Nate Berkus Downsizing in Chicago

SELLER: Nate Berkus
LOCATION: Chicago, IL
PRICE: $2,650,000
SIZE: 3,980 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms

YOUR MAMAS NOTES: We know we ain't the first person to the prom on this one, puppies, but let's have a look-see anyways shall we? The matter of hotshot decorator and designer Nate Berkus putting his Chicago, IL condo on the market with a price tag of $2,650,000 was first mentioned–as best as we can tell–in real estate gossip Bob Goldsborough's Elite Street column for the Chicago Tribune. Mister Goldsborough, some of the children may recall, used to pen the defunct and much missed celebrity real estate blog Big Time Listings.

Mister Berkus rocketed to fame and fortune in 2002 when he began to appear on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Once The Big O gave Nate Berkus her stamp of approval–wham, blam, thank you ma'am–he was a superstar decorator and darling of glossy shelter publications like Elle Decor. We're not saying that cheery and user-friendly Mister Berkus doesn't deserve his accolades but, let's be honest butter beans, his benefactor has a fan base so fervent she could turn a dried up cob of corn into the world's best selling author iffin she said the corn cob wrote a book. Beehawtcha says jump and half the damn world jumps, you know?

In addition to his eponymous decorating practice that has done up dwellings for celebs who include Billy Joel and his most recent ex-wife Katie Lee Joel, Mister Berkus wrote the cumbersomely named book Home Rules: Transform the Place You Live into a Place You Love, hosted Oprah's Big Give and in 2008 he launched a lucrative line of home products for the Home Shopping Network. Can y'all say kaching! In the fall of 2010 charming and eye-catching Mister Berkus followed in his mentor's foot steps got his own talk show, the timing of which we're certain had nothing to do with the fact that Momma Oprah is closing up her talk show shop sometime in 2011.

It wasn't long after Oprah launched Mister Berkus into the stratosphere that he snatched up some high-priced real estate in Chicago. Property records show that in July of 2003 Mister Berkus spent $1,500,000 to acquire a dignified Gold Coast condo formerly owned by the Block family of Inland Steel and re-worked in the 1950s by renowned International Style architect Samuel Marx.

Listing information shows Mister Berkus's 7-room full floor condo, located in a 1928 apartment building with just 12 apartments and photographed for–natch–Elle Decor in 2008, measures 3,980 square feet and includes 3 bedrooms and 4 poopers all done up in Mister Berkus's signature style that Your Mama might describe as a multi-layered and eccentric (but far from funky) mash-up of a photograph-friendly soft-modern female married to a very rich non-confrontational traditional man who openly dabbles with a whimsical David Hicks in the 1970s mistress.

Mister Berkus, being the nice, gay decorator that he is, put his own stamp on his new sprawler that included according to listing information the installation of hardwood floors and a reconfiguration of the master suite. Much to our delight and his credit, Mister Berkus retained some of the apartment's original architectural and decorative details such as the oak paneling in the library and the a-may-zing silver-leafed wall covering in the office. In a magnificent and commendable stroke of restraint Mister Berkus opted to restore rather than replace the steel kitchen cabinetry installed by Samuel Marks. He painted the vintage cabinets army green set them off with up-to-date and high-grade kitchen accouterments.

The apartment contains an large, airy living/dining room with lots of windows and an 18th-century limestone fireplace mantel. The room's most dominant decorative feature–iffin indeed Mister Berkus hasn't swapped it out for something else since the 2008 Elle Decor photo shoot–is a black and white geometric Madeline Weinrib-designed Buche rug that probably cost Mister Berkus more than Your Mama paid for our big BMW. Word to the less financially fortunate than Moneybags Berkus: You can buy a knock off of Ms. Weinerib's rug at the Swedish retail giant Ikea for under two-hundred bucks.

Although it would look utterly redonkulous in Your Mama and the Dr. Cooter's modest abode in the Hollywood Hills our favorite piece of Mister Berkus's furniture selections, a custom-made lemon yellow tufted ottoman, can be seen in his book-filled library where it sits prominently in front of the fireplace. The ottoman, bless it's hard, has been rendered completely useless for sitting by the stacks of books from Mister Berkus's vast and enviable collection of tomes and treatises on art, architecture and design.

There's another fireplace in the reconfigured corner master suite, the third one as far as we can tell. Mister Berkus's boo-dwar includes a decidedly decadent 1930s-ish-style bathroom that's far to Hollywood Housewife for Your Mama's personal taste. What we do like in that there bathroom is the exquisite Jacques Adnet stool Mister Berkus set up next to the bathtub. Were we ever to be invited to Mister Berkus's condo–and we're pretty sure we'll never be invited to any of Mister Berkus's homes–the children can be certain that Your Mama would make a valiant attempt to sneak that stool out in our handbag.

A February 2011 article in Chicago Magazine reveals that the reconfiguration of the master bedroom included snatching half of the original dressing room in order to create an enlarged master bath. What remains is still an impressive custom-fitted walk-in closet with more than enough space for all Mister Berkus's shoes, suits, socks and manties. We could do without the ashy cornflower blue paint on the cabinets and yellow walls always make us feel like we're headed towards insanity but we'd pee our pants with glee if we had a closet that looked even half a organized and Mister Berkus's. Just ask the Dr. Cooter. We do not share closet space, chickens, because Your Mama's closet typically looks like a tornado ripped right through it and it would most assuredly drive the Dr. Cooter into a murderous rage to have to sift through all Your Mama's t-shirts and things just to locate a pair of his shoes.

Anyhoodles poodles, the listing agent for Mister Berkus's Chicago condo told Mister Goldsborough at the Chicago Tribune that Mister Berkus although he spends more and more time in New York City Mister Berkus plans to "keep a presence" in Chicago, presumably something a bit smaller than this suburban mcmansion-sized Grande Dame on the Gold Coast.

It was reported recently that Mister Berkus upgraded his living quarters in the N-Y-C. Or has he? In 2006 Mister Berkus paid $550,000 for a puny pied-a-terre in New York City's West Village. He decorated the wee pad and, natch, it was featured on Oprah's program, in a magazine or two and on scads of shelter and design blogs.

Last year, in May of 2010, Mister Berkus gave the Oprah Winfrey people a brief tour of a swank new spread he referred to as "my apartment" in the multi-faceted Jean Nouvel-designed tower at 100 Eleventh Avenue in trendy West Chelsea. Shortly after the piece aired on Oprah, Jennifer Gould Keil at the New York Post repeated the rumor she heard that Mister Berkus does not actually own the featured apartment but rather that he leases the deluxe digs from much lauded and applauded Peruvian-born fashion photographer Mario Testino. Interestingly, in the aforementioned Chicago Magazine Mister Berkus's New York City crib is described as, "A small condo in the West Village." Of course, we don't know a cork board from a skate board. Maybe Mister Berkus lives in a starchitect-designed apartment he may or may not own in too-trendy West Chelsea or maybe he lives in a bantam one-bedroom in the leafy, lovely and lavishly gentrified West Village.

Mister Berkus used to share an apartment in Milan–that's in Italia, kids–with his former man-friend Brian Atwood, a sultry male model turned ladies shoe designer. The quondam man-couple had their fourth floor walk-up residence in a 1920s era apartment building photographed for the April 2009 issue of Elle Decor. The swell photographs depict the top floor apartment features such decorative choices as a Farrah Fawcett poster, palm leaf print wallpaper identical to that in The Fountain Coffee Room at the Beverly Hills Hotel–which Your Mama has to admit was a deliciously campy selection–a Pedro Friedeberg hand chair and a lot of shimmery chrome and brass things that evoke that 1970s David Hicks thing Mister Berkus likes so much. Mister Berkus announced recently that he's two years into a relationship with an unnamed architect, which indicates that he and the dashing shoe designer parted ways quite some time ago. Since the apartment in Milan was occupied by Mister Atwood before he and Mister Berkus hitched their gay wagons we're guessing that Mister Berkus no longer makes use of the apartment. What we really want to know, of course, is if Mister Atwood scrubbed the fancy flat clean of the Nate Berkus designed day-core. Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Your Mama recently heard through the real estate gossip grapevine that Oprah Winfrey is getting sick and damn tired of her frequent commute from her fifty-million dollar estate on Montecito, CA to her new OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network) offices in Los Angeles' Miracle Mile District. It seems like it'll only a matter of time before Oprah looks to buy a crash pad in Los Angeles, don't it? Your Mama humbly suggests she consider the star-packed Sierra Towers building on the Sunset Strip where The Big O can ride up and down the elevators with all those other a-list ladies who own condos in the building like like Cher, Joan Collins and Elton John. Just a thought. Wherever The Big O alights in Los Angeles, Your Mama wonders if her protégé Nate Berkus will snag the gig to do up the day-core? We'll just have to wait and see.

photos: Pieter Estersohn/Elle Decor via Apartment Therapy (all interiors); Coldwell Banker (exterior)

One Comment

  • February 9, 2015 at 3:10 AM | Permalink

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