List Price: $699,900
The Property: Like a camouflaged animal that hides in plain sight, this wild and irreverent West Chicago residence appears from the street to be nothing more than a big ranch house on a huge lot. But hiding inside that conservative shell is one of the zaniest homes I have ever visited.
The owner, Monty Stahelin, has been traveling to Africa since childhood and throwing parties his entire adult life. After buying this house in 1986, he combined those two interests to create a home that feels like a hunt club retreat. He has made several additions to the home and installed a safari-themed décor that manages to be pretty outrageous without going over the top—unless you think of a master bedroom with a grass hut over the bed, or a kitchen with leopard-print fabric on the cabinets, as over the top.
Parties here have attracted the likes of John Entwistle of The Who, the country singer and musician Waylon Jennings, and Tina Yothers from the TV show Family Ties. Many guests showed up after performing at Synergy, the West Chicago nightclub Stahelin used to own. They would hang out in the 850-square-foot entertainment wing Stahelin added to the north side of the house; it encompasses a screening room, a grass-roofed bar, another grass hut, and a pool table area with a light fixture made from an old wooden kayak. Tree branches glittering with dozens of tiny lights hang overhead. There is also a vast outdoor entertainment area.
A big family room displays many of Stahelin’s African artifacts—including the head of a water buffalo—and the dining room has a two-story-high grass-paneled ceiling. Stahelin has the house configured as a three-bedroom residence, but there are at least two rooms that could be repurposed as bedrooms. Just a few steps off the house is a little bungalow that formerly held a hot tub.
Price Points: Now planning to build a new house on a wooded eight-acre lot in Warrenville, Stahelin put his jungle lair on the market in early 2008, with a price tag of $849,900. He has since cut the price, but at the same time has continued improving the property. When I was there last week, he had just finished renovating an upstairs bathroom and building a new fire pit for the deck.
Listing Agent: Pattie Murray of Koenig & Strey GMAC, 630-545-5055; firstname.lastname@example.org