List Price: $2.395 million
The Property: Yes, it’s another high-end contemporary house in Lincoln Park. But it’s clear even from the first sidewalk view of the brick and glass facade that this one is something different from all those others.
To begin with, from the sidewalk you go down a level to enter the home via a landscaped courtyard. That’s not unheard of, but in this case, it’s to create an entrance sequence where you come from below up into the living room and…wow.
Because there’s no front door opening into the living room so you don’t have all that front hall business getting in the way, the large glass wall on the west end gives the feeling that the neighborhood is part of the living room. The room is also open on its east end, where there’s no full wall, just a large mantel of Jerusalem stone.
The feeling of expansiveness runs throughout the home. Although it’s on a standard Lincoln Park lot, the house feels much larger because of several design devices. One is frosted glass panels on the north and south sides, where there are other houses adjacent, to bring in daylight; another is the lack of full walls on much of the main living floor; and the third is a skillful use of the third dimension—height. The living and dining rooms look up more than two stories to a large skylight that opens the whole house up.
These are the kinds of things that happen in a house designed by a master architect—in this case, Dirk Denison, one of Chicago’s best architects working today. He has detailed the home with visible lines; there are lines inscribed into the wall paneling, and very slender countertops that look like a black line running around the kitchen. And above the dining room hangs a line of light coming through the slim gap between the staircase and an upstairs wall, which don’t touch.
It’s an artful composition, but it’s still a house. It needs to have the things that people expect in a home of this caliber. That includes a handsome kitchen, with thin black countertops that create another visual line, a colorful granite island, crisp modern cabinetry, and a stainless-steel backsplash. From the kitchen, you can go right out to the terrace above the garage to eat and cook. There’s a bar, a family room—all the spaces that are expected in a home like this.
But in Denison’s hands, those standard spaces become appreciably different. On the two upper bedroom floors, the hallways between bedrooms become slender catwalks, daylit by the skylight.
On the first bedroom floor (third level up from the ground), the master bedroom lies on the rear of the floor and has another of those big walls of glass. It’s a pleasant neighborhood view, and residents are going to want to see all of it. So instead of letting the master bedroom block some of the width, Denison slid the bath along the side of the house, behind the stairs. It’s a lovely bath, but pushed out of the way.
As built, the house had six bedrooms: two on each of the upper floors and two on the ground level, the one you enter on. These sellers, Sean Murphy and Sophia Diaz, made some strategic changes when they bought the house in 2010. In one of the ground-level bedrooms, they removed a wall to create an open suite of office, family room, and patio. The result is an airy flow that continues what Denison had begun with the house. On the top floor, they did something similar: They removed a wall on one bedroom to open it up and made it a second family room.
I don’t know Dirk Denison, but I think if the sellers were to invite him in today, he might say, “Thank you for those two changes you made to the original design.”
Price Points: Earlier this month, a vintage house of roughly the same size a block away sold for $2.33 million.