Buy This Classic Mid-Century Modern House for $240,000

The 1950s three-bedroom is in Graymoor, a center of stylish, low-slung homes like this one by architect Jack Swing. Get in there and finish its renovation.

Photo: Courtesy of Tom Greenway

List Price: $240,000
The Property: If you’re a fan of mid-century modern homes and looking for a project—but not too much of a project—then this 55-year-old Olympia Fields three-bedroom may be calling your name.

The house stands on just under nine-tenths of an acre in Graymoor. A subdivision begun in the early 1950s, Graymoor is now a mini-Mecca for fans of the low-slung, open-to-nature style of architecture practiced by the likes of Ed Dart, Keck & Keck, and Jack Swing, the architect of this house.

Swing, the head of the University of Illinois architecture program from 1966 to 1973, designed this 2,800-square-footer in the style: somewhat austere or obscure on the front, public side and expansively glassy on the private side. Inside, natural materials predominate, and rooms open into one another.

In July 2010, Tom and Shannon Greenway bought the house from its original owners for $200,000. They then put more than $30,000 into repairs and updates, and have invested a bunch of DIY time, as well. The list they sent me included everything from $4,000 to replace bee-infested window frames and the adjacent windows to $300 for upgrading the kitchen lighting. Their biggest expense was a crucial one: $11,000 for a new roof. They’ve replaced worn-out carpeting, oak paneling, and kitchen fixtures; improved the landscaping; taken down a rotted deck; and even installed an outdoor hot water faucet for washing windows. (That’s something I’ve wanted for my own house for a long time.)

Because of a job change, the Greenways are moving out of state before they’ve completed the rehab. Among the things not yet done: the kitchen and two baths have their original finishes and some original fixtures, the basement bath has been demolished down to the studs and hasn’t been rebuilt, and the living room carpet hasn’t been replaced.

The cost to do these things would vary by the level of finish and other factors, but would likely cost tens of thousands of dollars. The furnace and air conditioner are fine, having been replaced in 2005, Tom Greenway says, and the house is livable as is (except for that unfinished bathroom) if buyers want to wait to do the remainder of the updating.

Upgrades would not price the home out of its market, unless they’re overdone. Another larger mid-century home down the street in Graymoor is asking $379,900. And nearby in Flossmoor, a mid-century home, fully updated, sold in September for $369,000.

Some original Graymoor houses have been replaced with big new homes; Tom Greenway says they don’t want that to happen to this house. “We [were] in the process of restoring this gem,” he told me, and are now “looking for someone else to pick up the torch and continue the work.” They hope to find a buyer who understands “the value of good design, the importance of keeping homes like this a viable piece of the Chicago architecture history.”

Listing Agent: Joe Kunkel of Baird & Warner, 312-371-0986 and joe.kunkel@bairdwarner.com

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