The owners are fans of straight, clean lines (as evidenced by the staircase)-there is hardly anything round in the whole house. Everything interior designer Jillian O’Neill added to soften the lines, from the slight curves in the Barbara Barry chairs to the rocks in the fireplace, is subtle yet full of impact. ::: View Photo Gallery
FROM THE SIDEWALK, the two-story brick building looks like any of the hundreds of new houses that have sprung up along North Side streets in the past few years. But stroll up the front steps-complete with built-in stone planters for seasonal flowers-past the gentle trickle of a waterfall in the entryway, and through the elegantly understated living room and dining room, and you are met by a showstopping vista: a massive, gleaming kitchen that opens onto a stylishly contemporary family room, which in turn looks out on an inviting outdoor seating area and garden. The house seems to expand as you move through it, with each room enhancing and complementing the others.
Such a vision doesn’t just happen, of course. The homeowners (they asked not to be identified by name) spent almost two years creating their dream home on two adjacent lots in Roscoe Village. They wanted a house that would allow for frequent entertaining but still feel comfortable for their seven-year-old daughter and her friends. "The whole design was dictated by having a huge family kitchen," the wife says.
Working with up-and-coming interior designer Jillian O’Neill and builder Reid Johnson of Edison Builders, the owners’ first big decision was establishing an overall style. "I wanted a contemporary look, but not stainless and stark," the wife says. "There’s a focus on straight, clean lines. There’s hardly anything round in the whole house." (Indeed, even the recessed light fixtures in the kitchen ceiling are square, rather than round.)
The two women worked closely on every aspect of the house’s look, and the homeowner praises O’Neill’s attention to detail ("She helped me pick out everything from built-in shelves to bedspreads").
Focusing on the kitchen first, they chose Poggenpohl cabinets, which had the desired contemporary look combined with a warmth that makes the room feel welcoming. O’Neill added a dark red glass backsplash to complement red decorative accents in the adjoining family room, where the neutral-colored furniture is enlivened by textured pillows. "When all the basic pieces were in, the space felt bland," O’Neill says. "Layering in pillows and artwork changed the whole look."
Although the family room doubles as a TV room-complete with a wall-mounted flat-screen TV-most of the audio-visual components are stored in a control center in the basement. A custom stainless-steel fireplace surround was inspired by a photo in a design magazine that both the homeowner and O’Neill brought to one of their first meetings (a sign, both say, that they were on the same wavelength). Built-in custom shelves flank the fireplace; cabinets with sliding doors keep remote controls and DVDs hidden away.
Another key element in the home is natural light, especially evident in the open living room and dining room. One side of the house overlooks a garden; large windows take advantage of the view. French doors in the dining room are left open on summer nights to give diners the sensation of eating outdoors.
The family room opens onto a patio that is a room in itself, complete with a glass ceiling, fireplace, TV, and grill, as well as furniture that would look as good indoors as out. ::: View Photo Gallery
"The goal for the living room was to make every piece unique, but not so much that any one piece takes over the room," O’Neill says. Twists on traditional furniture include a pair of wing chairs with curved headrests, a custom rug, and a fireplace crisply faced with glass tile.
The highlight of the basement-level media room, furnished with a wall-sized projection TV screen and sectional sofa, is a striking white onyx bar, lit from underneath so it seems to glow. "My husband wanted the full James Bond bar," the homeowner says. Liquor bottles and bar clutter are hidden away behind touch-latch doors that look like simple panels of dark wenge wood.
IN CONTRAST TO THE COOL, contemporary look and neutral color scheme downstairs, allowances for individual style-and vibrant hues-were made in private spaces upstairs. The husband’s office (he’s an executive at an investment firm) is enveloped in black wallpaper with Pop Art– inspired circles; the daughter’s room is bright with pink accents. To add her own personal stamp on the space, the daughter painted colorful flowers, rainbows, and other images on selected tiles in her white-tiled bathroom.
The seven-year-old daughter lives like a princess in her pink, flower-filled castle of a bedroom-a fun departure from the reserved feel of the rest of the house. ::: View Photo Gallery
The master bedroom suite is a tranquil, soothing hideaway, designed to simulate the feeling of a spa. Glass panels in doors leading to the bathroom were inlaid with sea grass to conjure up an aquatic aura; the doors open to reveal a dramatic Kohler bathtub into which water cascades down from an opening in the ceiling. On either side of the tub are complete, mirror-image his-and-hers bathroom/dressing rooms, each with an extensive walk-in closet.
With such amenities, it is no wonder the homeowners plan to stay awhile. "We built this house for ourselves and our needs," the wife says. "We’re here indefinitely." Now that she has the space, she’s delighted to find any excuse to entertain (a summer party for 150 friends included a tent in the side garden). "All our friends are in the neighborhood," she says, "and we love it when people just stop by. Roscoe Village calls itself the ‘Village Within the City,’ and for us it really is."
Intriguing textures and materials, as well as many original ideas, make the house special.
The bar in the basement media room (1) features copious invisible storage behind wenge touch-latch doors that resemble simple panels. The star of this show is the bold white onyx bar: lit from underneath, it looks like it belongs in a nightclub. Going along with this theme, the space also has gender-specific bathrooms (2), complete with the requisite public-restroom icons of a man and a woman hanging next to the appropriate door. The men’s room contains a urinal that features a waterfall activated when the door is opened. Above it hangs every guy’s dream: a built-in TV.
Other special touches lie in the materials. In the family room (3), a custom stainless steel fireplace surround is warmed by ivory tiles set in a herringbone pattern. The custom built-in shelves are inset with shiny tile. A glass-panel roof and wall-mounted TV make the indoor/outdoor patio (4)inviting in almost any weather.