After paying $930,000 for this house in May 2006, Marschall and Debra Smith spent at least $1.1 million expanding and renovating the place—but never got a chance to move in. Designed in 1909 by Tallmadge & Watson, the house in 2006 was in a state of "benign neglect," says Vanessa Willey of F. C. Pilgrim Real Estate, who represented the Smiths when they bought and sold the house. It still had 29 of its original art glass windows and some hanging-prism light fixtures, but its dramatic "floating roof" was leaking. The Smiths, who lived in McHenry County, began a rigorous overhaul. But in July 2007, Marschall Smith, the general counsel here for Brunswick Corp., moved to the same post at 3M in Minnesota. In September, the Smiths listed the house for sale, but went on with the restoration. They completed the work in March and had a deal less than 60 days later. "We broke even," says Debra Smith, "and in this market, that’s really lucky."
Photograph: chris Guillen