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List Price: $1.99 million
The Property: The condo building at 20 E. Cedar is one of my favorite in the city (even though I inadvertently called it 20 E. Elm in today’s video). The detailed Gothic exterior signals that it was intended as elegant housing when it opened in 1928 as apartments. It later became condos, but either way it’s a fine place to live in a popular neighborhood where you’ve got the lake on one end of the block and Rush Street on the other.
The 1920s sizzle is palpable in a fourth-floor condo that was completely renovated just a few years ago—and later featured in Chicago Home + Garden. Jay Michael gutted the place when he bought it in 2009 from an owner who had lived here for over 40 years. He was smitten, he says, with one particular detail that defines the entire home: a set of two-story living room windows, facing south and bringing in a ton of light. On one living room wall is a large limestone fireplace that was covered with paint when Michael moved in, but it has been returned to its gorgeous prime. And hanging 18 feet overhead is an arched ceiling with ornamental scrollwork that really makes the room pop.
The ceiling is much lower in what was a formal dining room but now is more of a hunt club-styled study—because as Michael pointed out, who needs a formal dining room anymore? The study has textured wallpaper and a high-gloss ceiling, creating an intimacy that contrasts with the larger scale of the living room.
The practical reason that ceiling is only one story high next to a two story room is that these apartments were originally designed to mimic houses, so most are duplexes. While living in an urban mid-rise, residents still had an elegant grand staircase that took them up to a separate bedroom level.
All the spaces on the three-bedroom second level have been re-mapped. All the finishes are new as well, from the rich crown moldings to the wall coverings and down to the floors. There are now two bedrooms in the front that share a crisply tiled bathroom. At the back is a large master that had been a smaller bedroom. Renovations included creating a master bath. There’s a nice-looking shower in there, and just as important: better water pressure than an old building sometimes has. Like the finishes, the systems—water, air conditioning—were brought in during the renovation.
But remnants of the past were kept, including an old firehose rack that is still attached to a master bedroom wall and now functions as a clothing rack. In the kitchen is another piece with history: a large millwork pantry cabinet was made to look as if it had been there since the 1920s. Two sections contain shelving, but the third opens to a deeper space, once the coal chute but now a bar pantry.
The kitchen is large and encompasses informal dining space as well as a large island and handsome cabinetry. It all suits contemporary tastes but looks as if it might have been done this way if these materials had been available in the twenties. Because after all, style never goes out of style.
Price Points: Michael paid $920,000 for the condo in 2009. He says asking over $1 million more now is in line with what it takes to bring a place like this back to life. “You couldn’t do all we did here for less than a million dollars,” he says. Another unit on the same floor—two bedrooms, with dated fixtures and paint still on the fireplace, is priced at $899,000.
NOTE: Today’s property has just gone under contract.
Listing Agent: Daly Donnellan of Flats LLC, 312-618-4408 and email@example.com
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