Nate Berkus's Chicago Home

Nate Berkus's dogs, Henry and Emma, meet us at the door. "I live in a beautiful vintage building that was built in the heart of downtown Chicago," Nate says. "Do not be surprised by the lack of color in this place. I like to keep things really simple."


Nate's living room is a good example of what his design style is all about. "Everywhere in my house are these little things that have meanings and make me think of great memories." Nate found the pair of gold and green chairs in a flea market in New York.
 
  After Nate helped a widow incorporate memories of her late husband in a new room incorporate memories of her late husband into a new room—including a feather that she said had personal meaning—he realized everyone has a "feather" of their own.


This is the most important thing in Nate's house. "Everyone always asks themselves, 'What would you grab in a fire?' For me, my dogs and then this, which is a woven photograph that was a Christmas present from Fernando." Fernando Bengoechea was Nate's partner, a photographer who passed away in the tsunami tragedy.
  Nate's home is filled with items he picked up on vacations or got from Fernando. This table he picked up in Mexico and the little horses used to be in Fernando's apartment.
Nate's house is truly a doghouse. Henry and Emma are sitting on a sofa that Nate designed years ago. "It is upholstered in plain linen, which is one of my big tips for everybody," Nate says. "Buy a simple sofa and you can change pillows when you change your mind about color.
 
 
Nate loves the industrial look of these shelves, which he says came from the basement of a French bank.
 
  From the dining room, you can see one of the best features of Nate's apartment—the view of Lake Michigan.

Nate designed the concrete dining room table himself. "The main use for this is takeout Thai food, pizza and anything that can be delivered when I am done with a day of work." And he's not joking!
This is Nate's kitchen. "It's a great old kitchen," Nate says. "In fact, these are the original cabinets. I just had them painted army green, which is one of my favorite colors.'
Nate has a beautiful commercial oven, but here's the truth: "I have never boiled a pot of water on this stove."


This is Nate's office, where he spends a lot of time when he's working from home. It's bright and sunny and filled with stuff that makes him happy, including this piece of folk art. "It's some sort of mathematical equation that neither me nor my friends are smart enough to figure out."


Nate says he spends the most time in his library.
Nate loves the architecture in this room. "The wood paneling was here when the apartment was renovated in the 1950s. I actually added leather with baseball stitching to make the room feel even warmer."


Nate Berkus added leather with baseball stitching to the wood paneling in his library. "I love this room for so many reasons," Nate says. "Books are the heart of any home, and I spend hours going through books for design inspiration."
The 300-year-old rug from the border of China and Russia also adds additional warmth. "It just makes me happy. There are crazy birds...and I love the design."
Among the things Nate fell in love with in his apartment are the closets. "I am very organized, so you can see I've got my stuff exactly the way I want it," Nate says. "I am a neat freak, this is a bit embarrassing."



Well, America, it's the room you've been waiting to see! In Nate's bedroom, he has crisp white sheets.
Nate has a nightstand filled with books, but he also created a little memory area filled with pictures and items that hold special meaning for him
Nate also has a memory wall in his bedroom filled with photography from friends, a close-up of a camel that makes him laugh and a framed song list from a James Taylor concert in Chicago.

Nate has a TV in his bedroom—one of Oprah's biggest decorating pet peeves. "I am busted," he says. "I rarely watch TV, Oprah, I swear, and it only gets two fuzzy channels, but it is in here. I am busted."


Nate Berkus's Manhattan Home

In May 2005, designer Nate Berkus invited The Oprah Show into his spacious Chicago apartment. Now, he's taking us along as he tackles New York City's tough real estate market.

"The truth is, I'm really familiar with the city because I've been working here for so long," Nate says. "Between visiting private clients or seeing my attorneys or having meetings with the people at Linens 'n Things [where he has his own line of home decor], I've been coming here at least every other week for the past few years."
The time had come, though, for him to put down roots. So he found a real estate agent online and called to say that he'd be in the city in a week and would have a day to find an apartment. "I knew what I could afford," Nate says. "Plus, it had to be old. It had to be a one bedroom. It had to have high ceilings. And it had to make me feel happy."
Nate says his new neighborhood, Manhattan's West Village, is the perfect place for him. "I love the sounds, the sights [and] the energy," he says.

In just two months, Nate transformed his sparse living area into a space that oozes with personal style.
First, Nate decided to paint everything white—the floors, the walls and the ceiling—to make the apartment appear larger. "I wanted the boundaries of this entire space just to go away," he says.
Then, he furnished the living room with a 1960s Danish sofa and a '60s Milo Baughman armchair. "If you actually keep things very organized and clutter-free, you can have more furniture than you think you can in a small space," he says.
Nate says people living in small homes shouldn't shy away from big artwork. A large piece—like Nate's bird painting by Michael Hainey—actually makes the home feel more spacious, he says. The art on the back wall is by Ross Bleckner (left) and James Brown.
He also mixed new and vintage purchases from his favorite resources. Practically every other object on display is a gift from a friend, something made by a friend or a souvenir from a trip he took with a friend.





Nate updated his kitchen with a French limestone-topped bar (made out of an old conference table from his former Chicago office), 1950s bar stools from Center44, a stainless steel backsplash and a new coat of paint on the existing cabinets.
The paint is a high-gloss blue-black, the same color that's on every door in the apartment. "That adds architectural interest to a space this small," he says.
Then, Nate replaced the cabinets' knobs with small brass latches that he found in Greece. "That was a beautiful detail for me that changed the entire feeling of the apartment," he says.
To save space, Nate bought a refrigerator that fits under the counter and slides out like a drawer.

When Nate bought his Manhattan apartment, he knew he'd have to completely overhaul the bathroom. The original pink tiles were not what he had in mind.
First, Nate replaced the colorful ceramic tiles in the shower with white subway tiles. Then, he tiled over the floor with marble. "If your floor is in good condition, you can tile right over the entire thing," he says. "It will save you a lot of money or time in labor."
He also installed a steel mirror from urban antique store Scout in Chicago, a light fixture from Circa Lighting and a shower curtain from the Nate Berkus collection at Linens 'n Things. "I made a mirror super tall in this room because that makes the space seem much, much bigger than it is," he says.
The pedestal sink was also swapped out for a less contemporary one
Nate turned one end of the living room into an office and entertainment space.

What was once a closet is now a media center. "Think about the inside of a closet," he says. "It doesn't necessarily have to be just for storage."
The desk is a factory table he found at Scout; the chair, a 1950s Fratelli Campana. The jute rug is from Pottery Barn. The porcelain Nymphenburg rhino was a birthday gift from a friend.
  Nate tore down the wall between the living room and the bedroom, replacing it with custom French doors by 3-D Laboratory. He designed the bed frame and his bed linens, which are from the Nate Berkus collection at Linens 'n Things.

"In a small space, you want to keep the bedding as simple as possible so it looks clean, calm and collected," he says.
Next to the bed, Nate used industrial shelves he found at a Paris flea market to create his mini desk. The shelving unit above the desk goes all the way up to the ceiling. "Take advantage of the height in a room that's a tight space otherwise," he says.
To give the bedroom more character, Nate replaced the ceiling fan with a vintage chandelier.
"If you have a small space, you can still make it great," he says. "And most of all, make it really comfortable."

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