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Urbane Renewal

One couple’s creativity, hard work, and openness to serendipity turn an Oak Park house into the modernist dwelling of their dreams

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By accidentally misspelling Eames” as “Aaemes,” Brian stumbled onto an excellent eBay deal on the table and chairs used as a patio set. Photo Gallery »
 


Homeowner Brian Trost with the couple’s dog, Guinness. The clean, modern lines of the windows were the first thing that attracted the Trosts to the house, now clad with cedar planks, corrugated steel, and eco-smart siding. Photo Gallery »

House hunters with a mid-century modern aesthetic would likely rank Oak Park as one of the last places they’d look for a home. The suburb is known throughout the world for its abundance of historically significant Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, interspersed with rambling old Victorians. So Brian and Tina Trost consider themselves lucky to have found a home there that not only squared with their taste but also came at an affordable price.

The house was built in the mid-1980s, after the previous one had burned down. “The first thing that caught my eye was the cool windows,” Brian says. The home needed a complete design overhaul, not to mention a gut rehab of the two bathrooms and kitchen, but the couple decided that the basic, clean-lined structure was something they could work with.

The gut jobs were done by professionals, but Brian did much of the remaining work, including overhauling the windows. (His day job is creative director at an ad agency; Tina is a court clerk at the Daley Center.) The glass didn’t need to be replaced, but the “orange-glow-stained” interior trim, as Tina calls it, which looked like a badly executed homage to Wright, did. New, stripped-down white trim simplified the look dramatically. For windows where the couple wanted privacy but not drapes, they hit upon a perfect solution on one of their innumerable trips to Home Depot—Gila frosted window film, an inexpensive, translucent acetate that can be trimmed to size and stuck to glass.

In the small, cramped kitchen, a badly placed island prevented the oven door from opening all the way. Closing off one of the two entryways to the room actually opened things up, by creating a solid wall that could be lined with cabinets and more counter space. To furnish the kitchen, the Trosts splurged on a Herman Miller Eames table and chairs they found online. It would prove to be the first of many such purchases, inspired by Brian’s childhood passion for classic TV spy shows. He had always been drawn to mid-century modern furnishings without quite knowing why, he recalls. “Then when I was older I made this connection: It’s furniture I’d seen in an old ’70s Doctor Who episode.”

The Trosts have amassed their collection of modern furniture slowly over the years. “It was pretty empty in here for a while,” Tina says, adding that the annual Knoll sale at the Merchandise Mart became a major event in their lives. “We’d focus on one piece and save up all year.”

 

Photography: Andreas Larsson

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