880 North Lake Shore Drive

List Price: $1.975 million
Sale Price: $1.7 million
The Property: After more than two years on the market, a large, extensively renovated top-floor condo has sold at 880 North Lake Shore Drive, the landmark high-rise designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe.

The 26th-floor penthouse, which sold on November 15, was created by putting together four of the eight smallish original apartments that occupied that floor. The units were combined at some point in the past into a “haphazard” layout, according to a 2011 article in Preservation magazine. There were “curvy, very ’80s decorative walls in the kitchen,” a fireplace in the living room “jutting out of the wall on a diagonal,” and a “garish Jacuzzi,” among other offenses, according to the article’s writer, Lisa Skolnik.

A couple bought the condo in 2005 and undertook a meticulous renovation, including upgrading the mechanicals. (Because the building is a co-op and not a conventional condominium, their names are obscured in public records; their agent, Prudential Rubloff’s Rachel Bailey, declined to provide their names.) The result, shown in the photos below and in this Elle Decor slide show, is a clean-lined homage to the architect’s original intent. The 3,400-square-foot home, one of the building’s largest, “is very modern and very beautifully redone,” says Bailey, who represented the couple both when they bought the home and when they sold it this month.

Some of the magic of the renovation is hard to see in photos because of the rehab’s emphasis on simplicity. As Anthony Hurtig, part of the renovation design team, told Skolnik, “It’s much more challenging to restore something that looks simple and seamless than to do something that has a lot of ornate details.” His collaborator, Eric Ceputis, added, “You can’t hide flaws or shortcomings under decorative moldings. Every single line and surface must be perfect.”

Nicknamed The Glass House early on for their groundbreaking nearly-all-windows exterior walls, the two modernist buildings at 860-880 North Lake Shore Drive, completed in 1951, were Mies’s first finished high-rises that embodied his, “less is more” aesthetic. Each building is 26 stories tall and set apart from one another to maximize lake and city views. Although not the architect’s first buildings, their prominence and their success at providing a break with the historicist look of apartment buildings helped get the ball rolling for what Life magazine called Mies’s “stern but stunning” style of architecture.

Price Points: The sellers first put the penthouse on the market in February 2010. In December 2010, they cancelled the listing but had Bailey hang onto it as a “vest pocket” listing, meaning it was available but not openly on the market. The couple held tight to their asking price—$1.975 million—from the first listing date to the end. “We never took any price reductions,” Bailey says. “We just negotiated the price.” She declined to say what her clients had paid for the home and what they spent on the renovation. (Public records don’t show the purchase price of homes in co-ops.) Bailey says that the buyers, who are not identified in public records, had been interested since early on but couldn’t buy until they sold their previous home.

Listing Agent: Rachel Bailey of Prudential Rubloff; 312-264-5311 or rbailey@rubloff.com


Photography: (all except exterior) Courtesy of Prudential Rubloff