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List Price: $4.45 million
The Property: When you see the Tuscan villa in today’s video, you might think we traveled all the way to Italy. We only went as far as Lake Forest, but we traveled back in time to the 1910s, when this and other impressive homes were being built as retreats from the city. This one is called Vallombrosa, or “shaded valley,” and behind the house, you can see why.
Or make that Y. The two diagonals of a Y-shaped ravine run along the sides of a long, slender tongue of table land, this home’s back yard. So there are two shaded valleys embracing the property. From the tip of the back lawn, it’s a straight line 60 yards to the back of the house.
Then inside, there’s another axis perpendicular to that, running from a room atop one leg of ravine to a room atop the other leg. In between are the main formal spaces of the home: a grand, double-staircase reception foyer, the dining room and the living room.
The home was designed by Edwin Hill Clark, the architect of many substantial homes on the North Shore and the layout of the Brookfield Zoo, among other things. At Vallombrosa, he included rich details like a lovely checkerboard-wood floor, handsome wood carvings crowning interior doors, and in the living room magnificent fireplace nearly big enough to walk into. There’s another regal fireplace in the study next to the living room. Possibly once a porch open to the seasons, the study is now surrounded with windows that frame views of the ravine and grounds. The third large fireplace is in the dining room, carved with cherubim and framed by paired doors out to the terrace.
The villa has been updated to include spaces that a family would need today. The kitchen, originally a small space that would have been used only by servants, has been opened up and outfitted lavishly, but in a style that connects to the home’s origin. There’s an informal dining room with big windows onto the front gardens, and a family room with windows onto the back gardens and ravine.
Up the stairs and past a original set of stained-glass windows are four bedrooms, including a large master with a former sleeping porch, now a four-season sitting room. The master bath, though large, could use an update.
At the opposite end of the second floor is a large room with big windows out over the rear lawn and one of the ravine legs. It could become a fifth bedroom but is now being used as a TV/media room. Which is fine, but I suspect when spring rolls in and brings the garden into bloom and deer are wandering in the ravines, that’s where the real show will be.
Price Points: As I report in the May issue of the magazine—which subscribers have begun receiving and newsstands will display within a few days—this is one of two historical Lake Forest mansions being sold by Jeff and Kelly Brincat. For that article, Jeff Brincat told me that because of the dim financial condition of the state of Illinois, he plans to move the headquarters of his business, Consumer Financial Services Corp., out of state.
Jeff Brincat paid $4.9 million for this one in 2006, when he was single. He first put it on the market in 2010, when he and Kelly bought Bluff’s Edge, a far larger home, for $5.2 million. For Vallombrosa, the couple are asking 10 percent less than the 2006 purchase price. Having rehabbed Bluff’s Edge, they’re asking $6.5 million.