Kate Berry on the Need for Time Away From the Screen
Kate Berry’s glowing personality transmits what she seems to desire most: a breath of fresh air, and time to care for her myriad plants; raise her 9-year-old daughter, Quinn; or host intimate dinner parties for friends on the garden-covered terrace of her family’s Midtown Manhattan apartment. As chief content officer of the home and design bible Domino and of the food, wine, and travel magazine Saveur, Berry has interactions with media that, due to her demanding schedule, tend to be brief and light—and meaningful. She truly lives her work, which leaves plenty of time for creating media, but not so much for taking it in. As she puts it, “You don’t necessarily have to be consuming media to put out media.”
Berry’s rise in the media industry began in a roundabout way, while working as a floral stylist. Her spectacularly ethereal wedding was highlighted by the home-design queen herself, Martha Stewart, who then brought Berry on as a style editor. Over the next decade, Berry rose in the ranks to become editor-at-large of Martha Stewart Living and creative director of Martha Stewart Weddings. Her current roles at Domino and Saveur are without question a natural outgrowth of an active career spent styling, curating, editing, entertaining, arranging, collecting, looking, cooking, and making.
In 2016, Berry joined the creative team at Domino, where she began to work her magic on everything visual. Last summer, she was named chief content officer at both Domino and the then-recently acquired Saveur, both now under the ownership of the digital media company Recurrent. As this conversation makes clear, Berry maintains a tightly curated media diet that filters out the noise and provides moments of clarity and reflection.
What are your daily go-to reads?
Truth be told, I’m so burnt out on the pace of everything and all the recent news. I actually told my team that we’re taking this Thursday to Sunday off. I want everyone to take a break from the screen and get outside and live a little. When I think about my daughter and she’s doing three things at once, I’m like, “Here, let’s do these flashcards. Let’s get back to looking at real things on paper and giving our attention to one thing at a time.”
I read the Times, especially on the weekend. And then I skim newsletters in the morning. I of course read Domino’s and Saveur’s [With Relish]. Spencer [Bailey, co-founder of The Slowdown] actually introduced me to The Rebooting newsletter. It’s [former Digiday editor-in-chief Brian Morrissey’s] take on media today, where things are going. And I look at Business of Home.
What have you been reading lately?
Most recently, my sister gave me Ocean Vuong’s book On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. I’m Vietnamese and identify with a lot of his stories. It’s hard at times, very emotional to get through, and cathartic.
I don’t often get a chance to listen to podcasts. I’m in meetings all day. Once in a while, I do listen to Time Sensitive, and when I can, the podcast for Domino [Design Time]. We’re also creating one for Saveur.
Any favorite movies?
I like documentaries. I was just on the plane on the way back from L.A. and had to get through a lot of work emails and things like that, but I was just like, “You know what, screw it. I’m not going to do it,” and watched a movie instead. I watched the Brian Wilson [Long Promised Road] documentary. It’s so good. He’s such a genius. I grew up in Southern California listening to the Beach Boys. It reminds me of my childhood.
I love to have people over, and I love to cook and entertain. I love the exercise of going to the farmer’s market, looking at what’s fresh, and just connecting with the world. Cooking and prepping is a process I enjoy—it feeds me. But tonight, I’m thinking maybe I’ll just watch a documentary. Or I’m going to maybe pick up a book.
A magazine needs to have a strong point of view: “This is who we are.” I really don’t look at print magazines like I used to, but I like getting T Magazine with my New York Times. It’s a nice break from all the horrible news. I know, I sound like a downer.
There’s also this magazine Mother Tongue that these girls [co-founders Melissa Goldstein and Natalia Rachlin and creative director Vanessa Saba] started, and they sent it to me. I contributed a recipe in the first one through my friend Julia Sherman. She was writing about her connection with childhood and her mother through a recipe. So I contributed a recipe that my mom makes—or my version of it, anyway.
Maybe it’s terrible to say, but I only read things here and there. I need to take in other things to put content out. You don’t necessarily have to be consuming media to put out media.
Favorite TV shows?
I don’t regularly watch TV, but I always love a biographical documentary, like The Andy Warhol Diaries, or Where’s My Roy Cohn, or any documentary on cults, because in less than two hours you get a good look inside these iconic lives or the underbelly of something. Afterwards, I always do a bit more digging, if it piques my interest.
What do you watch or read for fun?
I don’t actually read for enjoyment, unless I’m on vacation. My eyes can’t take it. I try to get up as early as possible. I’m out here in the garden as long as I can be: I come in and fuss and take pictures and post things on social media. If I pick something or cook something, take a picture, and post about it, that’s my participation in social media.
I recently watched PBS’s Asian Americans series and rewatched Last Days in Vietnam. While these aren’t fun or new—and with the anniversary of when I came to America, and the recent events leading to all the refugees around the world—they are grounding and what I need in order to understand my place in the world and ultimately are what fulfills me right now. Last Days in Vietnam is really a visual play-by-play of stories my mom has told me of our experience fleeing from our homeland. I cried my eyes out. It was really cathartic.