As the Chicago editor for UrbanDaddy (a daily e-mail newsletter that covers the city’s newest hotspots), Chris LaMorte has become an expert on all the latest places to see and be seen. And judging by the expansive art collection in his Lake Shore Drive apartment in Lakeview, he’s also a bit of an expert on contemporary art.
But collecting art wasn’t always his passion. His partner, Rob (a radiologist who works in Michigan during the week), started out as the main investor. “I had an interest in art but never thought I’d be a collector,” LaMorte says. “In fact, collecting intimidated me.”
LaMorte says Rob developed a passion for outsider art, and the couple have since acquired pieces from other genres. “We started with folksy stuff and now we’re moving into contemporary photography that’s a little edgy,” he says.
One of the first pieces to catch your eye in the gallery-like sixth-floor apartment is the collection of photographs by London photographer Martin Parr. “They’re bright and quirky, and there’s a little bit of an ironic edge to them—that might also describe Rob and me,” LaMorte says.
In fact, the 12 photos were the anchor pieces when the couple started building their collection in this space. When they moved into the apartment seven years ago, they pretty much started from scratch. They enlisted designer Todd Haley, who aided in filling out the unconventional space that includes a tiny kitchen, two pillars and an extra-large living room. A solution for the large room: custom-made furniture. The oversized sofa (which is the size of two twin beds lying head-to-head) and coffee table were designed by Haley.
The couple wanted the room to feel like a party space, with ample seating. “We’ve had many nights dancing on that table,” LaMorte says, adding that friends have suggested he host a giant oyster party and fill the slightly sunken table with ice and oysters. Adding to the festive mood in the room is the piece called Afterparty (by Alex DaCorte), pastel-lit glass bulbs made to look like deflating balloons.
The whole apartment doesn’t maintain a party vibe, though. LaMorte works from home, after all. To that end, he transformed the second bedroom into an office/TV room. With the help of interior design studio Urban Source, he turned the room’s versatile closet area into a writing station.
And of course, like the rest of the home, this room is also filled with art, much of it sourced from exhibits at the Cultural Center, Art Chicago and other local spots that have featured Chicago artists such as Doug Ischar, Gary Stochl and Jeff Carter. LaMorte also turns to auctions, dealers and galleries for new works. His advice to new collectors? “Just start buying things you’re drawn to, and go from there. When I started, I’d buy pieces for ten dollars just because I liked them,” he says. “I’d spend more money on framing.”