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Midcentury Glencoe House Gets the Modern Interior it Deserves

EVOLUTION THEORY: Contemporary furnishings finish the job that Booth Hansen architects started when the firm reworked this house in the 1990s

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Backyard view of Handman designed Glencoe home
Large windows allow sunlight to flood the back of the house and provide unobstructed views of the yard. The lush landscape includes ornamental shrubs, flowering plants, and mature oak, maple, and ash trees. See more photos in the gallery below.


When a retired couple bought an L-shaped mid-century ranch house in Glencoe in the 1990s, they promptly commissioned the architecture firm Booth Hansen to update it. “We didn’t make many changes to the footprint of the house, but we took the roof off and modulated the interior spaces volumetrically,” says Bill Massey, who later left Booth Hansen to form Massey Hoffman Architects. “By popping the roof up, we were able to create a huge expanse of glass facing out into the ravine.”

Widening the attached garage and raising ceilings made space for a new second-floor bedroom suite; enclosing the front porch allowed for a grand dining hall with a bay window just the right size for a round dining table. Hickory floors throughout the home provided a warm balance to the crisp, contemporary architecture. Although the homeowners enjoyed the airier layout, the redone kitchen, and the office above the garage, over the years they came to feel that their fine antiques and traditional decor didn’t suit the architecture or their lifestyle. “We had rooms we would walk through but not use because they were too formal,” the husband says. “We wanted our grandkids to feel comfortable in our home.”

They were pleased with the floors and the view-maximizing undressed windows, but they turned to interior designer Shelly Handman for help with furnishings. He proceeded to replace many of their traditional pieces with well-designed contemporary ones in neutral colors. The quiet palette allows the couple’s art collection to shine but also showcases the ever-changing views out the large windows. Handman took care to not overfurnish. “I’m very respectful of positive and negative space,” he says. “I don’t want to have to zigzag through a room because of the furniture. I want to be able to move freely.”

Furniture that made the cut was selected for comfort as much as for style. In the master bedroom’s seating area, Handman opted for a cream-colored sofa instead of a pair of chairs. “It’s an exceptionally long, graceful piece with a rich softness to it,” he says.

In the living room, he incorporated another custom sofa and a chaise, bedecked with pillows, from which the owners can enjoy views of both the fireplace and the garden. A vintage Oriental rug complements the hickory floors; a rustic African stool peacefully coexists with a modern one of glass and bronze. “The contrast of textured and smooth and rough-hewn and highly polished is very inviting,” Handman explains. “It’s a fabulous blazer over a pair of blue jeans.”

The owners couldn’t be happier with the elegant yet comfortable mix. “This house just works,” says the wife.

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