Michael Berman is one of the country’s most respected designers with a signature, sophisticated style that artfully marries understated glamour with welcome livability – he refers to it as American Trans-Modern.
What inspired this career path for you? In the early ’80s, I began working for Angelo Donghia and really was inspired by him. He became my mentor and really put me on the path to developing my own brand of lifestyle home furnishings for all categories of the market. I love the challenge of designing new products that are actually functional as well as aesthetically beautiful and are actually used by my peers, other designers, and architects across the globe.
What is your go-to source for inspiration? My go-to source for inspiration is travel. I constantly travel the globe researching different styles and the inspiration from different regions. For example, I love everything about Japan; it is a wonderful place for subtle detailing and minimal styling. The humble finishes and lacquer tones they use are incredible. I recently came back from a trip to Prague; this was an eye-opening experience because I was exposed to all the amazing Czech-Republic Cubism that originated from the early 1900s through the mid-’20s. I love the style because it’s original, modern, and very graphic. Little did I know, I was inspired by it all along with my own furniture designs.
Tell us about your creative process. I have a wonderful staff, and we treat our office as a somewhat design laboratory. We take retreats over weekends, and actually sit and brainstorm. We review books and look at inspiration photographs on the computer that would inspire us in terms of nature and previous eras. Then we put pencil to paper, start sketching, and develop concepts. Everything originates with the hand sketch.
Describe your style in 6 words or less. I am an American Modernist Designer.
What’s a staple in your tool kit? I suppose green and all shades of it would be a staple for all of my work. Even with clients who don’t love green shades, it finds its way. It’s the color of nature and richness in life.
Who do you look up to in the design world? One of my favorite interior designers, unfortunately now past, is Alberto Pinto. An amazing and prolific interior designer who could go from designing a very ornate home in Dubai to a French deco villa in Paris to a sleek penthouse in New York. His work is always thoughtful, exciting, and beautifully executed, regardless what style or genre he is working within.
If you could design a space for anyone, what kind of space and for whom would it be? We recently finished all of the bungalow design for the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica. It was a fabulous experience. I’ve always wanted to design the actual living spaces of hotels, so my absolute dream job would be to design a boutique hotel from soup to nuts. Where we are allowed to actually concept and develop every detail, from the uniforms that the staff would wear to the restaurant menu to the monogrammed bathrobes.
Tell us your favorite design-related word, phrase, or quote. My favorite term for all of the inspiration that I am attracted to in the world of design is… Franco-japo-deco-nese. And you may quote me. It sums up my eclectic love for all objects with restraint and elegance.
Which design blog, website, TV show, or magazine would you be lost without? I prefer books to magazines. I actually don’t like being influenced by what is a so-called trend or what my peers are doing. I really strive to come up with my own ideas and influence. One of the things I tell my staff is that we should constantly push to be original and have our own identity. Of course everyone is influenced by something they have seen in the past, but constantly reviewing magazines and television shows these days would be a recipe for homogenization.
What do you love about Viyet? What I love about Viyet is the fact that it takes more upscale and luxurious products for the home and offers them to the public. This is designer furniture at its best, with the highest of quality and integrity. It’s not like shopping a website and having it geared towards a DIY customer; this is really for the style-savvy end user with a discerning eye.