Back to Basics
Using classic materials, Nate Berkus keeps his master bath and dressing room simply luxe
In bathrooms, Berkus likes to use timeless materials, such as subway tiles on the walls and hexagonal marble tiles on the floor, because "they last forever and you never get sick of them." To achieve an industrial look, he used a lot of metals. Photo Gallery:::
"Bill Blass used to say dressing rooms should be large and bathrooms should be small,"says Nate Berkus. But The Oprah Winfrey Show decorator-in-residence was finding living by that decree a bit confining. His entire master bath was about 100 square feet—just large enough to contain a shower, small sink, and toilet. The bath, dressing room, and entire Gold Coast condo, for that matter, were designed in the 1950s by the well-known Chicago architect Samuel Marx (the home's pre-Berkus decor is featured in a book about Marx, UltraModern: Samuel Marx; Architect, Designer, Art Collector, which came out last fall). Berkus was careful not to let this nugget of design history fall through the cracks when, a year ago, he set about tripling the size of his loo by cutting significantly (to Mr. Blass's presumed dismay) into the adjacent dressing room.
He preserved as much as possible of Marx's elegant wooden storage system, including the original nickel hanging rods, and painted it slate gray (it was white) to go with the more industrial look in the bathroom. What he gained was space for a luxurious master bath more in synch with today's standards, with enough space to include a freestanding cast-iron tub imported from England (he had its exterior painted army green, his favorite color); a steel double-sink console of his own design; an 18th-century armoire that was a gift from the co-owner of Antiques on Old Plank Road ("It's the oldest piece of furniture I own," says Berkus); and a pet leather pig that his boyfriend, shoe designer Brian Atwood, shipped to him as a surprise. Berkus had seen it and chatted with Atwood about it at the Liberty store in London, "and a few weeks later, it arrived at my door," he says. Good thing he'd expanded his bathroom—where else do you keep a pig?
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Photography: Nathan Kirkman
Styling: Barri Leiner