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List Price: $3.295 million
The Property: When Robert and Emi Kelsey bought an old Tudor house in Winnetka ten years ago, it was sort of discombobulated. Some decades before, previous owners had sold off the property in front of the house and tacked an awkward entrance onto the back, and there were a couple of staircases but no main stairway. “It was confusing,” Emi says.
But the couple loved the home’s comfortable old style and secluded setting (the house sits on nearly an acre behind other homes and has no street frontage.) So shortly after moving in, they renovated and added on, nearly tripling the size of the house while enhancing and expanding its Arts and Crafts detailing. They also installed a front porch and foyer that eliminated the home’s decades-old confusion.
Now containing 21 rooms, the home smartly combines its new and old wings. For the most part, the new rooms are larger and more open to the surrounding garden, while the old rooms are intimate spaces. But you can’t always tell which is which: Emi Kelsey notes that the renovation team (which included the architect Susan O’Connor Creevy and the historical consultant Michael Fitzsimmons) used thick stucco on the interior walls of a new screen porch in order to make it seem as if the walls had originally been part of the house’s exterior in 1907, when the architect Robert Spencer was on the job.
Spencer’s provided a very nice Tudor exterior, but it was no longer intact inside. Using the the English architect Charles Voysey as inspiration, the Kelseys’ team layered the interior with handmade details inspired by nature. As you will see in the video, the Arts and Crafts style flows through the home, with abstract flower patterns stenciled on the walls, extensive millwork, and a color palette that assigns a different season to each floor of the house. There are distinctive light fixtures, a second-floor landing and stair hall that, with lots of wood, evoke a forest, and a dining room that is linked to the garden through long rows of windows on two walls. The backyard has been dug out and gardens installed at basement level so that the relationship between indoors and out carries through down there, as well. It’s a nice complement to the courtyard, balconies, and porches that connect the upper floors to the lush gardens.
The home has six bedrooms (all on upper floors), seven-plus baths, five fireplaces, quarter-sawn oak floors, and a contemporary technology package (including security and whole-house sound) that is one of the few amenities reminding visitors that they are not visiting an early 20th-century country home.
With their children grown, the Kelseys put the home on the market late last spring.
Price Points: The Kelseys paid $900,000 for the house and property in 2001, according to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds. Their ensuing investment in the house and landscape was clearly large, but their agent, Susan Meyers, would not put a dollar figure on it.