Once upon a time, Lauren Buxbaum Gordon had dreams—well, rather, plans—of attending law school. That is until the namesake Chicago- based interior design firm of Nate Berkus offered her a coveted summer internship, and she instead set her sights on the world of interiors complete with an education from one of the best in the industry. That was 18 years ago.
Fast forward to summer 2019, and Berkus named Gordon his first-ever partner in the Nate Berkus Associates business, a testament to the journey the design duo has traveled together for the last two decades.
“I keep joking that I hope we still look the same,” says Gordon. “I was basically born and raised at Nate’s office, so being his partner just felt right. I’ve spent half my life with Nate and have clocked more hours there than anywhere. It’s a privilege and an honor, and I’m really proud of the company and what we’ve become.”
In fact, Gordon grew up surrounded by high design. Her parents are antique dealers, who own a 31,000-square-foot shop Old Plank Antiques in Chicago that specializes in European furniture sourced from regions like the Italian countryside, English Midlands, and South of France.
Gordon would often tag along on international buying trips and local house walks, like that of the Lake Forest Showhouse, which eventually helped sharpen her eye and design sensibilities. “That level of exposure to beautiful antiques has made me incredibly discerning,” says Gordon. “But really, my parents have greatly impacted all that I have accomplished creatively.”
And that is no small measure, including everything from being named once again to Architectural Digest’s prestigious AD100 list and working on the Atlanta home renovation of the late Coretta Scott King, wife of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., as a relatively new designer.
“When I was 24, Nate and I flew to Georgia with his late partner Fernando Bengoechea to meet Mrs. King,” says Gordon. “I learned more from that few days than I could in my entire career. It was an unbelievable experience and a true ‘pinch me’ moment.”
Since then, her work has spanned urban penthouses in Chicago and lakefront estates in Minocqua, Wisconsin, to sprawling family homes in Edina, Minnesota, and everywhere in between. Since Gordon and her team often work on remote projects, they—by a twist of fate—already had most of the infrastructure in place to handle pivots created by the pandemic.
Much of the installation for a recent project up North, for example, happened via FaceTime, although the team did drive six hours for the finishing touches. “It is hard to trip me up, but COVID did make me pause for a minute,” says Gordon.
To add fuel to the fire, Gordon and her young family— husband Mike, son Reid and daughter Georgia— recently outgrew their two-bedroom 1883 Georgian townhouse in the Gold Coast and relocated to a historical home in Winnetka. Dubbed “Pelham Project” on Instagram, Gordon has been meticulously restoring the house for the last two years, all while contending with the demands of her own design clients.
“Without using any swear words, it was challenging,” laughs Gordon. “I wish I could have hired my team because they are so organized. For two years I cried every day thinking about leaving the city and then our first night in this house, I felt so at peace. We have never looked back.”
Construction is now complete, although half the house sits empty until Gordon finds pieces she loves, like the floral Gucci wallpaper she recently added to Georgia’s bedroom. “I’m way more excited about it than she is,” says Gordon.
Gordon finds design inspiration from traveling, fashion, the array of design books in her personal library, and on social media, describing her interiors style as a mix of old and new. Think modern shapes and interesting scale with patinaed antiques and thoughtful heirlooms, all of which combine to create a layered, eclectic, and collected style unique to Gordon.
“Nate and I have a similar aesthetic,” says Gordon. “He is the only person whose home I’ve ever walked into and felt like I could just move right in and not change a thing. I’d call my style relatively masculine, but I probably skew a little bit more feminine than him. We try to be thoughtful about every single thing that goes into a room.”
As the daughter of antique aficionados and a trainee of Berkus, Gordon inherently does not believe in or follow trends. That said, she loves the resurgence in Venetian plaster walls, which add texture and pay homage to historical detailing.
To find hidden décor gems, Gordon touts Redefined Décor in Chicago, Heritage Trail Mercantile in Northfield, and the Gurnee Antique Market. A collector herself, Gordon started amassing her furniture collection at just 25-years-old when, she says, “I could afford to buy more than just canned soup.”
That fits into her philosophy: One’s home should be a collection of wellloved items you take from place to place throughout a lifetime. If it fits, she says, it works.
“A quick decision at 21 changed my life,” says Gordon. “Today I’m looking forward to hopefully working on more projects on the North Shore, where the style is creative but still rooted in design integrity. And I hope I get a vaccination soon, too!”
For more information, visit nateberkus.com.