The fourth priciest house in Lakeview, a total gut of an 1886 Victorian frame home on Janssen Avenue near Addison Street, by all rights should have been a teardown—what so often happens in the hot Southport Corridor, fueled by the Blaine Elementary School. The seller of the old house, however, had the good sense to seek a pledge from a buyer to preserve the home and found a developer willing to abide. Barrett Homes, a relatively young company with a portfolio of single-family and low-rise condo construction on the North Side and 8-10 active projects, took on the job and reshaped the home to meet modern day standards.
It started by reducing the second-floor bedroom assignments from seven to four by combining side-by-side bedrooms into suites and adding bathrooms. The next move was refinishing the main living areas top to bottom, and hauling in the requisite chrome and marble for a splashy kitchen and bathrooms. Trim was repainted, wood-burning fireplaces were added, and a new study was carved out within the main floor. “You have to have certain things in place for these historic rebuilds to be attractive propositions,” says Michael Barrett, who owns and operates Barrett Homes with his brother John. “The square footage (7,200 with finished basement) and high ceilings (10-foot) made this job a lot easier and more attractive from the start.”
Even with the subtraction of three second-floor bedrooms, the home still manages seven in total. Bathrooms keep pace with six, all lavishly dressed and meant for pampering (soaking tubs, jet tubs, steam showers, spray showers…. you get the idea).
Two of the more imaginative (and marketable) new spaces are the third floor playroom or media room with dormer windows, giving perfect clearance for children’s desks, and the finished basement with a decidedly adult vibe: wet bar, wine cellar, heated floors, en suite bedroom, and a sauna. Barrett was able to sink the basement to extend 10-foot ceilings to this space.
The look and dimension of the house’s exterior was maintained as much as possible, though it was stripped in spots with new cedar siding installed. I’m told that the gracious double-decker front porch (upper deck for show) hits home for southerners strolling by. Some may bemoan the interior overhaul given its former livability, but at least there’s no further disruption to a streetscape already riddled with modern infill.
The roof, landscaping, and fencing are new, and there’s a 600-square-foot deck atop the three-car garage. Between the house and garage is a patio with an outdoor fireplace. Mechanical systems, from HVAC to plumbing, were also rebuilt and a deep cavity in the sturdy old walls allowed Barrett to use spray foam insulation. “This will operate just as efficiently as new construction,” he says.
Price Points: The house was in pretty good condition from the start and commanded a $2 million price in January 2014. The feeling now is that $3.5 million is attainable. There are a few active listings and sales in the area to support the pricing, including one new-build a few doors up and another a block away on Addison. A 6,500-square-footer on the 3700 block of North Wayne Avenue sold in December for $3.51 million. This property has the advantage of a quiet setting, 49-foot-wide lot (twice the standard 25-foot width), and flexible, open interior spaces. Mario Greco of the MG Group and Berkshire Hathaway KoenigRubloff has the listing.