It seems unlikely that two North Carolinians, bouncing all over the world for the better part of their adult lives, would ever encounter one another. But the owners of boutique interior design firm House of Nomad, Berkeley Minkhorst and Kelley Lentini, came pretty darn close. In their careers and various travels, their paths intersected over and over, but the two somehow never met until they were both back in North Carolina, living in Charlotte. When they did, of course, they were immediately inseparable.
Berkeley and Kelley still wander—it’s kind of their whole business model—but they’ve planted roots here in the Queen City. The duo is quickly becoming recognized, in Charlotte and beyond, for their eclectic, contemporary style, and for their exploration-oriented design method. House of Nomad was founded on the idea that travel fosters the best kind of creativity, simply enriching life, in a design sense and beyond. Kelley and Berkeley bring with them new textiles, objects, and other finds unique to various cultures, sometimes in their luggage, and sometimes in their heads. Everything that travel reveals to Berkeley and Kelley—all they see or touch or recline on—informs House of Nomad’s aesthetic. The world, it seems, is the ideal design school.
We sat down with the two nomads—and, miraculously, got them to sit still with us—to learn a bit about where they’ve been and where they want to go. This Q&A can’t communicate just how much they laugh (at inside jokes), or how often they finish each other’s sentences, but you’ll get a pretty distinct idea of who they are: a team.
How did the two of you meet?
Kelley: Berkeley and I met while I was designing at Restoration Hardware. She and her husband were renovating their home and came in one evening to work on their living room. By the time they’d purchased accent chairs, we had dinner plans at Good Food on Montford. Basically, from there on out, we were inseparable.
How did the conversation of starting an interior design firm arise?
Kelley: We’ve both always wanted our own business of some sort. When we realized we already had so much in common (personally and professionally), we decided we had to make it happen together. We started dreaming up ideas, thinking about textiles, art, our love of travel, and our passion for unique finds. We didn’t want to focus on just one of these, and they all pointed to interior design—just another passion we share. It was something that just felt right. We went with our instincts and didn’t look back.
So you have both traveled a lot, right? Where have you been?
Berkeley: We live to travel. Kelley and her husband lived in China for four years and traveled all over that part of the world. My husband and I have mostly traveled Europe, but we recently fell in love with Africa. It’s now a life goal of mine to get there as often as humanly possible. Travel is one of those things that keeps you inspired and creative, which is really what we are all about. Oddly enough, Kelley and I studied abroad in Florence at the same time at the exact same school but had no idea! Just another one of our many connections.
How have your travels inspired your design business? Do you ever travel to other countries with the distinct purpose of finding new textiles or patterns or general design styles to use in your designs?
Kelley: Yes! That’s really the goal. Travel fosters so many amazing things—inspiration, creativity, relationships, experiences—and that’s really how we arrived at the name of our firm, “House of Nomad.” It keeps us in this sort of mindset of the inspired traveler—mixing old with new, eclectic patterns, color, and something unexpected. connecting with our clients, their experiences and personalities, and bringing them to life in their home.
How do you find the furniture/pieces that you decorate with? How much custom work do you implement in your designs?
Berkeley: We absolutely love going to High Point Furniture market and other shows—that keeps us up-to-date on all the new designers out there, leaving us with tons of ideas (and blisters). Knowing what’s new and on-trend in the design world is helpful, but… honestly, it’s just countless hours of online sourcing—from trade vendors to vintage finds and beyond. There’s a lot of time spent finding those perfect pieces that our clients will connect with. Many times this leads us to custom upholstery and furniture or art commissions.
What does House of Nomad bring to the table that other design firms do not?
Berkeley: First off, there are two of us. By the time we sit down at our desks to design we have already talked through our thoughts in the car and are already working off of each other’s ideas. With two perspectives, each is the other’s sounding board: By the time we present to our clients, we have really thought through every possibility. Our goal, through all of it, is to make interior design approachable for people. It’s so important to us that the process is fun.
Tell us more about your dynamic as a team. What do each of you bring to the table?
Kelley: We are always in step when it comes to our design decisions (and most life decisions, for that matter), but we each have our own “happy place” we draw inspiration from. Drop me in Asia any day of the week and I’m a happy, happy person. Berk’s heart, on the other hand, belongs to Africa. I’m drawn to anything and everything with an Asian influence, from Japanese calligraphy pens to tigers and dragons—tasteful dragons. Berkeley gets her inspiration from Africa, so it’s all about the mud cloth, baskets, and literally anything that resembles a jungle. We are also… um… not afraid to incorporate these vibes and patterns into our closets.
I’d wager that House of Nomad wouldn’t be the firm it is without both Berkeley and Kelley making it up. Why was House of Nomad the necessary nextstep in your lives?
Kelley: There is no doubt in either of our minds that we are exactly where we are supposed to be, doing exactly what we were meant to do. We dream in accent tables and ceiling wallpaper. We bring different experiences to the table, and that has created a pretty amazing duo, in our opinion. We are so driven and passionate about our business… but we’re also sure not to take it too seriously.
Once a customer approaches you and asks for your help in designing their home, what is your process of designing from there?
Berkeley: First, we talk timelines and goals. After that, we do an in-home consultation, taking photos of the space, measuring rooms, and (most importantly) getting to know our client. We love having an open dialogue with them so we can really create a space that reflects them and not the current trend on Pinterest.
Kelley: From there we go into design mode—when the magic happens. Sketches and design boards become living spaces with furniture and textiles, color and texture. In our new studio space in South End, clients are not just presented with space plans and design boards—they get a live take on their custom space by testing out showroom pieces and feeling the textiles on our sample wall. Once we’re all on the same page, the furniture, art, and decor are ordered and we prepare for install day—our favorite day ever.
What is your vision for House of Nomad? Would you like to remain a small local business, or would you like for your designs and products to eventually become a household name?
Berkeley: We recently met one of our short-term goals—opening our own studio in South End. We’ve reached a place where we’re able to travel a few times a year, finding things for use in designing—all the while getting inspiration for a new line of accessories or furniture that we’d eventually like to design together. That’s really the dream. We’ll always want to have time for our focus on interiors, though, so it will be a bit of a balancing act. But we both do a lot of yoga. I think we can manage.