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List Price: $5.995 million
The Property: Now, in high summer, is the time when we most want our homes and gardens to mesh together as one enlarged living space. In Lake Forest, the architect Howard Van Doren Shaw executed that idea splendidly in a country estate he designed in 1909 for Hugh and Mary McBirney. As you can see in this original plan for the residence—which was known as the House of the Four Winds—the home’s long axis extends from the main living rooms out through a sheltering porch and on to a linear arrangement of fountains and gardens.
Inside, Shaw created a home that was exquisite in its details, such as the rich ornamental plasterwork in a sitting room and the detailed carvings on the dining room’s ceiling beams. True to his Arts & Crafts ideals, Shaw was eclectic in his borrowings. There are Spanish ornaments on the porch railings and the main mantelpiece, and a staircase railing would fit nicely alongside the work of the Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
Outside, Shaw worked with the Boston garden designer Rose Standish Nichols (who did a dozen Lake Forest estates) to create an outdoor space inspired by the Generalife gardens at the Alhambra in Granada, Spain.
After Mary McBirney’s death in 1954, a developer bought and subdivided the five-acre property. In 1974, Bill and Lyn Redfield paid $140,000 for the house and its 1.89-acre grounds. The residence, which hadn’t been adequately winterized for year-round use, showed extensive wear and damage, and the gardens had grown shabby. The Redfields embarked on an extensive renovation—“We thought it would be fun,” Lyn says today—and spent 20 years meticulously restoring every inch of the 19-room home. In 2000, they started on the gardens. The Redfields estimate that they spent $2 million on bringing back the grounds alone—and well more than that on the home. With plans to move into the city, the couple put the house on the market this past spring.
As you will see in our video, the house, though large, is warm and inviting, from the arched ceilings of the entry hall to a cozy television room in a former butler’s workroom. The two-room master suite combines the smallish original master bedroom with a onetime sleeping porch.
Price Points: Lake Forest has had one sale for more than $5 million in 2011, a 21st-century take on the Lake Forest country home. (Scroll to the bottom of the linked story for sale information.) According to the Lake County Recorder of Deeds, the buyer was Thomas Demetrio, a top Chicago personal injury lawyer.