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List Price: $4,239,000
The Property: Fifteen years ago, Tom Melk and Sarah Potter paid $500,000 for two dilapidated wood frame houses from 1874. “They were basically leaning on each other to stand up,” Potter remembers. Over the course of ten years, the couple created a distinctive new home by building a glass bridge between the two houses and completely reworking the interiors in a 1930s Modernist style with white plaster walls, crazy-quilt tile work, and lots of art glass.

The place is now a genuinely unique—and very large—home, something you wouldn’t expect from the look of the two staid, if nicely restored Victorian façades. From the moment you enter the front hall, with its milk-white walls and a passage to a curvaceous staircase, the stolid look of the exterior recedes from memory.

Over time the couple incorporated a third old house on an adjacent lot into their compound, fitting it out as an airy studio. They also built a handsome garage that looks like a stable, and commissioned construction of a brick wall—three stories high and about 80 feet wide—across the back of the lot; it blocks views of the multilevel parking garage on the other side.

Now living in New Mexico, Melk and Potter listed their Old Town compound for sale in February. “We love what has happened here,” says Sarah Potter, a potter. “But we want our kids to be able to play outside barefoot all the time.”

As you will see in the video tour (led by Potter), the artful details are plentiful. The tile work and plaster walls are largely a tribute to Edgar Miller and Sol Kogen, two legendary Old Town artist-developers whose exuberantly eccentric Carl Street Studios on Burton Place were an early home for Melk and Potter. Like that landmark complex, this place isn’t bound by most conventions. Take, for example, the guest shower at the basement level: its ceiling is a perforated subway grate with a view overhead to the outside. There is a also a semisecret office nook tucked behind Indian carved-wood panels, a canvas (intentionally left blank) on the living room wall that slides up to reveal a flat-screen television, and many glass-filled cutouts in the walls.

The main home is now configured with three bedrooms for family, a guest apartment with a private entrance, and two offices. But given all the space in the four-building compound, it could easily be reapportioned in different ways. It is a very personal home, but done with an artistic character throughout that should speak directly to buyers who never order vanilla, except on their walls.

Price Points: I first wrote about the house(s) in 2002. Back then, Melk and Potter would not comment on the cost of their renovations, so I added up the amounts listed on permits on file at City Hall: $465,000. Melk and Potter still won’t say what they spent, but now, having toured the entire project, I can see that there was a lot of nonmechanical, largely cosmetic work that didn’t require permits—and the couple has completed more permitted work in the interim. By now, the final cost of the renovations has probably risen to the multimillion-dollar level.

Listing Agent: Phyllis Hall, Koenig & Strey GMAC, 312-316-3634
For more information on the house, go to