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Located in the rapidly transitioning Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago, this extensive reworking of a recently completed spec. house combines a quiet urbanity with intimate spaces, unexpected moments, and a close attention to detail. Without moving a single structural wall or modifying any existing fenestration, we radically changed the relationship and character of spaces through an emphasis on custom millwork, furniture (custom-designed by the architects as well as commercial selections), nuanced lighting, and an extensive art program including commissioned works. White Oak paneling and cabinetry walls dominate the public areas and create a sense of cohesiveness from space to space. The solid, rabbeted Oak construction is detailed like veneer at its edges. Cleverly hidden storage and infrastructure sit behind the wood walls while hot-rolled steel animates fireplaces, niches and shelving. White walls and white furniture with red accents fill the Oak-defined rooms.
Certain rooms deviate completely from the White Oak and white paint regime such as the glossy black exercise room, red wine cellar, the black, white, and chrome office, and the pink bedroom. Decks on 4 levels and pocket gardens provide outdoor spaces with city views as well as intimate spaces for contemplation. We used Garapa wood, stained to match the interior White Oak, on a painted steel structure for all exterior surfaces. Where seen together through sliding patio doors, these two woods create the appearance of continuity between inside and outside.
In the basement, a minimal White Oak wall with simple cabinets unites a well-stocked bar with a home a/v theater. A new stair / bench leads from the basement to an intimate and sheltered basement garden and deck.
Reminiscent of the secret mechanisms in a Bond villain’s lair, the Dr. No Cabinet animates the dining room on the main level. The cabinet responds to important needs: it conceals existing flues and adds privacy screening at a property-line window. An existing fireplace remains at one end, and a new steel built-in side table provides necessary storage for the dining room. Above the niche, a cnc-milled wood screen filters natural light from the window, obscuring views to the neighbor only 30” away. At the push of a hidden button, a bright-orange motorized liquor cabinet drops slowly from the top of the niche with all the ingredients for the perfect (shaken) martini. Hidden light coves transform the object into an ambient light fixture at sunset when the space becomes the perfect room for devising any evil plan.
A minimally-detailed Oak passage with hidden doors leads to the highly-detailed kitchen and family room, dominated by backlit Oak cabinet walls. This space opens out onto a terraced set of steel and wood decks that ascend to the roof of the existing garage.
New glass guardrails contain the main stair and the White Oak reappears in the master bathroom and bedroom suite. In the bedroom, a secret orange desk with custom bench opens into the room. The office and pink bedroom are additional moments of surprise on this floor. A last flight of stairs takes one to a small penthouse with bar that opens out to a covered outdoor dining area and an open deck with tall-grass planter. The penthouse and upper deck form a continuity of indoor, semi-enclosed, and outdoor spaces untied by a straightforward use of wood boards.
The result is a carefully orchestrated sequence of living spaces and curated art installations (including important works of contemporary photography) that respond directly to the personalities of the inhabitants.
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Completion: November 2013
Size: 4,100 square feet
General Contractor: John Krenger
Millwork: KWI Cabinetry