Everyone kind of wants to live in a penthouse—otherwise “deluxe apartment in the sky” or the infamous magazine wouldn’t resonate quite like they do.
As a result, they tend to be pretty expensive. But they don’t have to be. Just one of these five goes for over a million dollars, despite being unique spaces in great locations. You might not get something out of Architectural Digest, but you can pick from a range of styles, with great views, in different parts of town (or the suburbs).
What’s more: you can get a penthouse. Like a house where a penthouse should be. I’ll explain.
This handsome Roaring ’20s building was built as wealth moved north along the lake, and it’s situated right on one of Lake View’s most handsome corners, right across LSD from Belmont Harbor. It’s as nice inside as you would expect, but what really makes it special is how the interior has been updated—simultaneously extremely contemporary and a throwback to its era, without being corny about it. The use of wallpaper is just delightful, like the green floral pattern on the ceiling of the sitting room, set off with Lily Pulitzer-hued paint. It’s a pretty bold choice given the view. Or there’s the laundry room, a converted galley kitchen, which could be a throwaway, but has a rich rose pattern on… the ceiling? The library and bar, alternately, eschews wallpaper for a rich dark blue. It’s a lush and vivid look throughout, perfect for its spot.
Can’t decide between an apartment or a house? Have I got the place for you: a three-bed, three-bath house on top of an old apartment building in the South Loop. It’s actually a house, on top of the building. A nice one, kind of postmodern, a bit Stanley Tigerman-ish, with lots of windows, two big porches, and a big glass-block centerpiece bath in the middle of its open-plan first floor. It’s not exactly a luxury house, though it is nice; it doesn’t match the building at all; it’s just a house, dropped on top of an apartment building. Downside: you have to pay HOA dues on a house. Upside: you live in a house, on top of a building.
For the same feel but a bit less weird, this three-bed, two-bath river condo offers similar size at a similar price in an ideal location (and a boat dock). It has lofted bedrooms, accessible by a glass-and-metal spiral staircase, leading to a haute-industrial mesh floor, which overlooks the living space, which is cooled by a fan with transparent blades. It’s pretty cool. It also comes with roof rights, with which very little has been done, but the view of the bend in the river is gorgeous.
This corner unit has two beds and one bath and spectacular skyline views for under $400k, with reasonable HOA dues of $576 a month. What’s the catch? It’s not quite a proper penthouse, just penthouse-floor, and the finishing is pretty basic. But you can let the skyline do all the work for you, and for more color there’s a rooftop lounge, off which there is a rooftop pool, which—being on the 29th floor—you’re right next to. It’s also a great location, on the other side of LSD from Burnham Harbor and Northerly Island, and due east of Chinatown and Ping Tom Park.
Finally, here’s an inexpensive suburban option. It’s pretty simple, as you’d expect from the price, and it’s a bit dated—but kind of nicely so, as with the gold accents in the large bathroom, or the wall of mirrors that adds some light and a nice reflection to the large open-plan kitchen. Why have a penthouse out in the suburbs? For the pleasant views of the green space surrounding the building. It’s right off a big park with a pond, with Deer Grove a bit farther in the distance, which is connected by a bike trail. It’s got an outdoor pool, is practically next door to a library, and there’s a Mariano’s and a gym about a quarter-mile away, so you can spend a lot of time outdoors instead of in a car.