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List Price: $1,299,999
The Property: In the early 1990s, when many of their friends in the northwest suburbs were buying vacation homes around Lake Geneva and Walworth County, Martin Nowakowski and Sharron Ames found their getaway closer to home in North Barrington. There the modernist architect Albert Eichstaedt had built his own home, which Nowakowski now describes as “this hippie midcentury retreat where you could always wear your Birkenstocks.” The house stood on two acres with a stream and a forested view past the next house to broad Honey Lake.
Built in 1974 and the winner of a regional design award from the American Institute of Architects, the home originally was roughly a cube. Halfway up two walls of the two-story living room hung suspended walkways leading to the smallish bedrooms. Large windows framed close-up views of tall trees and a ravine. Nowakowski and Ames loved the setting and the house’s relationship to it, but they wanted more space and less catwalk. “We weren’t going to insult [Eichstaedt] by saying, ‘Let’s bulldoze it,’” Nowakowski says. They paid $400,000 for the property and commissioned Eichstaedt, who had moved to Santa Barbara, California, to revamp and enlarge the home, in particular creating a new wing with a large kitchen and family room with a big master suite above. In addition to replacing all the plumbing and mechanicals in the original structure, the couple also enclosed the catwalks in conventional hallways and replaced the original siding with handsome vertical-laid cedar, resulting in a large and pleasant retreat-style home.
The house is set 100 yards down a tree-lined driveway from a lightly traveled road. With a pool and lavish gardens outside and a three-minute walk past other properties to the home’s private lake access, “we have our resort right here,” Nowakowski says. As you’ll see in the video, it’s a serene natural setting, nicely complemented by the architecture. All four bedrooms have views into the trees, as does the big living room, which feels separated from them only by panes of glass.
The kitchen has an extra-long island and a commercial-grade stove with a 3,000-BTU wok burner. The cabinetry here and throughout the house is light, book-matched oak, a contemporary reflection of the setting. The master bath contains a multiperson steam shower and a very large soaking tub, as well as extra-large vanities and dressing rooms.
While this latter-day iteration of Eichstaedt’s house differs from the original in several ways, Nowakowski notes that it benefits from the architect’s original ideas: “He had studied siting the house very carefully,” Nowakowski says. “He positioned it exactly to get maximum winter sun and minimal heat in summer, so we live very comfortably every day.” Eichstaedt developed much of the surrounding acreage—a former farm whose 19th-century house still stands—and reserved this parcel for his own house. While the home is not lakeside, its view spreads out over the trees and the water.
The couple put the house on the market because Ames now works in California.
Price Points: The home was first listed for sale about a year ago, with an asking price of $1.48 million. Of the 15 properties for sale in the Barringtons for between $1.25 million and $1.3 million, only this one has contemporary styling.