It’s a Jungle in There—in Riverwoods
For a closer look at the house, launch the photo gallery »
List Price: $2.679 million
The Property: It’s like a huge terrarium for humans, this 31-year-old home tucked away in a densely wooded part of Riverwoods. Two-story glass walls mark the boundary between indoors and out, though there is not much distinction between the two realms, with a gigantic rubber tree growing indoors and such outdoor denizens as deer and squirrels frequently wandering up to the windows.
That was the goal when Joyce Marcus tapped the architect Dennis Stevens to create a house for her. The marketing company she owned was in a Des Plaines office building designed by Stevens and his partner, Don Erickson, who were designers of resort-style hotels and other buildings. “That’s what I wanted—my own resort,” Marcus says.
Completed in 1980, the home Stevens designed for her has an enormous upswept roof capped by a broad skylight 40 feet above the floor. Pair that with the glass surround, and the main living space is an open, daylit space that does come across as a private resort. The main stair descends from the front door to a boulder-strewn main floor that combines living, dining, den, and kitchen nodes.
But it didn’t always feel quite so open, as Marcus explains in today’s video. She was initially reluctant to give up on the standard enclosed kitchen, so Stevens grudgingly put a partial-walled box around the kitchen space. Only much later did she figure out he had been right all along, and she removed the walls and remodeled the kitchen as an integral part of the open floor plan.
Along the way, she also got rid of some of her louder early-1980s color choices, toning the whole place down with a softer and more neutral palette. And she replaced every window in the house with modern, energy-efficient substitutes. With all those windows, the house is spectacular at night, as you can see in these listing photos.
Openness defines the bedroom areas as well. There are two large bedrooms in one second-story pod; they share a big skylight, and their dividing walls could easily be reconfigured to make more or fewer rooms. A large first-floor bedroom, now used as an office and exercise room, has a wall of glass out to the forested yard and the hundreds of acres of Ryerson Woods that lie beyond the lot line. Above that is the master suite, with another large skylight, a wall of windows, and access to a balcony that runs the entire length of the house.
The house, which Marcus put on the market in July, stands on 2.25 acres; its natural surroundings include both natural woods and a bountiful floral garden beside a small pond with a waterfall. The guiding idea of the home, Marcus says, was to “meld the house and the landscape.” Mission accomplished.
Price Points: Prices in Riverwoods are all over the map, given that most of the homes were custom-built at various times—and in assorted sizes. The highest-priced sale I’m aware of in 2011 is a home on a smaller lot—1.45 acres—that went for $1.35 million. It’s nice, but it has none of the open, resort-like feel of the Marcus home.