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List Price: $1.195 million
The Property: The tulips bloomed and faded a little early this year, but at one house in River Forest, they’re in perpetual bloom. The home is the design of Robert Spencer, a Prairie-style architect whose handprints are on one of the city’s prettiest public spaces: the south lobby of the Cultural Center, which is filled with glittering tile mosaics.
For the River Forest house, built in 1915, Spencer chose a tulip motif, which he used on the decorative panels above the exterior columns and front door, the indoor and outdoor light fixtures, the living room mantel, and on 100 art glass windows.
In an L-shaped arrangement of formal rooms—the foyer, the living and dining rooms, and the study or library—the tulips in the windows mingle with the views of the greenery outside. The rooms look much as they would have nearly 100 years ago, with their extensive wood trim, their bookcases and benches intact, and the mechanical workings of those lovely windows. Spencer’s innovations, it turns out, weren’t only artistic: he invented and patented the hardware for cranking open and holding in place the heavy casement windows here.
Over the past 15 years, the window workings and glass have all been restored, and the plumbing, electrical, and other systems were updated by the owners, John and Susan Curran, who were careful not to interfere with the home’s original character. No surprise, given that John Curran runs Curran Glass Studio, a Berwyn company that designs, restores, and reproduces art glass. “You get an authentic, historical house, top to bottom,” says Tony Iwersen, the agent representing the house.
While the main rooms are arranged in an L, the home’s footprint is a T. On the second floor, the T creates three distinct bedroom zones. In the long shaft of the T is the master suite, including a large bedroom, a bathroom, and a sleeping porch surrounded by tulip windows. One arm of the T holds two big bedrooms and a bathroom (according to Iwersen, two adult sisters of the home’s original owners shared the bedrooms). The other arm of the T holds what was a servant’s apartment; it has its own bath and is now used as an office, but could easily become another bedroom. There’s a fifth bedroom on the third floor and a family room and billiards room in the former attic.
Back on the first floor, the kitchen and butler’s pantry have their original footprint and cabinetry, refinished and with modern appliances, but they are smallish and awkward, as Iwersen acknowledges. As you will see in the video, however, there is a small garden space that leads to an old carriage house. Expanding the kitchen into that space wouldn’t disturb the home’s vintage exterior finishes, and, as I suggest in the video, one design might connect the kitchen to a new family room in the carriage house. As Iwersen points out, there is room on the other side of the lot for a new garage where an old greenhouse stands. Giving up the small garden space wouldn’t be much of a sacrifice since the rest of the backyard, with its shade trees and garden waterfall, is immense.
Price Points: The Currans previously had the house on the market at $1.795 with a different agent. They took it off for a while and then put it back up for sale with Iwersen two weeks ago at what he calls “a more sensible price. They understand where the market is.”