For a lot of people during the past year, being outside was a balm when everything else was shut down. That’s part of why Chicago‘s new roundup of the Best Places to Live is the Green Spaces Edition. I second the recommendation of Palos Park, which is near two of my favorite outdoor spots in Chicagoland—Red Gate Woods, which contains the remnants of the first nuclear chain reaction, and Sagawau Canyon, Cook County’s only canyon—plus a lot of great ranch houses and the amazing Harlem Avenue Middle Eastern food corridor centered around Bridgeview.
So for this roundup, I wanted to find homes next to (or essentially in) forest preserves. There are a lot, at a lot of different price points, and some big apartment complexes have been constructed on the edge of the county’s extensive preserves as well.
This big (3,172 square feet with six beds and four bathrooms), old (1891) is in the landmarked Old Edgebrook section, surrounded by Edgebrook Woods and Sidney Yates Flatwoods, near the southern end of the North Branch Trail, a wonderful bike/walking/jogging trail that takes you all the way up to Winnetka. Inside the views are pretty great, too, especially the wraparound porch that looks out onto equally gorgeous neighbors, the home office with stained-glass windows, and the cherry on top: the bedroom in the turret.
If you want a bigger river, this quaint farmhouse is practically part of the Fox River Preserve in Lake County, and across the river from the Lyons Prairie in McHenry County. Built in 1920, it’s been fairly but not excessively updated—it looks like what it is inside, but newer. The massive arched window is a gorgeous addition, and from the pictures it appears to be used as a pleasant place to…. wash your hair in a salon chair? It’s just two beds and two baths, but at just under 2,000 square feet, they’re spacious rooms.
A more modern take on the farmhouse, this was built in 1987, which—wait, don’t run, it’s really cute! It’s got a fireplace in the kitchen! It’s zoned for “up to five” horses, one per acre (bring your own barn)! It’s pretty pricey, but it’s big: five beds, three baths, over 4,300 square feet, with big rooms in colors more conservative than the big blue porch might suggest. Except for the bathrooms, those are pretty ’80s. This is between the Grainger Woods Preserve and the Captain Daniel Wright Woods, which “provides the opportunity to see the powerful effects of water and fire,” which rules.
If, like me, you’ve driven 290 out past O’Hare, you’ve noticed Dominion Tower, and probably wondered what it looks like inside. The answer: not quite what you’d expect a beige council estate from the future to look like inside. Which probably has a bigger market: it’s spacious, with three bedrooms and three baths over 1,875 square feet, centered around a big open-plan living room/dining room kitchen. The porch so heavily promised by the exterior is just off the living room, and the views from the 13th floor are good. You can watch the players on the public Maple Meadows Golf Course, or follow the green corridor to the 360-acre Songbird Slough about a mile to the west.
Built in 1991, this Northbrook mansion—four beds, six baths, 6,000 square feet—is right on the border between the greed-is-good ’80s and the neon ’90s. Yet it’s pretty chill inside, even calming. Windows everywhere look out on to the sophisticated topiary, particularly in the living room, where they cast a warm light on the huge built-in bookcases. The main bedroom introduces some rare beige, turning it into something like a hotel suite (in a good way) that looks out onto the pool. Also, because it’s a mansion: a kitchen island with a sink and dishwasher, with a sink and an identical dishwasher on the wall across from the island. We’ve made some real advances in fancy-house-party-kitchen-appliances since then. Anyway, if you want a fitting ’80s/’90s party house, but not, like, in that way, this is the calmest version you’ll find, perhaps influenced by the lush Somme Woods at the end of the street.