Pro tip: One of the more fun ways to hunt for real estate is to go to your favorite site and search the keyword “architect.” You’ll end up with a lot of zany McMansions, but among the chaff are some well-pedigreed gems. At a certain price point your realtor/personal assistant has probably already informed you that they’re available, like a Frank Lloyd Wright on the market, but the rest of us can enjoy the pictures, as well as find some reasonably aspirational properties that fit into the history of America’s architectural capital.
Or, for the real high-rollers, a NYC penthouse parachuted onto LSD.
You might be tired of me going on about FLW and Sullivan and Chicago’s architectural heritage and whatnot, so here’s a piece of New York City’s history on the Near North Side: it’s the only building here from a legend of the Roaring Twenties, Rosario Candela, a Sicilian immigrant, architect, and cryptographer whose luxury penthouses defined how we think of Park and Fifth Avenues. You won’t find many buildings with this much, well, look in Chicago, but if you need a break from the Italinate flourishes there’s a nice view of the lake. Better hurry: it’s only been on the market for three weeks, but maybe its $17 million asking price — six beds, seven baths, 8,000 square feet with more than $8k a month in HOA fees — will keep it there awhile.
Yes, this is a FLW tucked away in the woods. It’s a late Wright (1950) in his stripped-down Usonian style, giving it some modesty from the outside: sheltered and private from the road, open and bright within. If you like Wright and mid-century modernism it’s a good meeting place, and it subtly looks forward to the 1970s. Its open living area is balanced with little nooks carved out of its nearly 3,000 square feet by the house’s angles, giving it a cozy cabin feel. If the Prairie Style is a little too busy for you, this is a pleasant alternative — four beds, 3.1 baths, $1.5 million, on three acres with a pool.
It’s big (3,800 square feet with five beds and four baths), it’s beautiful, it’s Edward Dart, yet it’s a mere $480,000. And it has an atrium smack-dab in the middle of the living area: like a skylight you can sit in or move your dining-room table into when the weather permits. There’s more light in the angled family room, which perches out like a porch over the exposed-basement music room. A few less-than-ideal contempo choices have been made, but they’re surface level on a warm modernist box for not a lot of money.
Gertrude Lempp Kerbis was one of the best-pedigreed architects in Chicago, having worked with Wright, Mies van der Rohe, and Gropius and at SOM — and as head of the first woman-owned and -operated architecture firm in the city, she couldn’t get enough work, so she became a developer instead. She designed these friendly townhouses that you’ve probably seen if you’ve spent any time in Lincoln Park, and they’re as airy and light as you’d expect from the outside. It’s not big, two beds and two baths and 1,200 square feet, but it’s just $419,000 in a prime location with HOA dues of just $369 a month.
Since starting with a six-unit townhouse in Hyde Park, architect and developer David Hovey has built thousands of units over the past four decades (including his own mostly prefab 8,000-plus-square-foot Winnetka home). If you want in on an early Hovey, a unit is for sale in his 1981 downtown Oak Park development: light, clean, simple, and three beds and three baths for $425,000, from an architect who does sophisticated modernism at scale.