Nate Berkus is known for his design savvy, but for many years his interiors were a trigger for an unhealthy habit.
“There were areas of my apartment that I would go to and it was almost automatic where if I were sitting in my chair facing that view on my computer or opening mail or whatever, I would smoke,” Berkus, 45, tells PEOPLE.
He first picked up a cigarette in high school, and had “smoked on and off” since, but a few years ago, his priorities changed.
“The combination of wanting my health to be better, starting a family and realizing it wasn’t in line with all of the other things that were becoming important to me,” were the inspiration to quit four and a half years ago. “What started as something that was like, ‘oh, all the cool kids are doing it,’ now [made you] a bit of a social pariah if you were excusing yourself from conversation to go have a cigarette,” he says.
Although “everybody has an extremely personal story,” according to Berkus, a combination of picking up new habits like running, using Nicorette gum and, of course, rearranging his home, helped in his success with quitting for good.
“Figuring out how I could see a corner of the room differently led me to doing different things in that space,” he says, adding that little victories can go a long way. “It’s figuring out how can you reward yourself. Is it something as simple as framing a beautiful black-and-white print of a place that you promise you’ll take yourself on vacation if you stick to it? It’s about making little changes that are all in line with that decision.”
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With 2017 on the horizon, Berkus has teamed up with Nicorette and NicoDerm CQ to help smokers hoping to kick the habit in the New Year. The Smoke-Free Room Refresh contest, which offers a prize of $5,000 and a video design consultation with Berkus, “is an opportunity to give people some tools and give them a way to think about [quitting] in a way that they hadn’t,” he says.
Today, Berkus is officially a non-smoker, but now that he and husband Jeremiah Brent have one-year-old daughter, Poppy, he knows it might not be the last time he has to explain his history with the habit.
“I would be honest with her,” he says. “Obviously I don’t want her to smoke.” His experiences have also left him with a hopeful sentiment: “I’m glad that the trend is going away. I think by the time she’s even old enough to consider it, I don’t know that it’ll be around any longer.”