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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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The Trosts, huge music fans, refer to the hieroglyphically marked patio they inherited as the tape deck. Photo Gallery »
 

Serendipity also has played a role in their acquisitions. One day Brian was riding the Green Line when he spotted a pair of orange Eames rockers in a Dumpster and hopped off at the next stop. “I would have had a matched set,” he says ruefully, “but I could only carry one.” Another time, he noticed a George Nelson side table loaded down with plants in a colleague’s office and offered to swap him a larger, brand-new table for the Nelson, which the co-worker was happy to do.

With the inside of the home coming along, the Trosts turned to the outside, where rotting 20-year-old siding made the place look like a pea-green ski chalet. Ever since they’d bought the house, they’d pondered what they could do to transform the exterior, and finally stumbled upon inspiration when they drove past a traditional stucco home with a contemporary-looking cedar section on the front. They contacted the architect, Casimir Kujawa, described in loose terms the look they were after, and were thrilled with the industrial-looking design he created: panels of corrugated steel for the first story; slate-gray HardiPanel, an eco-smart siding made from wood pulp, cement, and sand, for the second. Cedar planks were used to create an overhang protecting the front door and to clad the first floor in back. “Casimir knew the materials and how to keep them in our price range,” Tina says.

Brian, who has a graphic-design background, put his creative skills to work on the landscaping. The backyard, where the only signs of life used to be an old swing set and a doomed Dutch elm, has become a lush sanctuary with a pergola and a koi pond. Native grasses and shrubs provide year-round interest as well as berries and nesting spots for birds. In contrast with the two-dimensional work he usually does, Brian says, “it’s been nice to design something that has more of a purpose, and to see the design take on its own life.”

The couple describe the satisfaction they’ve found in devoting so much attention and care to creating a space they love. “I appreciate our home more,” Brian says, “because I gave up my time to do it.”

 

Photograph: Andreas Larsson

 

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