Architect William Scholtens gives you a behind-the-scenes tour. See more photos in our gallery below.
“Indistinguishable and dark.” That’s the assessment a Chicago couple made of the 40 or so Lincoln Park homes they saw when they were looking to buy four years ago. “They all looked the same and lacked natural light,” says the wife.
Only one (ironically, the first they saw) stood out—an 1880s rowhouse on a double lot with a southern exposure that drenched its rooms with light. An alley that distanced it from the building next door, bringing in more light, made it even more appealing.
But that was about all that appealed. The rowhouse, which at some point had been divided into six flats, had lost most of its vintage detailing; its plumbing, heating, and electrical systems were archaic; and everything had to be brought up to code, says the architect the couple hired, William Scholtens of Elements Architectural Group. Plus, the seven-foot-high, dirt-lined basement wasn’t deep enough to house the mechanical systems or any living areas.
Salvation came via a gut rehab that would make the place a clean-lined, kid-proof single-family home for the couple and their two young children—and “as green as possible, minus the granola,” says the wife. “We wanted it to be sustainable but feel sumptuous.”
For starters, it needed a finished basement to replace the dirt number and more room in the rear for a spacious new kitchen and living areas, as well as a garage. Making those additions (and connecting a former coach house to the main structure with a breezeway) brought the building from 5,400 to 6,800 square feet.
Scholtens devised a program to renovate everything else with elegant yet eco-friendly materials. State-of-the-art technologies and shrewd architectural features minimize energy consumption while optimizing air temperatures and light.
To those ends, there are hydrothermal solar panels on the roof and a geothermal heating and cooling system; a hybrid storage tank uses the energy harvested from those two sources and directs it where needed. Scholtens’s inventive window design for a bay on the building’s southern wall allows for plenty of sunlight in winter (and deflects it in summer); on the third floor, he added a clerestory-rimmed open-air atrium that harvests light and breezes.
Features that aren’t obvious yet are integral to the home’s green quotient include Energy Star appliances, low- and no-VOC finishes and paints, formaldehyde-free millwork, reconstituted-walnut veneers, locally sourced walnut and limestone flooring, lighting fixtures with compact fluorescent or LED bulbs, lead-free flashing to conserve the brickwork, and an automated system that senses occupancy and adjusts heating, cooling, and lighting accordingly.
Now the couple and Scholtens are waiting for the ultimate assessment of their greening efforts—namely, a prestigious platinum rating from the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED for Homes program. “We aimed for the top in every way,” Scholtens says.
Photograph: Nathan Kirkman
Styling: Diane Ewing
Stroke of Genius
See more photos in our gallery below.
An “endless” lap pool (water jets provide a current to swim against) in the newly deepened basement wasn’t one of the couple’s original requirements, but “we already had enough guest rooms and thought this would be a good addition,” says the wife. The premade pool system comes in various sizes. “We chose the biggest one that would fit in the space,” Scholtens says. The pool is four and a half feet deep (perfect for water aerobics) and has a concrete liner reinforced with rebar. Limestone from Indiana clads the walls, floors, and pool surround, while ipe planks skirt the pool wall and hide the motor that powers the water jets.
See more photos in our gallery below.
1. In the children’s Jack-and-Jill bathroom, glass and recycled-content ceramic tiles surround the mirrors; Celador, a durable quartz composite, was used for the countertops. 2. An ipe-clad deck with an outdoor fireplace sits atop the new garage and opens into a new family room adjoining the kitchen. 3. The ipe-sheathed third-floor atrium is ringed with clerestory windows that ventilate the entire house.
Photography: Nathan Kirkman
Styling: Diane Ewing
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Architecture and interior design: William Scholtens, Elements Architectural Group, 205 Superior St., Oak Park, 708-848-4750, elementsarchitects.com. General contractor: Brian Ford, Roslyn Builders, 642 Prospect Ave., Barrington, 224-578-6445. Wood flooring: Carlisle Wide Plank Flooring, 445 N. Wells St., 312-464-0633, wideplankflooring.com. Staircase and outside fence: Lake Iron Ornamental, 5520 W. Corcoran Pl., 773-378-5555. Windows: Marvin Windows and Doors, marvin.com. Fleetwood Windows & Doors, fleetwoodusa.com. Paint: Aura Interior Paint by Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com. Living room: Chairs, Crate & Barrel, crateandbarrel.com. Pendant fixture, Lightology, 215 W. Chicago Ave., 312-944-1000, lightology.com. Painting, Cathy Bruni Norris, cathybruninorris.com. On the cocktail table: Nymphenburg bowl and teapot, Elements, 741 N. Wells St., 312-642-6574; coasters, Barneys New York, 15 E. Oak St., 312-587-1700. On the sofa: Gray hide pieced pillow, Barneys; mustard linen pillow, Luminaire, 301 W. Superior St., 312-664-9582. On the fireplace mantel: Screw sculptures, Dessin Fournir, Merchandise Mart, 312-661-0640. Next to the fireplace: Pedestal table, Elements; Anillo sculpture in satin platinum on black marble by Ron Dier, from Charles Pollock, Merchandise Mart, 312-379-0035. On the side table: Bubble vase with yellow interior, Baker, Knapp & Tubbs, Merchandise Mart, 312-337-7144. Barcode hide rug in sea lion, Edelman Leather, Merchandise Mart, 312-467-4433. Dining room: Table, chairs, Calligaris, calligaris.com. Pendant fixture, Lightology. On the bench: Shagreen tray, Barneys; faceted yellow vase, Baker, Knapp & Tubbs. Kitchen: Cabinets, hood, countertops, Arclinea Chicago, 314 W. Superior St., 312-335-3855, arclineachicago.com. Stools, Calligaris. Breakfast table, designed by architect, fabricated by Heartland Woodsmiths, 335 Harrison St., Oak Park, 708-524-2755. Pendant fixture, Lightology. Collapsable green strainer, Luminaire. Master bedroom: Painting, Carolyn Reynolds, carolynreynoldsart.com. On the bed: Christian Fischbacher’s Earl fabric and bleached Mongolian lamb throw from Interior Crafts, Merchandise Mart, 312-943-3384. Master bath: Calcutta marble countertop, Baltimore limestone floor, Stone Source, 414 N. Orleans St., 312-335-9900, stonesource.com. Faucet, Dornbracht, dornbracht.com. Tub, Waterworks, Merchandise Mart, 312-527-4668, waterworks.com. Pendant fixtures, Lightology. Peking glass cocoon vase, Baker, Knapp & Tubbs. Pool room: Pool, Endless Pools, endlesspools.com. Lime-washed oak container and Nosi round maple tray, Luminaire. Children’s bath: Celador countertops, marble floor, all wall tile, Stone Source. Pendant fixtures, Lightology. Atrium: Ipe, American Hydrotech, 303 E. Ohio St., 312-337-4998, hydrotechusa.com. Entry: On the bench: Backgammon set, Barneys; Solar Eclipse bronze sculpture, Dessin Fournir; Peking glass cylindrical vase, Baker, Knapp & Tubbs.