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Sasha Adler and Lauren Gold on Boss Nate Berkus' Library

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Welcome to Why This Works, a new Curbed column in which decorator and former shelter-magazine editor Alexa Stevenson looks point-blank at professionally dressed rooms and breaks down the elements that make it work. Have a suggestion for a room or interior designer/decorator that should be showcased? Do let us know.

We caught Sasha Adler and Lauren Gold of Nate Berkus Associates on some rare downtime to talk about one of their favorite rooms, their boss’s library in his Chicago apartment. (The very same apartment that was once featured in Elle Decor, loudly hit the market in January, and is now asking $2.15M.) Here, Adler and Gold, the firm's design directors who have recently been carving their own reputation, layered Belgian linen, brass, saddle leather, and stone atop Berkus' personal collection of books, art, and objets.

1. The wood paneling was unique to the space and pre-existed, but hand-stitched saddle-leather panels “not only draw your eye up, but they envelop the room making it feel more intimate.”
2. “Furniture used in non-traditional contexts helps add interesting layers to a room,” Adler and Gold explain. Here, they repurposed a bar cart as a side table, adding a little quirkiness to an otherwise quiet corner: “Think outside of the box when it comes to using pieces you already own. Furniture should speak to more than its ‘designated’ use.”
3. The mustard-velvet ottoman was one of the last pieces added to the room, and it was “layered in an atypical way, which makes it stand out.” In this room, the ottoman is more than functional; it's a way to incorporated books and objets. It’s “the perfect splash of color in the otherwise neutral room,” say the girls.
4. A vintage French metal floor lamp adds an industrial touch as well as height: “We usually use a piece like this to ground a seating area—a chair and accent table, for instance—but, in this case, it was the perfect element to add some verticality to the interior and bring the eye up."
5. Adler and Gold styled the mantel with Berkus' collections instead of the typical pairs usually seen above a fireplace. “We like things to be less predictable. It keeps it interesting. We love clients to move things around their home and show things off in a different way. Rather than style a traditional mantelscape, use it as an opportunity to reflect your personality and tell your story.”

· Nate Berkus Associates [official site]
· Sneaking a Peek at Trad Home's 20 New Traditionals [Curbed National]
· Five Listings Formerly Found in the Pages of Elle Decor [Curbed National]
· Nate Berkus is Selling His Apartment: Here's What He's Leaving Behind [Curbed National]