Over at Crain’s, my former colleague Dennis Rodkin reports on record-low inventory in Tinley Park, Romeoville, and Island Lake. The first of those I know pretty well, and like: it’s near my favorite culinary corridor in Chicagoland (Harlem Avenue); there’s lot of good midcentury housing, even if it’s not necessarily for sale right now; it’s near some underrated forest preserves, especially the area around Red Gate Woods; there’s lots of green; and it’s generally well served by the Metra.
And if you’re willing to settle for around Tinley Park, you can find some gorgeous, odd, and very southwest suburban homes.
One house that’s definitely not for sale is Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, which is preserved for the public on the campus of the University of Chicago. Instead, you can buy a Lego version for several hundred dollars on the resale market, or this full-size replica in Palos Park. Inside, it definitely looks like a replica that was built in 2006, which is sort of interesting from a design perspective, even if it falls into a bit of an uncanny valley—it’s shinier, brighter, sleeker, not as ornate. But judged on its own merits, it’s still awfully nice, especially the long, well-lit main room, which divides the living room from the dining room with a huge centerpiece fireplace, and the layers of porches. And it has one thing Wright couldn’t give Robie: the serenity of a huge yard over sidewalks of college kids.
For a further-afield take on Prairie architecture, the house above is a 1908 farmhouse that, rather than the quaint Victorian porch you might expect, has a physically and visually massive flat porch dropped around it, like something from a Works Progress Administration project. It’s kind of weird! But it’s also kind of neat. Inside is similarly a bit all over the place—some signs of its farm heritage, a lot of contemporary renovations that you may want to either commit to or roll back. If you have young kids, though, you’ll probably want to keep the cute attic. Outside there’s room for everyone to play—4.5 acres up the hill from Hickory Creek, an eight-garage and two more two-car garages, and a coach house for guests.
From the street, it might not look like a $1.4 million house—four beds, three baths, and 3,200 square feet, a bit old, without luxury finishes. The big deal is the lake: 95 acres, spring-fed, and this is the only house on it. The lake is part of massive Centennial Park, with a skating rink, skate park, and Metra stop, a nice combination of sylvan and urban. The inside, though, is pretty delightful as well. There are three masonry fireplaces, including one in the nicely aged finished basement, big open Tudor-ish rooms in the living area, and, as you’d hope, a huge patio on the lake.
This handsome neocolonial home was well-built in 1987, so it’s starting to get a nice patina to it. In the midst of 1.5 wooded acres, it’s got a bit of a neo-gentleman-farmer feel, with an ornate, proper interior that for better and sometimes for worse shows its age. For better, for instance: the two-story main bedroom, with staircase and lofted nook/walk-in closet just for the elegant excess of it. For worse: never thought I’d say this, but probably a bit too much floral wallpaper, although it does work nicely in the huge sunroom, and with the marble floor in the entry under the (of course) main stair. The grandparent-y interior style carries through the whole of the four beds, three baths, and 3,800 square feet above ground, but the semi-finished 1,600 square feet below gives you more of a blank slate.
One of the best features of this area is the ranches, so let’s end on one. 3,200 square feet with five beds and four baths—plus three horse stalls in the small barn. Like any good ranch, it’s outdoor-focused: a bright and airy open interior, with big windows to the back to appreciate the green, and more light coming in through the clerestory windows. The big main-room fireplace by the windows is a must for the form, but the stone planter framing it is a cute, very California bonus. If the open plan is too much noise, the basement has a very official looking office with mahogany wainscotting that should make your Zoom calls more businesslike, just off a rec room whose colorful tile gives it a cheery church-basement feel.