Like many of the classic and international movies featured at his Chicago International Film Festival, Michael Kutza’s home in Old Town is in black and white.
“I wanted it all to be black and white so my guests would be the color that would pop out,” said Kutza, who in the roughly 57 years he has lived in the condominium has hosted everyone from Busby Berkeley, the director of 1930s Hollywood musicals, to top model Cindy Crawford in his home.
Kutza, who launched the film festival from this two-bedroom home in 1964 when the event “was a one-man show,” is putting it on the market next week. The asking price for the two-bedroom, 1,350-square-foot home is $499,000, and the property is represented by Sophia Worden of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Chicago.
Kutza first moved into the unit in, he believes, 1964 as a renter fresh out of college, when the building was the Eugenie Lane apartments. When it converted condos sometime in the 1980s or 1990s, Kutza bought the unit and has kept it ever since.
“I was always traveling six months a year to go to film festivals, so it’s more like I’ve lived here 30 years,” Kutza said. Now 79 years old and the festival’s emeritus CEO, he said he plans to downsize into a one-bedroom space, probably in Old Town, and travel more. The 57th running of the film festival is next week.
In the living room, seen at the top of this story, Kutza installed a mirrored ceiling “as part of a Hollywood illusion,” he said. The black floor is part of it, too: When the festival honored Berkeley in 1967, he brought along tap-dancing star Ruby Keeler. Kutza installed a black dance floor in his living room, and Berkeley and Keeler danced on it, he recalls.
The dining room is white to the living room’s black, but with black furniture. The spiral staircase is a change Kutza made from the original design, which had larger stairs that he felt took up too much space.
Besides, “a spiral staircase is more theatrical,” Kutza said.
Built in 1960, early in the revitalization of Old Town, the building was designed by architect Ben Weese, who worked in his brother’s firm, Harry Weese & Associates.
Kutza’s condo is on the second and third floors of the three-story building. In the photo above, a balcony near the left side of the building with two pots of yellow flowers is his.
Kutza’s kitchen is nearly all glossy black, and in the standard of its era, it’s relatively small.
“I can make a lot of food in there,” Kutza said. “It’s like making food in an airplane kitchen.”
The black and white theme is also an echo of the work of the late Chicago photographer Victor Skrebneski, who in the 1980s did a series of sexy posters for the film festival. Skrebneski lived nearby and attended events in this condo, as did Roger Ebert, artist Red Grooms, Italian movie star Marcello Mastroianni, film director Franco Zeffirelli and others, according to Kutza.
In Kutza’s bedroom, the walls, ceiling and carpet are all black.
“Pretty glamorous, right?” Kutza said.
The bathroom is black and white, and the powder room downstairs is all black. The only room in the house that breaks from the color scheme is the second bedroom, where the walls and ceiling are royal blue.
Each bedroom opens onto a balcony, one looking north, another looking south. Both are seen in the photos below. Kutza has landscaped the southern balcony to be “my oasis garden,” he said.