While searching through housing inventory — or the supply of residential buildings that are currently available for purchase — I get excited whenever I come across a home with an interesting architectural pedigree. Among all the cookie-cutter houses out there today (and trust me, there are a lot), we are lucky the Chicagoland area is full of notable modernist designs. Many of them have a story to tell, and it’s what makes these old homes come alive. Considering we pride ourselves on our incredibly rich built environment, it’s no surprise a number of unique architect-designed midcentury modern homes are currently for sale.
Commissioned in 1968 by local ophthalmologist Jerry Seidel, this unique home sold just three years ago after the original owner’s passing. Now it’s back on the market. Between 1948 and 1951, Don Erickson was an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright before he began a 55-year career in architecture. Some of his best-known buildings include the now-shuttered Indian Lakes Resort in Bloomingdale and the Bird Cage Apartments at Ridge and Farwell in Chicago’s Rogers Park. Erickson created a beautiful, light-filled home with 20-ft-high windows that takes advantage of its site overlooking Park Ridge’s Wildwood Nature Center and Forest Lake. The latest owner updated the kitchen and bathrooms but preserved the details that make this design so special. Some unique features of the home include a curved chalet-style roof, massive stone wall and fireplace, heavy timber roof beams, and a master bedroom suite loft.
Currently under contract, this cedar-clad midcentury modern residence is located down a semi-circular driveway on seven acres overlooking Honey Lake in North Barrington. It has an interesting backstory: 25-year-old Don Tosi, a protege of architect Bruce Goff, designed this home at the same time he was working on Goff’s iconic Ford House in Aurora. Because he was so young and not licensed as an architect, Tosi’s design was signed by Goff himself. Originally built for the O.K. Meyer family in 1949, the current owners hired Tosi to redesign and expand the house when it was partially destroyed by a tornado in 1967. You won’t find any of today’s current HGTV trends here as the home has all the character and charm it did over 50 years ago. More info on this residence and its interesting history can be found here.
There is a significant number of midcentury modern homes in the south suburban area of Flossmoor and Olympia Fields. You can find work here by local architects H.P. Davis Rockwell, Edward Dart, Y.C. Wong, Edward Humrich, and Keck & Keck. Architect George Fred Keck pioneered passive solar energy design, which is on display in this 1954 home. The major spaces of his buildings were always oriented for southern exposure with walls of floor-to-ceiling glass, which is perfect to take in views of this house’s wooded lot. He also incorporated such trademarks as louvered panel windows for ventilation as well as radiant heat flooring. This cedar and glass modernist residence with 9-feet-tall tongue and groove ceilings can be yours for only $365,000.
Most architects chose to design midcentury modern homes with a blank, nearly windowless facade on the public street, while the home opened up with walls of glass on the private side. At this North Aurora residence, located on the Fox River, the windows take in scenic views of the water. Originally built in 1949 for the president of the Aurora Equipment Company — John Dunham and his wife Dorothy — the architect William Gray of Geneva hired two local college students to assist with the construction. He later formed an architectural firm with them as Gray, Laz and Mall. The perks of this one-acre property is you can subdivide the lot, plus you own all the land east of the Fox River bike trail.
The sale of this 1955 Lincolnwood home is currently pending but I had to share it — especially for its Roman brick exterior with triangular trim work along the roof eaves. It is an early design by Polish-born architect Josef Marion Gutnayer, who survived the Holocaust and later moved to Chicago where he became the first faculty member of UIC’s architecture department when the campus was located at Navy Pier. He also designed contemporary homes throughout the North Shore, along with high rises along Lake Shore Drive. This eye-catching modernist design with interior courtyard has plenty of updates on the inside, so it’s a great mix of old and new.