How This Chicago Two-Flat Became One Nice, Big House

Renovating an obsolete old layout opened up plenty of room for a family in Irving Park.

For a closer look at the house, launch the photo gallery.

List Price: $765,000
The Property: Many parts of Irving Park have what we really love about our Chicago neighborhoods: quiet residential streets with tall trees shading a mix of single-family homes and apartment buildings, all built decades or a century ago. When you’ve got a cohesive feeling like that, you don’t want to lose a building like today’s house: a great old classic brick two-flat. You see thousands of these around the city and they make our neighborhoods feel great. Their brick facades are punctuated with limestone sills, and decorative details on the columns and cornice.

The developers who bought the building about a year ago wanted to keep all of that, but had to acknowledge that it was obsolete inside. It had been in the same family for three generations, with not much updating. So in converting the two-flat into a single-family home, the developers kept all the 20th-century beauty on the outside while creating something that works for 21st-century living on the inside.

That starts with one of the key characteristics of traditional two-flats: the bays of windows on the front and the side. The bays created a nice opportunity to open up the space for a contemporary open floorplan but with two large niches, in the bays, instead of one big, uncut rectangle. Another thing the two bays do, with an assist from the large glass-paneled front door, is they bring a ton of daylight into the open space.

The pop-out of the dining room bay also highlights the width of the house. Because the building is wide, the house didn’t end up with the all-too-common boxcar effect, where the rooms are lined up one at a time from front to back. Instead, there are space on two sides of the “spine” hallways on the two main floors. The family room spans the entire back of the house and can easily be broken up into three zones: TV, dining, playroom. Something similar happens in front of that, where a pretty, well-outfitted kitchen is on one side and across from it is a bathroom and a nook area that could become a bar, an office, or something else.

On the second floor, the width provided the same opportunity. The master suite has a large bath with a view into the street trees on one side, and a walk-in closet with windows opening to the side yard on the other. Those windows are in what would have been the dining room bay of the old second-floor apartment; the living room bay is at the front of the bedroom.

The width also provides for a sizable landing, good for toys or studying—and by the way, the stair treads up to the landing are the original maple from the old two-flat, refinished and looking great. And like downstairs, no box-car effect: the three additional bedrooms, bath, and laundry room sprout from both sides of the center hall.

Of course that helps in the basement as well, where the bays provide for not only width but a lot of daylight in a new family room, and then rather than have a bedroom tucked at the very back of the basement, you have one tucked off to the side.

And let’s talk about storage: The family that moves in here will not find a shortage. There’s a large coat closet in the foyer, a walk-in pantry off the kitchen, closets lining the second-floor hallway, and in the basement, storage under both the front steps of the house and the rear deck.

That deck offers another classic Chicago neighborhood feature: views out across a row of back gardens (and they’re very pretty here). There’s also a new lawn and a new three-car garage—as if there wasn’t enough storage inside.

Price Points: A few blocks north, buyers paid $755,000 last week for a similarly rehabbed but smaller home. It’s 2,850 square feet and four bedrooms, compared to the 4,100 square feet and five bedrooms in today’s featured property. And just on the next block is a new-construction house that sold in July for $785,000. It’s about the same square footage as today’s and very nice, but with none of the legacy look that this today’s has.

The property has a contingent offer in, but listing agent Jordan Chalmers—who is one of the home’s developers—says that until the contingencies are resolved, the home is still open for potential buyers to look at.

Listing Agent: Jordan Chalmers, 773-301-9538 and jordan.chalmers@bairdwarner.com

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8 months ago
Posted by Dennis Rodkin

The listing agent says the contract on the house was cancelled, so it's now fully on the market (no waiting in line behind a contingent contract).

And the price has been reduced to $745,000, making the home even more competitive with the neighboring homes I flagged in the story.

8 months ago
Posted by Katieb

Great house! Looking to move back to Chicago from Illinois

7 months ago
Posted by Dennis Rodkin

This one sold Dec. 30. The asking price had been reduced to $745,000. The final sale price was $720,000. That's 94% of what the sellers wanted when we ran this piece in November; it's 96.6% of the last asking price.

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