While Jeremiah Brent and his celebrity interior designer husband, Nate Berkus, are all about creating unique homes, the message he hopes his new reality series shares is one of universal love.
The 2002 Modesto High graduate, who went by the name Jeremy Johnson growing up, stars with Berkus in the TLC series “Nate & Jeremiah by Design.” The show, which debuted in April, will air its final two episodes of its eight-part first season this month.
“Nate is my favorite person,” Brent said in an email interview with The Modesto Bee. “I love to spend time with him and the opportunity to collaborate and work together has been a blast. We both feel like we do some of our best work when working together.”
Ostensibly a makeover show about turning “money pits into masterpieces,” “Nate & Jeremiah by Design” also gives viewers an intimate look into Brent and Berkus’ home life along with their 2-year-old daughter, Poppy. The couple met about eight years ago at a birthday party in New York City. They were friends before they began dating and then got engaged in 2013. Brent, 32, and Berkus, 45, were married a year later. Brent said working together has been “amazing.”
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“Look, if you can survive filming a reality show with your husband, juggling eight renovations — along with your own personal home simultaneously and raising a 2-year-old — you can do anything,” he said. “At the end of the day, I love Nate more than anything and we both wake up thinking about design and go to bed thinking about design.”
The TLC project is their first series together, but neither partner is new to the world of television. Berkus became a household name as Oprah Winfrey’s favorite designer and was featured on her talk show for years. He had his own syndicated series, “The Nate Berkus Show,” from 2010 to 2012. He has lines of home products and accessories available at Target and Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft.
Brent was first seen by national TV audiences in 2011 as an assistant to stylist-to-the-stars Rachel Zoe on her Bravo show “The Rachel Zoe Project.” He has compared the experience to a finishing school for his professional work.
“I learned a lot. Working for Rachel was a crash course in professional maturity. I saw firsthand what it meant to run, create and foster your own business. Rachel said to me once that I should be doing whatever I was passionate about — which sounded simple, but it was so important for me. I never forgot it. Passion is the birthplace of all creativity for me,” he said.
He now has his own interior design firm, Jeremiah Brent Design, with offices in Los Angeles and New York City. He said his love for interior design came spending weekends visiting open houses with his mom while when he was younger.
“I would imagine the people that would live in the spaces and their moments that I could design the house around. Home has always been the ultimate frontier for me,” he said.
While at Modesto High, Brent was active in drama, speech and debate. Brent’s parents, Gwen and Terry Johnson, have since moved from the area but he still has extended family here and has “nothing but fond memories” of Modesto.
“Modesto was such a great place to grow up,” he said. “Modesto High was such a beautiful institution because it felt collegiate, both in its demands on the students and the level of expertise the teachers had. Mr. Murray, my high school drama teacher, was someone who really championed me and believed in me before I ever did.”
Brent and Berkus have led a high-profile life together. Besides their series, the pair appeared on a People magazine holiday special issue and an ad campaign for Banana Republic. They were the first same-sex couple to have their wedding at the historic New York Public Library which was attended by stars such as Winfrey and celebrity chef Rachael Ray.
In 2015 the men welcomed their daughter, Poppy, by surrogate. Brent said they hope to add to family in the future. For now they are enjoying the “beautiful” response to the series.
“The truth is that both Nate and I believe in the power of design and the idea of translating people into the spaces they live in,” he said. “The common thread is that everyone wants and deserves to live beautifully and we’ve been so thankful to be a part of helping make these houses into homes for each family.”
Nate & Jeremiah by Design
When: 9 p.m. Saturday, May 20, and finale airs 9 p.m. May 27
Where: TLC network