Sarah Susanka’s Not So Big House in Libertyville
For a closer look at the house, launch the photo gallery »
List Price: $810,000
The Property: A traditonal-looking neighborhood is springing up next door to Libertyville’s charming downtown. SchoolStreet, a New Urbanist development on the site of a failed townhouse project, has been selling well, and its promised front porches are becoming more numerous.
For one house, the developers brought in Sarah Susanka, the architect and author of The Not So Big House and other books. Asked to apply her concepts to a home at SchoolStreet, she started with one very clever move. Reasoning that the kitchen is where people do most of their living today, she put the kitchen at the front of the house, opening onto the front porch. This enhances the convivial concept of the neighborhood by encouraging the family to hang out in the front of the house rather than in a typical suburban kitchen tucked at the back and overlooking a private yard.
As you will see in the video, Susanka has made other strategic design decisions that make the three-bedroom house feel larger than it is. Ceiling heights vary to define rooms within larger spaces; cabinets and shelving are in every conceivable spot; and nooks of assorted sizes house a study, window seats, and a loft. As she mentions in video tours she’s done of the home, Susanka likes rooms that serve multiple purposes, such as the study area off the living room that can also be used as a formal dining room when needed.
Her craftiness does not come at the expense of visual pop. The living room exudes warmth, with cherry banding around the ceiling frame, a wood screen that separates the room from the staircase, and a view across the study nook and out through a circle-in-the-square window that Susanka designed for Marvin Windows.
A second big move Susanka made was pushing the staircase almost to the back of the house. Because they are built on slender lots, each SchoolStreet house has one long side with no windows (to keep neighbors from feeling packed together because they can see into each other’s homes). By building a wide stair tower and capping it with a surround of windows, Susanka brings light down into this part of the house.
The second floor has retreats at both ends. At the front is the master suite, with a window seat that overlooks the neighborhood’s front porches and lots of closet space. At the back is a rooftop deck that has both sheltered and open-sky areas. The zero lot line style at SchoolStreet means the homes have no ground-level backyards; this upper-level space compensates for that, providing views of the nearby trees, homes, and shops.
Price Points: While the home has been open for tours since November, it was not officially for sale and had no announced price, until today. If it sells at full price, it will top the highest sale price there yet—$802,681. Only three other lots of the development’s 26 remain for sale; a buyer could duplicate the Susanka house on one of those lots.
Listing Agent: John McLinden of SchoolStreet Partners; 312-401-2600 or email@example.com