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List Price: $5.7 million
The Property: Over the past ten years, this vintage home in Old Town has bloomed. Opened up with the addition of a second lot next door, the house, thanks to its present seller, Kemery Bloom, has come to life, inside and out.
Starting with the first steps inside, a stylized floral motif shows up on the wrought-iron grid panels in the front windows, in a bronze inset in the tile floor, and on light fixtures, door handles, and even carved plaques in the wood paneling.
The main formal rooms have an intimate aura with mahogany paneling and built-ins that include bookcases, china cabinets, and a living room couch whose arms are carved with flowers. Inspired by the Art Nouveau movement, Bloom and her architect, Kathryn Quinn, and interior designer, Jean Alan, created a rich, warm environment that summons Paris and Vienna during that time. But they also drew on local inspiration. The waterfall-style ribbing in the living and dining rooms’ pilasters, for example, are a tribute to finishes in Chicago’s fabled Casino club.
All of this was created in what Bloom’s agent, Debra Dobbs, says used to be “a big white bowling alley of space,” a relic of a 1990s renovation. Bloom turned the interior into one more embracing and tactile, like something from the early 20th Century. “It was such an organic, hand-crafted period,” she says.
The result is a combination of intimate and soaring, as the front spaces open up at the rear of the main floor. The kitchen floats a few steps above a family room and informal dining room, which occupy a two-story space with tall windows that bring in abundant daylight. Next to the home’s original footprint, the addition of a large conservatory room, walled and windowed with glass, extends the house into the adjacent lot. Mechanical shades can close off the view, but a new buyer won’t want to use them on snowy winter days: Bloom had a snow-melting system installed only beneath paths from the house to the garage and garbage. The rest of the paved parking and planted garden will remain peacefully blanketed in snow.
The staircase curves as it rises two floors, ending under a big skylight at an opera balcony in front of the master suite, which occupies the entire third floor. The inviting master bedroom is situated at the front of the floor. Its padded walls have a floral pattern stitched onto them, and a zinc mantelpiece evokes the home’s origins but, in fact, was brought in during the renovations. The bedroom leads to a large bathroom, where etched-glass windows, green tile and walls, and copper sinks and soaking tub elevate bathing to an art form. At the rear, there is an outdoor balcony and a separate office that could be converted to a workout room, nursery, or sitting room.
The home has three additional bedrooms on the second floor, plus one more and another family room in the basement, with private entry from the street.
Price Points: Bloom is moving on to a new project, a worn-out Arts & Crafts home in the northern suburbs. She acknowledges that she has more invested in this property than she is asking for it. On the record, she has paid $4.1 million: $2.4 million for the house in 2002 and, a few years later, another $1.7 million for the lot next door. (The combined lot is 48 feet wide by 125 feet deep.) “I have more than $2 million more in it,” says Bloom of her renovations. Dobbs, her listing agent, says the price reflects the extensive high-end finishes such as custom-made French brass hardware and antique wallpaper and the home’s location on a prestigious block near Bauler Playlot Park.
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