Great Garages

AUTO MOTIVATED: An ingenious garage with an Asian vibe hides in plain sight in a North Side backyard


Lights inside Dan Wheeler garage automatically turn on at dusk. Polyethylene boulders glow in the rock garden.

Lights inside the garage automatically turn on at dusk. Polyethylene boulders glow in the rock garden.


The idea of a garage that lights up like a Japanese lantern, rather than the standard boxy model with a pitched roof and vinyl siding, couldn’t have found a more receptive audience than Barry and Linda Goldberg. They were already bucking convention with the conversion of their North Center two-flat: Not interested in turning it into a typical three- or four-bedroom house, they’d requested that their architect, Dan Wheeler of Wheeler Kearns Architects, give them two floors of open space.

 

By using the same material for the fence and garage, Wheeler created an outdoor room with simple white walls.

By using the same material for the fence and garage, Wheeler created an outdoor room with simple white walls.


They also didn’t want grass in their backyard. “We have no desire to come home from work and do lawn work,” Barry says. What they come home to instead is a serene enclosure with bluestone pavers, crushed bluestone insets, minimal plantings, and a Japanese vibe— set against the backdrop of one very cool “glow-in-the-dark” garage.

 

The rectilinear simplicity of the back of the house is complemented by minimalist greenery.

The rectilinear simplicity of the back of the house is complemented by minimalist greenery.


Wheeler first tested the concept—a basic garage with one louvered wall facing the back of the house—at his own home ten years ago. The louvers, or slanted horizontal blades, resemble a jalousie window but are fixed rather than maneuverable. They’re made from HardiePanel cement boards, sold in four-by-eight-foot sheets, which Wheeler had cut in half lengthwise. The resulting wide-planked look reads more modern (and less busy, Barry says) than common one-foot-wide siding. Wheeler used the same material—which is insect-repellent, doesn’t rot, and doesn’t need painting—for the six-foot-high fence surrounding the yard. The effect is simple, clean, and economical.

 

The house looks like a typical Chicago two-flat from the street, but it was blown out to allow for open space inside.

The house looks like a typical Chicago two-flat from the street, but it was blown out to allow for open space inside.


For their part, the Goldbergs set lights inside the garage on an automatic timer so that their yard is softly illuminated from dusk till bedtime. “It breaks up that blackness that’s so common in urban backyards,” Wheeler says.

Photography: Alan Shortall
Styling: Diane Ewing

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Architect: Dan Wheeler, Wheeler Kearns Architects, 343 S. Dearborn St., 312-939-7787, wkarch.com. Landscape design: McKay Landscape Architects, 5215 N. Ravenswood Ave., 773-561-1227, mckaylandarch.com. Contractor: Benchdog Construction, 2006 W. Addison St., 773-248-8988, benchdogcorp.com. Jose A. Gandia orange Plexiglas and aluminum lanterns, Orange Skin, 223 W. Erie St., 312-335-1033, orangeskin.com. Equinox bistro table, Horizon folding chairs, Barlow Tyrie, Merchandise Mart, 312-527-2397. Cocktail napkins, Elements, 741 N. Wells St., 312-642-6574, elementschicago.com. Highball glasses, Sunset dipping bowl, At Home in the City, 350 W. Erie St., 312-587-8150, susanfredmanathome.com. Meteor lamp, Mobili Möbel, 549 N. Wells St., 312-329-9669, mobilimobel.com. Parking and Recreation: 1. Robert Natke, UrbanWorks Architecture, 213 W. Institute Pl., 312-202-1200, urbanworksarchitecture.com, greengarageplans.com. 2. Julie Fisher, fcStudio, 3147 W. Logan Blvd., 312-850-0850, fcstudioinc.com. 3. Tom Bassett-Dilley Architect, 301 Harrison St., Oak Park, 708-434-0381, greengarageplans.com. Green roof by Live Roof, Spring Lake, Mich., 800-875-1392, liveroof.com.

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