If Joe Home Hunter happened to be running errands around town one weekend and bumped into the builder at the top of his shortlist, it might be chalked up to coincidence. But a chance encounter more than a thousand miles from home, on the other hand, can only be described as fate. At least that’s the way it was read by a Hinsdale couple when they stumbled upon local home developer Mark Hickman at the airport in Sarasota.
“I grew up in Florida, and Mark has in-laws in the same area, so we ran into each other on our way back to Chicago,” remembers the husband, Chris. “We got to know each other a little bit better just through a conversation in the airport.” (The couple requested that their last names be omitted for privacy reasons.)
Chris and his wife, Julie, had become familiar with Hickman’s work years ago when they’d briefly considered a home his firm had built—a purchase that ultimately didn’t pan out. Impressed by the craftsmanship, they kept Hickman’s name, along with that of the architect, Michael Abraham, top of mind as they continued their search.
Roughly six months after the Florida meeting, the couple came across a teardown on a potential lot. Hickman was one of their first phone calls. “It ended up being a great lot at a good price point,” says the builder, “and we got started.” To round out the team, the couple also signed on Abraham and interior designer Megan Arity. “We were a little atypical in that we’d selected not just the architect but the builder and designer early on, but we wanted to take a holistic approach,” says Chris.
From the start, the couple had a clear vision for both the design and the functionality of their house. At the forefront: plenty of windows to remind Chris of the indoor-outdoor lifestyle he enjoyed growing up in the South—a request exemplified in the layout of the family’s great room. The space is enclosed on the east and west sides by walls of windows that overlook outdoor courtyards designed to feel like an extension of the home. (“At least during the two months of the year when the weather is nice enough,” quips Chris.)
Both husband and wife claim a contemporary, minimalist aesthetic and desired a Zen-like, uniform space. Arity worked with Roecker Cabinets to design closed-front built-ins throughout the home that conceal clutter, and she describes the home’s finishes as “quiet, consistent, and natural.” Indiana limestone adorns feature walls, white oak flooring was laid throughout, and nearly the entire space is painted in Benjamin Moore’s Cloud Cover, a soothing shade of pale gray.
As for the floor plan, Chris and Julie customized the space to meet both their needs and those of their two young daughters. A room adjacent to the kitchen, deemed “the kids’ office,” serves as a dedicated spot for homework and projects. “The kitchen is the social hub of family interactions, so the kids would often start an art project on the kitchen table,” says Chris. “In our new home, Julie wanted a space that felt like part of the kitchen but was just broken off enough that we could leave the kids’ stuff out.”
The rest of the kitchen was designed with both kids and parents in mind. For the girls, says Arity, “the homeowners really wanted functional materials that didn’t feel too precious, like the Madre Perla quartzite countertops.” And for the parents, consistency was key: “The cabinetry is the same style and stain as the built-ins, and all of the hardware finishes are brushed steel, which we also used throughout the rest of the home.” Hardworking appliances from Sub-Zero and Wolf round out the room.
It’s now been more than five years since the homeowners bumped into Hickman at the airport. While both parties make regular trips to visit relatives in Florida, they haven’t crossed paths there since: “[That first encounter] was really just kind of fortuitous,” says Chris.
Architect:Michael Abraham, michael-abraham.com Builder:Mark Hickman, markhickmanhomes.com Interior designer:Megan Arity, meganaritydesign.com Interior decorator:Iva Zinker Cabinetry:Roecker Cabinets, roeckercabinets.com Paint:Cloud Cover, Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com Kitchen:Custom pendants (dining table and island), Tower Lighting, towerlighting.com. Appliances:Sub-Zero and Wolf, Merchandise Mart, subzero-wolf.com