeating the classic checkerboard pattern on the floor creates a cohesive design, while the diagonal installation feels fun and dynamic. You’ve heard this advice before, and you’ll hear it again: Utilize thoughtful architectural elements to create interest and emphasis. In this primary bathroom in the Pistache plan at Domaine at Waterston, green shiplap anchors the vanity wall, while bronze and chrome finishes create a mixed metal story that works nicely. (Photo by Mark Boisclair Photography)

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