Joseph A. Berkowitz
At home with the HGTV star and founder/owner of JAB Design Group and Joseph A. Berkowitz Interiors
by Leigh Stuart

As a designer, Joseph A. Berkowitz, founder and owner of JAB Design Group and Joseph A. Berkowitz

Interiors, can do it all. From lodge-style homes featuring stone and wood in warm autumn shades of gold, chocolate and maroon to villas with a Venetian air decorated in bold reds and leathers to coast-inspired spaces adorned in sandy beige and cool, breezy blues, Berkowitz can plan stunning and stately designs to suit any taste.

Berkowitz utilizes this full spectrum of options in a variety of spaces, too. He can craft a dream space in a living or recreation room, dining room or kitchen, bathroom, den or even an outdoor patio space. Berkowitz even works with commercial spaces such as medical offices and restaurants to help them achieve distinct rooms that are chic and modern.

While many designers may boast such talents, Berkowitz has proven his abilities in front of the whole world as winner of HGTV’s “Showhouse Showdown,” a reality television program that pits two acclaimed designers against one another in decorating homes with identical floor plans.

Selected from a list of thousands of the country’s top designers, Berkowitz accepted the challenge of taking an empty show home—a completely blank canvas—and turning it into a work of art. Over the course of three months, after having taken just a single initial round of measurements and observations at the Pittsburgh-based property, Berkowitz created a wholly unique design for each of five rooms in the home: a kitchen, family room, library, master bedroom and master bathroom.

“I never saw the house again until the week we went back to film the show,” he notes. “I had to send all the merchandise out there [to Pittsburgh] and have their people install according to my measurements.”

Finishing touches were left for the final week, during which Berkowitz returned to Pittsburgh and was filmed eight hours a day for a week. “I’m definitely known for my drapery,” he says. “It’s one of the things that really often completes a room. It’s like lipstick to a woman getting dressed on a Saturday night; rooms feel a little naked without it.”

In addition to drapery, a number of Berkowitz’s signature design elements—such as his penchant for painting ceilings a shade other than plain white, and his use of various levels of floor, ceiling and sconce lighting—popped up in the Pittsburgh home. One element Berkowitz’s fans and clients alike could recognize came in the form of his own product creation “JABZ,” which are metal studs he uses on drywall to create patterns including geometric, floral and linear shapes. He utilized these in the sample home’s library to create a unique design element that would attract the eye and spark conversation.

Once all these finishing touches were completed, the real challenge began. Hundreds of visitors walked through the homes he and his challenger designed, ranking their favorites.

“I really enjoyed designing the project,” he says. “I enjoyed the competition, and that particular day was fascinating. I was aware thousands of people were about to show up—and hundreds of thousands would ultimately see the show.”

To add an even more nerve-wracking element, Berkowitz and his competitor had access to live video feeds from rooms in their respective homes, so no comment—good or bad—went unheard.

Happily, Berkowitz heard an overwhelming majority of positive comments regarding his design, which he describes as having “a certain kind of elegance; an upscale feeling.” These comments, it would turn out, translated into a win. Berkowitz bested the other designer as his home conveyed the high-class elegance he works to capture in all his designs.

“The experience was great,” says Berkowitz, who held a viewing party at his home when the episode finally aired. “I invited all my friends and family. It was a memorable evening.”

Berkowitz says he still gets recognized from time to time; just recently he was stopped in a Bed, Bath & Beyond store by a person he initially thought was going to ask him for directions. “It turned out she wanted an autograph,” he says with a laugh, noting that being recognized is “flattering and hysterical at the same time.”

Such heightened name recognition is one of the biggest aftereffects of being on the show. But, Berkowitz’s reputation for quality work in spaces of all kinds would have been growing even without his television appearance. This, he explains, is because his business is largely referral based.

“Fortunately for us, business has always been terrific,” he says. “If we come through with the product and do a good job, we get referrals. … The bulk of the work in this business comes from the last job you did.”

As one might expect of someone whose life is dedicated to aesthetics, Berkowitz’s own home is a model of his varied and refined tastes.

“My house is pretty eclectic,” he says. “It’s very dramatic, moody; it’s not for everybody, but it’s really comfortable for me.”

One of his signature design elements, use of one-of-a-kind objets d’art, can be found throughout Berkowitz’s home. His foyer, for example, is highlighted by a copper fountain that “has been running for 22 years straight,” he notes.

In his foyer, an 8-foot-by-13-foot oil replica of Quentin Latour’s “The Cheat with the Ace of Clubs,” rescued in raw form from a warehouse in New York City, hangs in a place of honor. A beautiful gold-leaf carved window panel from Bali accents a spot nearby. In the den, shades of coral, camel and turquoise bring the room to life.

This eclectic style truly shines in the work he does for his customers as well. “Being eclectic, creating a new style every time for each customer—that’s really what I’m about,” he says. “When somebody is looking for something different, new, doesn’t want to copy someone else, they come to me.”

JAB Design Group | Joseph A. Berkowitz Interiors
1620 Gerson Drive
Penn Valley, PA 19072