List Price: $7.85 million
The Property: Some of the most beautiful streets in Chicago are on the Gold Coast, but let’s face it: they’re streets. So one way to really appreciate living in the neighborhood is to be raised up above the street, as you are in this 1914 mansion where all the major living spaces are on the second floor.
In the very handsome living room, stately wood paneling surrounds you, and a stunning plaster ceiling filled with patterns and cherubim hangs above an ornate chandelier and herringbone floors. Everything in the room is original, though very meticulously restored by Deborah Bricker, who bought the mansion about 15 years ago. Complementing the luxurious level of finishes are nice views on two sides: tall windows and a balcony face front, to the street, and then on one side, more windows frame the view of an even grander mansion next door.
There’s a historical connection between this home and that: Dr. George Isham lived in the larger home and built this one for his daughter. There’s a courtyard between so that the two relate to one another comfortably, instead of standing shoulder to shoulder. For a while, these two mansions were connected as the Playboy mansion. Later when they returned to residential use they were made into separate properties again. But you still get all that light coming in the north windows, over the courtyard.
A pair of tall niche windows in the hallway pour sunlight down onto the gorgeous curving staircase that brings visitors up from the ground level. There’s a real sense of arrival on that staircase, with the sun raining down and a dramatic chandelier hanging overhead. The chandelier is one of five—three on the main level and two on the ground floor—that were all going to be removed by the prior owner of the house, but Bricker tells me she paid extra to retain them, and restored all five. It was a smart move; they set an elegant tone for the home.
Also on this floor of formal rooms is an inviting parlor or drawing room, and a dining room. The dining room ceiling really blew me away, with crowns of flowers carved in plaster, beams, and the most impressive of the chandeliers. The room has a large, formal fireplace and ample daylight coming in from west-facing windows. It’s a fine place to dine, and when the house was built, it didn’t matter that there was no need for a kitchen on this level, because servants could do all the work downstairs. But a kitchen was later added off the dining room, so if you’re cooking to eat in the dining room, the workspace is adjacent.
For the more informal style of living we do today, on the first floor there is a spacious family room-kitchen combination, like what you’d find in a modern home. It extends the finish quality that is found upstairs: the room is surrounded by wood that makes up both the kitchen cabinets and the wall paneling, but in a lighter wood than on the formal floor. It’s detailed with three charming pieces of art nouveau-style wood trim that depict sunflowers.
The family room-kitchen gets a lot of sun as well from west-facing windows. The new garage was built far enough from the house that sun can cascade in, so that on the street level there’s as much sun as there is upstairs. There’s a terrace off the kitchen, another above that off the formal rooms, and a third above that, off one of the bedrooms.
The third floor has three bedrooms (there are five in all). The master is gracious, with a fireplace, a marble-lined bath, and views east toward the lake as well as north, of the neighboring house. On this floor as on the two below, there are windows north, east and west.
The house has a fourth exposure, but it isn’t south: It’s up. On the fourth floor is a solarium with a row of skylights that bring in abundant sunlight. There’s a bedroom off one end, and off the other, a lovely, nicely landscaped terrace, a perch above the street where you can get away from it all.
Price Points: The public records on this property are misleading, but Bricker says she paid a total of $3.6 million for the home—including a separate purchase of the chandeliers and other original finish items. The renovations and additions were a “multi-million-dollar effort,” she says, and bring her total investment to approximately the price she’s asking for the house. “And don’t forget: her purchase price is from a long time ago,” says Bricker’s agent, Janet Owen, emphasizing the neighborhood’s appreciation in home value since then. “I’m not going to make money on this sale,” says Bricker, who’s retiring to another state.