Price: $2.295 million
There’s a camp—probably a large one—that considers midcentury modern architecture bleak and inhuman. But it’s very possible to work within the modernist language and provide warmth in materials, and this happened more often as architects tinkered with their interpretations in the 1970s and 80s. One example is a seemingly nondescript house by architect Carl Wasserman hidden behind foliage on Tower Road in Winnetka.
Winnetka is mostly about Colonials and Tudors, but there are some modernist oddballs in the mix. Closing in on the single-story 1981 four-bed recently listed for sale, you’d guess it had 2,000 square feet with a couple of bedrooms. It is, in fact, close to 5,000 square feet, and its scale is made clear the instant you pass through the front door. The travertine foyer is half rainforest, with an indoor bed of palms reaching to the high ceiling. The great room unfolds from here: raw stone, oak floors and ceiling, a dome skylight, floating cross beams, and circumferential bands of clerestory windows.
To one corner is a linear dining room that gives an impression of a boardroom; in another corner, a family room nook leads to the kitchen. Across the way is the bedroom wing. The kitchen has its own skylight and stone wall with built-in shelving, new appliances, and an enormous island. Three of four bedrooms have sliding door connections to the back and side yard, and the gorgeous master suite has a separate patio and library. Its bathroom hasn’t been altered in 34 years but, apart from some muddy colors, the sunken Jacuzzi and marble floor are basically ageless.
The basement is unfinished but had hosted some fitness equipment. A buyer could do a lot more to activate this extra space. And then there’s the attached heated three-car garage, a valuable commodity in winter. Design aside, this property brings a big edge in setting. It’s built on land bought from the Park District. “I guess it was about raising revenue,” says listing agent Sherry Molitor of Berkshire Hathaway KoenigRubloff. “I know Winnetka wishes they had more public land now.” The village golf course merges with the large backyard (with in-ground pool) without any hard division. People who live along the course treat it as open parkland, especially in the offseason.
Winnetka is a little oversupplied with big homes compared to this time last year, according to Molitor. “New construction and gently used are almost back to pre-crash prices,” she adds. “I just closed on a five-bed that set the market for brand new construction on a 50’ wide lot at $1.8 million…. There are a lot of younger people who walk into 1910s and 20s homes and are frightened by the upkeep. [These buyers] tend to want turnkey, and you can’t blame them since most are in two-income households.”
Today’s listing is closer to new turnkey than vintage fixer-upper, and that’s comforting for another reason: Builders are back in the teardown game with a vengeance. “I represent a few builders who are pretty aggressive right now in getting teardowns,” says Molitor. “Some will knock on doors and leave letters if they identify a house that looks like it will have pretty much the same value as resale or teardown.” The village attempts to ward off some of this through soft incentives reward renovation of existing homes. You can grow a home larger by addition than will be permitted through teardown.
The owners have passed and their children are handling the sale. I’m told there have been several showings in the first week on the market.
4 weeks ago