Renovation

Jeremiah Brent and Nate Berkus Disagreed on Making This Kitchen Update

What happened when they moved back to Fifth Avenue.
Lydia Geisel Avatar

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Second chances don’t come around often. But second chances to buy a home you used to live in really don’t. So when Jeremiah Brent heard from his broker that the Fifth Avenue apartment he and his husband, Nate Berkus, had owned from 2013 to 2016 was coming back up for sale, unsurprisingly, he wept.

As the designer describes in his new book, The Space That Keeps You, it was the first place that truly felt like home to him. It was where he wrote his wedding vows and where the couple welcomed their first child, Poppy. When they decided to sell the place so they could move to Los Angeles to be closer to family, the new owners seemed pretty set on keeping the apartment. That was, until one fateful evening two years after Berkus and Brent had resettled back in New York City when their broker came calling. “I got off the phone and completely fell apart,” Brent recalls. “I said to Nate, we’re moving home.” 

The first time they lived in the Fifth Avenue place, Brent admits they had to get scrappy with the interior, buying subway tile from Home Depot and wall sconces from CB2. But their decisions were clearly a hit. The people who bought the apartment from them had barely changed a thing since 2016. “We got a second chance at a first look,” says Brent, “and we wanted to go big and really change it up.” After years of fantasizing about moving back home, they got to put their second stamp on the space. Here, in his own words, Brent shares the most pressing upgrades they made during round two. 

We Expanded Downward

The idea of coming back in the house and really creating it this time for the four of us (and not the two of us) was the challenge. We had to expand. But in order to expand, I had to convince neighbors to sell. Once I finally convinced [the downstairs neighbor] to sell, she told me she’d only do it if I found her another apartment in the building. I went door to door, and Nate sat back the whole time going, “Just let it go…move on. We don’t need this.” And I was like a dog with a bone. I was not going anywhere.

We added a playroom, two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a laundry room. It’s basically like a kids’ floor. But when [Poppy and Oskar] get older and try to sneak out, they have to come past my bedroom door. So good luck. I can hear everything.

We Opted for Statement Stone on the Island

brass kitchen island
The kitchen, before. | Photography by Julie Holder
marble kitchen island
Photography by Paolo Abate, featured in The Space That Keeps You.

I love a nice marble. Actually, the particular marble that we went with [in the kitchen], my husband did not want—it was one of the only few things we’ve ever really disagreed on. I finally said to him, “Please let me do this. I’m in this room. I cook. I really believe in this marble.” I wanted the stone to contrast against the simplicity [of the space].

We Painted the Existing Cabinets 

The cabinets are the same cabinets that were in there when we bought it the first time! I wanted everything light and bright this time [so we repainted them].

We Went Moodier in the Bedroom

white bedroom
The primary bedroom, before. | Photography by Julie Holder
moody bedroom wallpaper
Photography by Paolo Abate, featured in The Space That Keeps You.

During this renovation, we bought a farm in Portugal, and it really is where I’m the happiest (aside from New York). I found this wallpaper that reminded me of being in Portugal and looking out at the trees. I never in a million years thought I’d pull it. I said to Nate, “It’s going to be louder and definitely more look than we’ve ever had.” Now it’s my favorite thing.  

We Put Carpeting in the Closet  

When we originally put graphic tile in the closet, it was revolutionary. And it was very polarizing: People either loved it or they hated it. [Today] we really want things in the house that we’re not going to grow out of. [Now we have] carpeting that is soft and plush and comfortable and quiet. 

We De-brightened the Living Room

white living room
The living room, before. | Photography by Julie Holder
modern living room
Photography by Paolo Abate, featured in The Space That Keeps You.

The house before was crisp white and black, and it was really handsome, but I wanted it to feel a little bit softer, a little bit more historic. We chose a chalky bone-colored white paint called Saint Sauvant from Portola. When you use something that’s got a little more depth to it, it shows off all the ornate moldings. 

We Turned Poppy’s Nursery Into Our Office

What used to be Poppy’s nursery is now our [small home] office. The other day, I was telling her about how she was a baby in this room, and I used to come in and hold her while she cried. She looked at me and she goes, “You put me in a closet?” And I said, “It’s not a closet—it’s New York City, okay?”

Lydia Geisel Avatar

Lydia Geisel

Home Editor

Lydia Geisel has been on the editorial team at Domino since 2017. Today, she writes and edits home and renovation stories, including house tours, before and afters, and DIYs, and leads our design news coverage. She lives in New York City.

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