Sunday, January 30, 2011

Nate Berkus Downsizing in Chicago

SELLER: Nate Berkus
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)


Anonymous said...

Oprah made a very off hand aside on her show last week regarding her future real estate intentions in LA. The show was about happiness and how it's impacted by where you live, your commute, etc.
She was complaining that it took her four hours to get back to Montecito from LA recently because of traffic problems caused by the heavy rains. Then she said something to the effect that "I gotta get a place in LA."
So let the games begin. . . Sierra Towers doesn't seem to O's taste unless she can put together an entire floor or something, but who knows. It will be very interesting to see which direction she goes, although I would think it probably will be a condo as opposed to a big Bel Air property, since she already has Montecito.
I believe that Elissa Cullman is actually Oprah's decorator, not Nate. Cullman's specialty is decorating with "important antiques". . .

davidsl said...

meh. individually, the rooms are fine. but together in the same apartment? there's no consistency or even a common theme or color or anything that says it's ONE place. over done and under lived.

Viva! said...

Oprah would be well served in Sierra Towers. The building might not have the splash of some others in La La Land, but the service is second to none and the views are outstanding.

Plus, Oprah is a major Cher/Joan Collin/Diahann Carroll fan. I imagine she'd adore riding the elevator with those dames daily.

Anonymous said...

Totally off topic but...I clicked on the "shoe designer" Brian Atwood link and I think his designs are dull. Not one this I haven't seen before done better. Not one design to spark my interest. Ugh.

Anyhow...would Oprah have to live in the posh part of town or could she bear to stay at the Ritz tower downtown Los Angeles. If anyone could inject electricity (a.k.a. attention) to the heart of the city of angels, she could, for sure.

Anonymous said...

If I had to put my last dime on it, I would say she will buy on the Wilshire Corr.

Anonymous said...

To all:

Nate Bezurkas can, not, decorate. That place is a whipped together joke. Hot mess of random odds and ends, nothing expensive looking. No order. The boy SURE knows nothing about balance or Feng Shuway--I forget how you spelz it. B-a-l-a-n-c-e. All rooms have to have a balance on the walls and with weight around the room the room. He is basically a decorator/designer by default---I am sure trust fund baby with nothing *real* going on and Oprah thought she'd create and manufacture "the next TV design star", for her benefit ($), with his non threatening and effeminate touch and his golden boy good looks. Pleaze. That place is laughable--a table in front of an empty fireplace in the bedroom.

Even the light in the loafers crowd should hate this place--and hate his superficial decopage of nothing. Mama come on now, be real with this one! The whole apartment looks like a set director discarded some junk and old nate worked his magic. He's a bore, and he's a hack. His show is the same way and he pimps others for his "ideas". As Mama sez: Puh leaze. Sorry momma, stoppin jockin' ya boy....and ya know ya son keeps it real!!

These rooms bothas my eyes and he brought me back to my momma's presence for this deco disaster!

Everyone get off his nutz cuz he ain't shi****!

Have fun everybody,

Mama's black sheep in WEHO.

P.S. Look at that rediculous restaurant rack looking thing all the way up the wall in the living room and those pics on the other side. Is this guy for real?? Study design first and then try. But you know what, this stuff has to come natural ain't got the DNA Nate--sorry.

Anonymous said...

Oh, another thing, the big O ain't riding up and down the elevator with *stars* at Sierra Towers. Billionairs Pad-a-tier's don't start at less than ten mil. She likes her space where she can do her thing and let her dogs run etc. She's not getting two parking spaces and a set of house rules to follow. She may eat at BOA across the street, but thats it. Oprah will be taking her cues from Ellen on housing.

Mama's black sheep in WEHO, still ranting. This Nate Berkus, I'z been waiting for this one....a bunch of sh*t from a two hour trip to Tuesday Mornings and just slapped and thrown around in another two hours!

Anonymous said...

P.S. Part II:

Mama, Am I still allowed back home for Thanksgiving?? I will be if some of the chilren's back me up!

Mama's black sheep in WEHO.

Anonymous said...

8:16 I would add that the price discounts (71-73%, etc.) on Brian's shoes would indicate a precipitous drop in demand. Your objections may well be widely shared.

T. Rex said...

Whatever Black Sheep in WeHo.

It sounds to me like you're a bitter queen on coke who's about to read my beads and tell me how big your house is and how much money you have.

Puh-leeze is right girl. I'm waiting.

I don't know if Oprah would like the Sierra Towers but your reading of the situation is just plain silly. You know she's lived in a condo in Chicago for about a thousand years right? She rides the elevator there every damn day. And she owned condos on Fisher Island in Miami for years too. Bet she rode the elevators there too.

As for Nate Berkus you're just plain wrong. He's damn lucky Oprah found him and turned him into a superstar, on that we'll agree. I'm not saying he's the best decorator out there but he's hardly a hack. You may not like his chops–that include a stint in a Parisian fashion house–but that does not make him a hack.

And who did you hire to decorate your palace? Please do tell. We'd all love to know who gets your stamp of approval. Or did you go the DIY route because you're so much more talented than all the decorators who make a living decorating while you do something entirely different like–what?–sell real estate? Sell mortgages from your kitchen table?

Everybody is entitled to their opinions but you just go overboard. You're bitchy because you think it's funny and you feign a kind of expertise you do not have.

Sorry for the rant people but this queen just makes my blood boil.

Anonymous said...

Well, it definitely looks lived-in. On his show once, he admitted to being a chair-aholic and was always on the lookout for little chairs to put everywhere. I see what he means - every shape and size stuck wherever they'll fit, like a waiting room. It's just too much. Love the leather inserts above the fireplace but the stone surround below should be wider for balance. Hate everything about the kitchen, the bedroom and that gawd-awful blue closet. Like him, though.

Anonymous said...

Does he actually read all these books or are they stacked about to look 'decorative'?

After seeing the orderliness of the closet, the piles of books look a bit contrived.

... and WEHO, why don't you tell us how you REALLY feel? :-)

Anonymous said...

Looks ok. A bit too cluttered for my taste. Definitely, not the worst out there.

Anonymous said...

I am so not impressed with this apartment. It's just a mess. It looks like a bunch of 'before' pictures.

I'm surprised because I saw an apartment he did for himself in NYC. It was basically a studio, but very well done.

It's hard to believe the same person did both apartments.

Anonymous said...

Oprah has/ had many homes under $10Mil. Her condo In Atlanta, Miami, house in New Jersey... Even her apt in Chicago.

luke220 said...

Regarding Oprah, I could see her at the Century.

Anonymous said...

I can just imagine Candy Spelling making discrete inquiries round about now as to whether Ms O might be interested in multi-floored penthouse in Century City.
I could also see Ms O in that gated development off Wilshire where Wallis Annenberg lives.

lil' gay boy said...

I'm afraid I must concur with Black Sheep & Luke; but then I have a lot of difficulty imagining a world in which anyone actually gives a shit about what the Divine Miss O eats, sleeps in, wears, whatever...

But hey, that's just me. Iffin Ms Berkus hadn't hitched his wagon to hers, the only thing he'd be notable for is having one hot babe of a spouse, even if he subscribes to the Howard-Hughes-Kleenex-Boxes-On-The-Feet-School-Of-Shoe-Design...

Mars said...

Maybe it's cuz I can't stand Oprah or Nate, et al (trust me: if you listen to 6 months of Oprah Radio you'll hate them too), but this place makes me uncomfortable. So uncozy, so pretentious and chi-chi (I mean puhleeze the tub alone). I won't go so far as to say he can't design though. I actually loved what he did with Kirstie Alley's kitchen. Maybe Nate should stick with kitchens.