Nate Berkus's library


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HOME A condo in a 1918 Andrew Rebori building on the Gold Coast, redone in the 1950s by Samuel Marx. Berkus’s unit belonged to the Block family of Inland Steel. “It’s steeped in Chicago history,” he says.

OTHER RESIDENCE A small condo in the West Village in New York, where Berkus’s TV show is filmed

HOW LONG HE’S LIVED THERE Ten years. “I moved in before I could afford to furnish it. It really became a home to me in 2006, when I stopped waking up in the middle of the night to move things. It’s the first home where I’ve stopped moving things around. I used to be fairly minimalist, but the last time my mom came, she said, ‘This feels like a home.’”

STYLE “It feels assembled over time. Very layered, collected, the home of somebody who has traveled a lot. I’m very passionate about finding pieces and furniture that not everyone has.”

FAVORITE ROOM “I’m always in the library. I love being surrounded by books, and it’s the coziest room. All the books that have been given to me or signed for me—the room is filled with things that are very personal. I tend not to go out a lot when I’m in Chicago, so when I have friends over and we order Thai, I prefer everyone eating on their laps, listening to music, drinking wine. I’ve used my dining room like 20 times in ten years.”

ON KEEPING PERIOD DETAILS “I remember walking through with a broker in 2001 and seeing the kitchen, with metal cabinets in bad condition and the steel countertops and integrated sink. When I had to add air conditioning and lighting, I kept as much of the original as possible. The truth is, I couldn’t afford to renovate a lot of things back then. I had the cabinets painted army green because that’s my favorite color. There’s something about the character of all of it. Why would I go chase a reproduction? A lot of people renovate just to renovate. I didn’t want a cherry kitchen with granite countertops.”

MAJOR RENOVATION Berkus stole half the original dressing room space to enlarge the bath. He was left with a still-luxurious walk-in closet. “My friends from New York can’t believe how beautifully you can live in Chicago. The closet really is one of my favorite things.”

ON COLLECTING “I started collecting photography about 10 years ago, paintings about 15 years ago. The collection I have in the house I will always have. I’ve bought better and better as I could afford to.”

ON HOUSEKEEPING “The place always looks nice. Always. Any one of your readers could ring the doorbell and the apartment would look like it does right now. All my siblings, my parents, who pass through Chicago—they stay here. It’s become like Grand Central—whether I’m at home or in New York, it’s always open.”

NEXT PROJECT “There’s nothing left for me to change. Everything has been updated, and it is a wonderful, comfortable place to live. There are not a lot of buildings like this in Chicago, with one apartment per floor. I feel like I’ve grown up in this apartment.”


Photograph: Pieter Estersohn