Bobby Berk has overhauled many houses during his time on Queer Eye, but recently, one particular makeover hit very close to home — because it once was his home.
The 38-year-old interior designer and Target ambassador recently went back to his hometown of Mount Vernon, Missouri, to work his magic on his childhood house, where his parents still live.
The house, which hadn’t been redecorated for over 20 years, brought back lots of memories for Berk, both good and bad.
Feeling unwelcome in his community due to his sexuality, he left home at the age of 15 and slept in his car for some time while pulling double shifts as a waiter before chasing his dream of becoming a designer. Surprising his parents with the incredible update was both incredibly emotional and healing for the star and his mom and dad, Berk says.
“Growing up gay in a small town in Missouri wasn’t the easiest for me,” Berk told PEOPLE. “I dealt with a lot that challenged me, but going back there and giving my parents a new space to call home is something that I really wanted to do and on many levels not only healed the space, but my heart. I’ll always remember being inside my parents’ house and designing it so many times in my head, and I finally got a chance to do it in real life.”
Berk’s parents had to leave their home for several months during the top-to-bottom renovation. When they walked in, he says, they hardly even recognized their old home — and his dad couldn’t help but tear up.
“Seeing him emotional is something I have never really seen him do,” Berk said of his father, who was diagnosed with cancer for the fourth time last fall. “It was a moment that I’ll always remember and one that made me so grateful to be able to do what I do.”
The home before:
The Netflix star went with a “modern farmhouse vibe” for the interior, ensuring that the decor would fit his parents’ personal styles and tastes. “It was really important to me that this felt updated and like something they would want to live in,” Berk says, noting that he believes a house you want to come home to is important for your mental health.
His favorite part of the renovation was opening up the living room, dining room and kitchen into one big space, as his mom loves to be in the kitchen but his dad prefers the living room. Now, there are no walls separating them.
The home after:
His parents’ favorite part of the update, he says, is the master bedroom and bathroom, where he added new paneling on the walls, a vanity area with plenty of storage, new tiling, a separate shower and a clawfoot bathtub, which his mom loves.
The whole house is furnished with pieces from Target. In the bedroom, Berk used their Antwerp headboard, which he describes as “timeless.” A self-described “pillow lover,” he also used these overscale, lumbar and striped pillows for both decoration and comfort on the bed and in the living room.
While Missouri may no longer be his permanent residence — he currently lives in L.A. with his husband, Dewey Do — his childhood house now feels more like home than ever, especially thanks to one specific part of the makeover: his old bedroom.
“Changing my childhood bedroom into a grown up guest room gave me the perfect excuse to come and visit again soon. Someone needs to make use of that new room,” Berk says. “Perhaps that was my mom’s goal all along!” he adds with a laugh.
See more photos and learn more about the makeover on Berk’s website, bobbyberk.com.