List Price: $4.185 million
The Property: One in a string of three prominent lakefront homes in Winnetka that are often called “the storybook houses” for their fanciful architecture, this Tudor house has a remarkable living room that seems to have sprung more from a stately English country home than a fairy tale. The room is 40 feet long and 20 feet wide, with a barrel-vaulted ceiling decorated with an ornate pattern of molded plaster pargework, sumptuous wood paneling, iron chandeliers, and leaded-glass windows that soar two stories high and frame a view out to Lake Michigan.
Set into those windows (as you will see in the video) are tiny portraits of knights, jesters, and other characters that may have been inspired by the European vacations of Thomas Mills, who built the three houses as a family compound in the 1920s. A developer, Mills brought masons, plasterers, and other craftsmen over from Europe to work on the homes, which he finished in 1930—only to lose the property a few months later in a financial failure. Another family took over the compound and held most of it until the late 1960s.
Forty years ago, Ken and Susanne Johnson became only the third owners of this home; the couple liked having the lake on one side, nearly an acre of lawn on the other—and of course the residence itself. “Where else will you see these rooms?” asks Susanne. Aside from the living room, there is a banquet-size dining room with thick stucco on the walls and rounded corners, a pair of bedrooms with barrel-vaulted ceilings, and a kitchen whose 1980s Poggenpohl wood-and-chrome cabinets fooled me: although almost three decades old, they look like something out of Dwell, the Bible of hip contemporary interiors.
A sunroom addition off the living room provides more interface with the lake view, although its flat roof and sliding glass doors are slightly out of place with the rest of the exterior. Above the kitchen is what was once a servant’s two-room apartment; the Johnsons used it as a teenager’s bedroom suite. As is, the house has just two bedrooms near each other, and then this suite. As the video reveals, a buyer could create a family room in a courtyard off the kitchen, perhaps with additional bedrooms above it. Although that’s technically the front of the house, the yard is so deep that nobody would feel they were sitting out by the street.
On the lake side of the house is a lovely old balustered stone terrace with a fountain that opens onto a lawn that rolls down the low bluff toward the sea wall that the Johnsons had built back in the 1980s (when much of the North Shore’s waterside bluff was falling into the lake). “You’re not going to lose any of your land,” says the Johnsons’ real-estate agent, Sarah Taich. The house went on the market on January 10th.
Price Points: There are few homes left in Winnetka with large lakefront lots; most have been subdivided to portions of an acre. The last large-lot sale I’m aware of was a few blocks north, a property with a larger house that sold for $5.25 million in August.
Listing Agent: Sarah Taich of Koenig & Strey Real Living, 312-893-3513 or firstname.lastname@example.org
3 weeks ago