While Chicago knows him as the Lifestyle Architect™ behind FLATS, we’ve recently decided to share him with the world in Bravo’s latest reality show, 100 Days of Summer, and the verdict is in… Jay Michael is as brilliant and hilarious onscreen as he is off!

FLATS is built upon Jay’s belief that living well does not have to mean living lavishly.  We caught up with Jay in his new Uptown apartment.  He’s the first resident in his latest FLATS building, and is setting a very stylish example of how he keeps things chic in less than 800 square feet.  Next week we’re taking you on a tour of his new digs but today we’re getting to know Jay a little better, over tea.

So how are the new digs?  Tell us all about it!

Great!  So, the idea behind this place specifically is that all the new pieces are from CB2, and all the pre-war pieces are things that I got in Edgewater, so right around the neighborhood.  I think the big challenge here was the space, and making this space livable, it’s obviously very small.  I moved from a 3700 square foot house in the gold coast to this, and I’m having a ball here!  It’s been so great for me!

Wait, where’s the “penis art” from the show?!

Oh, It’s in storage!  I’m so glad that aired on the show because that artist, Audra Jacot, is so talented!  We really shouldn’t be calling it “penis art” though!  I’ve apologized to her for saying that on the show, because it’s caught on… I just didn’t know what else to call it!  The piece is titled “white“.  I actually bought that art in this neighborhood, about three blocks from here.  I walked by and thought they were doves!  The gallery owner told me that they were in fact penis’ and that they had been selling them separately because nobody wanted to buy them all together.  I told her that if they could buy back all the ones they had sold separately I would buy them all in one go and put them above my fireplace in a very traditional space.  At the time I had a really great painting above that fireplace but I was obviously willing to compromise for the “penis art”.

That’s amazing!  I love that you thought it was doves at first!  I obviously was never in your old place, but I can’t imagine it being cooler than this.  The layout is really awesome!

I think the key is that I’ve never felt incumbered by the rules of what people have done before me in real estate, because I didn’t have that training.  I’m not an architect, I didn’t intern with any type of developer, so I don’t have those rules built up.  Those rules aren’t wrong, they’re just not my rules.

So what is your background?  How did you get to where you are today?

Well, first, I applied to all the wrong schools for me.  Pretty much all Big Ten schools.  But then a girl that was a friend of mine had a brochure on her desk for a study abroad program in London.  I decided to call the school and see if they would take a full time student, but last minute! It was about six weeks before people were going to college.  I went crazy FedExing them stuff, and I ended up going to school seven or eight weeks later in London.  I packed two big, over sized suitcases and just went.  I got a job when I got there at the first Starbucks I saw, and that’s how I kind of worked on paying my way the first year.  The whole experience gave me a lust for living I hadn’t really ever had.  I studied a lot.  I partied a lot.  Basically I just learned a lot about lifestyle and culture.  Up until that point I had just been living in the Chicago suburbs wanting to shop at Nordstrom but couldn’t, and then I was in London wanting to shop at Hermes but couldn’t!  I graduated early, mainly because it was so expensive, and the school got me a job with CNBC News there, who got me a visa to stay.

So at what point did you go from communications and media to developing and architecture?

I worked about CNBC news for about 18 months after graduation, at which point my father passed away, so I came home.  I then met my business partner at the Shiva.  I had known him my whole life, but that’s really the history of where we connected.  My background has nothing to do with interiors, though I do remember being very young and being kind of obsessed with my bedroom and my dorm room.

So, what are the latest happenings at FLATS?  What do you have coming down the pike now that you’re a ‘Bravo-lebrity’?

So building community has been and will always be really important to us.  We’ve partnered with Heritage, a coffee shop, who we met when we were building custom bikes for our buildings, and now that’s evolved into all our bigger lobbies being transformed into Heritage Cafes.  So you’ll feel like you’re walking into a Stumptown coffee joint upon entering.  But back to community, one of our latest projects is called FLATS Studio, which is where we give open storefronts associated with our building projects to artists for the purpose of engaging the community.  We partnered with the city to do Chicago Artists Month, which was hosted at the former Charlie Chaplin theater, which we own, so now, the Chicago Artist Coalition is our partner to build studio spaces.  The idea is to continue to always bring artists to our communities.  We believe they’re a really important piece of the puzzle, in fact they often act as the glue because they really are true community builders.

You’re one busy guy!  Was it a hard decision to put your personal life on TV?

You know, I think I am a pretty open person and I don’t mind sharing my personal life in exchange for exposing my work life.  FLATS is a consumer product and we sell to the same people who consider Bravo their guilty pleasure.  Would I have done it if it where on say… VH1, No!

What surprised you most about doing a reality show?

I was surprised how real it can actually be.  I think my character on the show is pretty spot on with the person I really am.  I didn’t expect that.

What are your relationships like with the other people from the show today?

When everything in life feels rushed, I tent to judge too quickly.  Vince is a great example, we were sort of at odds the entire show until right at the end when I really realized how warm and charismatic a person he was.  I apologized for being unnecessarily guarded and to be honest…that  moment, caught on camera at Tara’s Cabin, marked the true beginning of a friendship.  We are all friends…some much closer than others.  I am the least associated to the group but I was the last one to meet the lot…so I am not surprised by that.  We all know I LOVE Pascale.


[SIGN] Aries  [GUILTY PLEASURE] Chick-fil-a (I know they hate the gays, but I never said they were smart…they make a great fried chicken sandwich and that’s about all those do-do’s need to do)  [CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT] Louise, my lil Frenchie  [BIGGEST LAUGH] NeNe Leeks. [BEST COMPLIMENT] Someone once told me I had a warm soul.  [COFFEE ORDER] Stumptown Hairbender roast from Heritage.  [SNEAKERS] New Balance and beater TOD’s high tops.  [T-SHIRT] Tri-blend from AA  [SUIT] Suit Supply  [TIE] Hermes  [WATCH] Casio  [COLOGNE] Penhaligons  [MOISTURIZER] Lush Ro’s Argan [BEDDING] Crisp, white, and with a simple black border  GADGET: Mophie [FAVORITE DESIGNER] Hussein Chayalan  [NEWS SOURCE] BBC  [BEST VACATION] Biking the Vietnam China borders  [RESTAURANT] RJ Grunts  [BEST FRIEND] Adam (we met at camp when we were 6)  [MOVIE] Beaches  [HOTEL] The Connaught  [CURRENTLY READING] Mighty Be Our Powers  [DREAM DINNER PARTY] 20 of my closest friends and family, a farm to fork meal at a long table near the edge of a cliff..somewhere off the coast of Britain.  (with rolling green hills opposite the ocean of course!)

Tour Jay Michael’s home with us… HERE.

[Photos By Hallie Duesenberg]

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