Happy birthday to us! Our 15th anniversary celebration is underway! Stay tuned for more special 15th anniversary content and fun surprises as our celebration continues!
Last, but certainly not least, in our 15th Anniversary designer spotlight series is the inimitable Bobby Berk. From Design Milk’s founder, Jaime Derringer, sleeping on his New York City couch during trade shows to his big-time decor fame on Queer Eye, it’s a relationship that’s blazed a trail behind it.
The Bobby Berk brand has evolved over the years, like Bobby himself, in many ways. “I came from a background of retail, starting in 2006 in New York. It was my time there where I learned how to be scrappy, resourceful and become a real ‘entrepreneur’,” he shared. Over time, he began to see what was working – and what wasn’t – in the retail world after opening his first showroom in lower Manhattan. It was 2015, and after working with clients and understanding the operational side of a business, he launched his interior design firm for residential, commercial and hospitality clientele.
How did I start? Just by trying, lots and lots of trying.
Always someone who prefers to be working on more than one project at a time, Bobby says: “I’ve seen all sides of a business, both in failure and success, and continue to learn and grow as my business continues to scale up.” The beginning of his career brought a learning curve to running a brick and mortar store, becoming familiar with client services as well as product services. “There’s a lot of ‘invisible labor’ when it comes to shipping furniture and logistics, so in the beginning I was focusing on how the industry works, the operations, all of the not sexy parts of design that are essential to being successful in the long run.”
When you’re building a brand every step is crucial, and Bobby credits the work done with his builder clients as being unexpectedly essential to establishing his design business. He explained, “It’s a small part of the interior design world, but so much of my work in terms of design has been focused in model homes and not in public facing projects. While Queer Eye really put my name on the map, I’m proud of my work outside of the show. And it continues to expand my design firm’s visibility and the efforts we put forth in designing model homes.”
In fact, the current iteration of Bobby’s design firm and the work being put out is still in the builder industry. It gives him the chance to not only collaborate with his team, but also with the builder communities as he designs model homes that are for sale in larger planned communities across the country.
They give our firm a lot of freedom to design, which is always the fun part of the job.
Bobby is also a big advocate for mental health and actively participates in non-profit work. “I have some larger plans on the horizon of how to emphasize mental health through design, and I’m thrilled to create a space that normalizes mental health and brings awareness.” But it goes further, “There’s one specific project I’m really excited about that will bring these two worlds together. It’s something that doesn’t exist in the market and I think it’s going to be a vital part of the future of design.”
“I remember contacting Bobby because I loved his store and we were both interested in making something fun happen during New York Design Week, so we collaborated on an event, which led to another and then another! Both of us had emerging brands and lots of big dreams. I’m really proud of Bobby’s success and happy to have played even the tiniest part in his incredible story,” Jaime says.
As Design Milk has continued to grow in the digital world, the Bobby Berk brand continues to expand in the retail and residential worlds. When our paths have crossed, the projects have always been a bit magic. “I’ve been a friend of Jaime’s for a long time, and over the years we’ve been really lucky to continue our friendship in the realm of work and the design world. Whether it was through features she interviewed me for on DM or collaborative projects that we designed together, it feels like Design Milk has always been on my radar due to the friendship I’ve had with her,” Bobby recognized.
A mutually loved collaboration was between Design Milk, Bobby Berk and Corian. “I loved sharing the Corian designs with Design Milk – four kitchens, four ways for my four Queer Eye guys. It was a way to show not only the beauty and unique approach in designing with Corian and DM, but also a true testament to how well I know my guys by creating an aspirational kitchen for each of them,” he added. We can’t wait to see where our individual and shared paths take Bobby Berk and Design Milk over the coming years!