Inside Julia Roberts’ Lebensraum

HOW MANY APARTMENTS DOES JULIA ROBERTS WANT? A friend of Julia Roberts recently told a reporter that the former Mrs. Lyle Lovett “loves it” in New York: “She loves the subways and the gritty streets, and she loves that she has no maids or servants; she does her own laundry.” The newly 30 pretty woman loves it so much that she seems to want to buy as much of it as possible: She is said to have a standing order to buy up any and all properties that come on the market in her condominium building. In January, she gobbled up her fifth: a one-bedroom apartment on the second floor.

Over the past five years, Ms. Roberts has slowly collected apartments of the 1912 building in which she lives. In 1993, Ms. Roberts bought the building’s penthouse and the apartment below it for a total of $2.15 million. The duplex apartment has a 70-foot living room with a fireplace, a huge planted terrace overlooking the park, and a library. Its two master bedrooms come with fireplaces. According to a report in last September’s Good Housekeeping , the apartment is “painted in calm shades of muted greens and blues” and is filled with “fluffy pillows and warm quilts.” She reportedly doesn’t spend much time in her three-bedroom house in Los Angeles.

Ms. Roberts paid $365,000 for a smaller apartment on the third floor in 1995, and the year before she dropped $450,000 for a 1,050-square-foot two-bedroom apartment that’s located on the floor below her penthouse duplex. The latest addition-which makes five of the 24 apartments in the building hers-is a 1,000-square-foot two-bedroom apartment on the second floor, which was on the market for $279,335 (cheap!) because it was a bank foreclosure. Which means her land grab is not contiguous. So what’s going on here? Does she want to own the whole building? (Or just have space to fold that laundry?)

Ms. Roberts’ spokesman, Nancy Seltzer, wouldn’t say. Maybe she’s taking the advice of her mother, Betty Motes, a real estate agent back in Smyrna, Ga.