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List Price: $699,000*
The Property: Look—I found a house in urban Logan Square with a suburban-style driveway from the street. It’s a rarity in the city, it’s a great convenience, and it’s a solution to a somewhat awkward aspect of this lot.
Everybody else in the near neighborhood has garages on an alley. This lot couldn’t do that, so the city allowed pushing the garage forward, and as you’ll see in today’s video, that created some floorplan solutions. Another solution that comes from the specifics of this lot is that because the south side of the house is facing a dead-end street, they’ve got windows all along there to bring in enormous amounts of daylight.
It’s part of a California modern aesthetic that you can see beginning with the exterior. There’s cedar around the window bay, an asymmetrical window pattern, nice metal fascia and wide-planked Hardie board siding.
Jeff Mayra, who designed the house with architect Chris Talsma, is also the real estate agent selling it now, and the homeowner who lives here with his wife, Lesley, and three kids.
“I’ve been a subscriber of Dwell for a while,” he said, “and it was an influence on me, both the aesthetic and the green features.” He also drew inspiration from the modernist homes built by Joseph Eichler in California.
Hardie board and the reliance on daylighting are two visible green features. Those that might be harder to spot include spray-foam insulation, paints and some floor sealants that are low in volatile organic compounds, low-e insulated glass in the windows, dual-flush toilets, and radiant heat beneath the basement floor, which heats much of the upper two floors comfortably, thanks to the tight insulation.
The visuals are also comfortable. The living, dining and kitchen space is warm and bright beneath 11-foot ceilings; a highlight is the long wall of Ikea cabinetry, all installed by Mayra and his father-in-law, a former carpenter. The kitchen was the key to the design of this open-plan space, Mayra says. It’s situated so everybody can participate, and so that cooking can be done for either indoor or outdoor dining; the doors to the deck and yard are at hand.
“We wanted the house to be focused on the kitchen,” he says. “We kind of took the limitations of the lot—the garage attached out front, and the city setback [rules]—and designed it around our family.”
One place that’s evident is the staircase. The Mayras have three little kids but an open staircase, which is sometimes a concern. Not here, thanks to careful design. “We made the treads on the stairs thicker,” Mayra explains, “and that makes the space between treads safer for kids. Typical is seven inches; what we did is down to four inches,” which meets code for children’s safety. There’s an aesthetic advantage to those thick stairs, too.
The floors’ red oak stain, a dark espresso, flows through the main level and up the stairs to the second. Here’s where the garage comes in: there’s a sort of split in the second floor. The two front bedrooms and a bath are above the garage, and then the two rear ones are up a few steps, over the 11-foot ceiling of the great room.
The larger of the rear bedrooms is the master. On the way in you see bookcases are tucked into the walls, in the space created by the second floor’s cantilever over the first. They’re one of several stylish ways the master bedroom is made to feel larger. The bathroom door doesn’t swing out into the space but is a slider, a handsome barn door made of leftovers from the exterior cedar siding. But the real masterstroke, in my estimation, is the master closet. It, too, skips the swing-out doors; it has no doors at all, but is a long gallery-style space set apart from the rest of the room by a wall clad in more cedar. That space creates a distinctive layered look to the master bedroom, and breathing room that opens it up.
Also opening it up is a large pair of sliding doors that open onto a private balcony for the master bedroom. From there, you can look out over the back yard and be grateful that a big garage wasn’t plunked down in the middle of it.
Price Points: The Mayras bought the 22-by-125-foot lot (the city norm is 25-by-125) in 2008 for $250,000, according to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds. Jeff Mayra says their total cost including construction of the 3,200-square-foot house is above their asking price, though he declined to give an exact amount. (At $200 a square foot, construction alone could have gone over $600,000.) He says they’re selling because they plan to build another, and perhaps more through Jeff Mayra’s firm Relevant Homes, since this one went so well.
*Listed in February, the house now has a contract in, but is available for showings.