List Price: $560,000
The Property: Viewed from the street, this mid-century modern home nestled into a waterfront site on the Chain O’ Lakes barely makes a visual ripple. That’s because it’s entirely oriented in the other direction: the wide expanse of glass on the back of the house provides views of a broad sweep of lawn leading down to Meyers Bay, which rolls out to Pistakee Lake.
Michael and Sandra Ditlove were living in Evanston in 1994 when Michael stumbled upon the house during a drive in the country. They both wanted lakefront, but not at North Shore prices, and both are devotees of the mid-century modern style. “[The house] combines a touch of Frank Lloyd Wright, with the big brick fireplace at the center of the home, and the feeling of [Ludwig] Mies van der Rohe, with the long wall of windows,” Michael Ditlove says. “[It fits with] the Bauhaus idea that man is most comfortable in nature.”
The house was designed in the mid-1960s—the Ditloves aren’t sure for whom—by the architect Vern Solberg. His design set this home apart from the more conventional cottages that made up most of Pistaqua Heights, an unincorporated neighborhood of McHenry that got its start around the 1920s as a summer-home development. Newer houses have mostly continued the traditional look, making this home a standout.
For fans of the mid-century style, the main living floor is a mini-mecca, with its large L-shaped main room—which combines the kitchen and the living and dining rooms—wrapped in the wall of windows and mint-condition wood paneling. (It’s also fitted out with the Ditloves’ period-perfect furniture and art, although those are not part of the sale.) There are two bedrooms on this level, and a balcony spans the entire lake-facing west side of the house. Michael Ditlove points out the deep roof overhang above the balcony. “You can sit out here and watch a storm march right in from the west over the lake and never get wet yourself,” he says.
The lower level, which opens onto a big terrace and the lawn, was originally laid out as a large family room and a boat garage. The Ditloves converted the latter into a large studio—he’s a retired commercial photographer and continues working as an artist, and she’s a retired interior design executive—that could become a very large master bedroom (with the addition of a bathroom), or two smaller bedrooms.
Ditlove says wildlife visits to the home are frequent, from migrating sandhill cranes to foxes and hawks. “Once a bald eagle flew around and around that little island out there,” he says. It seems like a tough home to leave, except that the Ditloves next want to live in France, where Michael grew up.
Price Points: The couple originally put the house on the market two years ago with an asking price of $639,000. They later dropped it to $595,000, and are now asking $560,000. A larger house across the bay sold for $735,000 two years ago; it was on three times the half-acre lot this one is on, but it was in shabby condition, Ditlove says.
Listing Agent: The Ditloves are selling the house without an agent; call them at 815-344-3881. For pictures of the home in more verdant seasons, go to ditlovehouse.com.
Photography: Michael Ditlove