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List Price: $669,000
The Property: Situated in Lake County, about 30 miles northwest of the Loop, Riverwoods was envisioned as a model town of an unusual sort: all its homes would nestle themselves in their natural surroundings, a deeply wooded plain adjacent to the Des Plaines River. More than 40 of the town’s original homes were designed by the architect Edward Humrich, who said that “a house should be like an outcropping of the land, a rock formation, to belong to the site.”
That philosophy is amply evident in this home, built in 1951 on 1.75 acres. The flat planes of the roof stacked like pieces of rock, the brick and wood construction, and the expanses of glass accentuate nature whether you’re outside looking in or, as we demonstrate in today’s video, inside looking out.
The centerpiece of the original part of the home is a large living room, with windows all around and a high wood ceiling that suggests the tree canopy outside. The layout is both attractive and practical, since Humrich, a practitioner of passive solar design, oriented the room to the south. During summer, when the sun is high in the sky, the deep roof overhangs and the trees help maintain the living room as a shaded oasis; in the winter, when the sun is lower, its light floods the room. Arlene Erlebacher, who bought the house with her husband in 1998, says that in the colder months, the combined warmth from the sun and the large fireplace on the north wall is often enough to keep the space comfortable.
When it was first built, the home was 1,700 square feet and had some of the small spaces of that era. For dining, Humrich provided only a small portion of the living room, and beyond it were a small kitchen and a laundry room. The owners prior to the Erlebachers commissioned the firm Balfour Ames Lanza to add about 1,300 square feet. In the additions, original features were respected and extended—there’s a wooden screen of slats adjacent to the new dining room that matches a screen on the original office so well, the Erlebachers thought both were new until they consulted Humrich’s original floor plans. But the new spaces also added a key element: sunlight from above, via several skylights.
A band of Frank Lloyd Wright–inspired windows across the north wall of the added-on dining room picks up the horizontal emphasis of Humrich’s original roofs and exterior siding. Shelving and windows in the expanded kitchen and in the north-facing windows in the sitting room also pick up on those horizontal lines. The sitting room was once the fairly small master, back when the home had just two bedrooms, which met on a screened porch. The expanded space contains two new bedrooms, so the old master was converted into a sitting room, which leads to the new master. Its exposed-brick walls suggest that it’s part of the original design, but the skylight overhead gives it away. Not that it matters much, because the real focal point here are the tall windows on two walls and the outside trees that come right up to them.
Price Points: The home came on the market June 13; there’s a contract on it now, but the contract has a contingency on it, says Honore Frumentino, the listing agent, so the house is still available for showings and offers.