Okay, by now it's safe to assume we've all successfully binged season 4 of Queer Eye (if you haven't, stop now: spoilers ahead! But also, come on—it's been five whole days!), where the Fab 5 return to Kansas City—and some surrounding towns—to transform the lives of eight heroes. Though designer Bobby Berk is hard-pressed to pick favorites from the projects on the show, he admits to House Beautiful that one of this season's episode was particularly meaningful to him: the season's finale.
In the final episode of season 4, the Fab 5 finds themselves in rural Missouri, where they visit Matt Moreland's Red Barn Ranch. While some of the cast, shall we say, takes more easily to the farm life than others (looking at you, Karamo "don't kiss the cows, you'll get Rabies" Brown), for Bobby, the episode hits especially, literally, close to home.
"I grew up on a farm in Missouri," the designer says. "So this one was really like coming home." One look at a delighted Bobby zipping around on an ATV and you'd have no doubt he's in his comfort zone. But, of course, the designer was there to do much more than just take in the farm life.
When the Fab 5 meet Matt, he's fresh out of a divorce, and his home hasn't quite moved on. "You'll see in the episode, there were literally empty spots on the walls," Bobby says, where old mementos from Matt's ex wife had once hung. So, Bobby's task was clear: Create a space for a fresh start and a new life in a home on the farm Matt had grown up on and was determined to see succeed in the long term.
From the outset, Bobby says, Matt had one big advantage over some of his fellow heroes. "That house was SO clean," Bobby gushes. "I don't think they showed it in the episode, but we were actually rolling around on the floor. We were so excited because the carpet was totally clean!"
After a few spins on the ATV, Bobby set about creating a space that more aptly reflected Matt and his life. "I really wanted to make a modern farmhouse, because he is a modern farmer," the designer reasons. "He's figuring out ways to make the farm that has been in his family for decades work now."
To do so, Berk paired more farmhouse touches (like wood grain wallpaper) with modern colors and materials, like dark leather and black accents. A fresh coat of paint on the fireplace instantly brought it into a new era. "It's a really easy way to make an old fireplace look like a modern fireplace," Bobby says: "Paint it black!"
In the kitchen, the designer scrapped a "really weird-shaped" island in favor of a rectangular one that allowed for more space around a dining table. Then, he freshened up the entire room by repainting the cabinets. and replacing the linoleum countertops with wood and granite. "I don't always have the money to change someone's kitchen, but I can totally change the look by painting the cabinets and putting in new countertops," says the designer.
In a rare turn for Queer Eye makeovers, Bobby was also able to repurpose a cabinet Matt already owned, using it as a storage piece in the new kitchen. "It was this really big chunky hutch that wasn't really being used, so I dragged it in there and merchandised it beautifully and it looked great," Bobby says. "I love it when I can re-use something—I love saving my budget!" Plus, he says, Matt was pleasantly surprised to see a familiar piece. "He was like, 'Oh my God, that's mine—I thought you threw it out,'" Bobby recalls.
Overall, though, Matt was thrilled with the changes—both big and small. "When he walked in he was like, 'this is me, but modern,'" Bobby says. "And that was the goal: modern farmer, modern farmhouse."
This idea is also reflected in the dairy barn, where Bobby installed collapsable tables he made with Matt to allow for long, family-style, farm-to-table dinners, an idea he was toying with as a new business venture.
"I really wanted to show him what his barn could look like," Bobby says, admitting "we didn't really renovate anything in there; we just got beautiful flowers and beautiful food, and lights hanging from the ceiling and candles, and it was beautiful."
A fresh take on farmhouse for a truly modern farmer.
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