List Price: $1,998,500
The Property: Walking between stacked-stone pillars into the coolness of an open-ceilinged entry court at this Highland Park house, you get the feeling you’ve left the North Shore and arrived in the arid Southwest. That’s all intentional: the house was designed in 1964 for a man whose wife, the story goes, was reluctant to move from her Phoenix home to the cold Midwest.
While the small front windows and recessed entry suggest a dark home, the 11-room house is clear and sunny inside, with more and larger windows opening onto the relatively private sides of the lot. The design is deceiving in another way: from the street it looks like a low-lying one-story house—I’ve passed it on my bike countless times and admired its low profile in a neighborhood of bigger houses—but the back of the house is in fact two stories, with a balcony running the full-length of the rear of the house beneath deep, sheltering eaves.
The floor plan spreads out with the ease of the best ranch houses, with an expansive living room flowing into a family room (whose stone fireplace echoes the rustic exterior) and on into a sizable kitchen, breakfast room, and family room. Upstairs, the master bedroom has another stone fireplace and a lovely view over the yard. Three children’s bedrooms are decorated in colorful, sometimes wacky ways—check them out in the video tour—that a buyer might enjoy or might feel compelled to update.
The lot—three-quarters of an acre two blocks from Lake Michigan and within walking distance to Highland Park schools—once held an old-time mansion. But after a fire, the land, which then included two neighboring lots that were later sold off, was bought in the early 1960s by Jack Hoffman. He was a homebuilder who, in partnership with his father, Sam, was moving up from Arizona after successfully developing the northwest Chicago suburb of Hoffman Estates in the late 1950s. (His son, Buz Hoffman, is now president of Lakewood Homes, based in Hoffman Estates; his name is still on the circuit breaker in this home, identifying his childhood bedroom.)
Lloyd and Susan Berhoff, who bought the home from Hoffman in 1977, had been in thrall with its Arizona-style openness long before they bought it. They enhanced it by uncovering numerous heavily draped windows, but other than updating the kitchen and baths, they have maintained the original mid-century ranch house aesthetic, a style that has come back into fashion.
And in the basement there is a decorating touch that I defy potential buyers not to at least see the fun in: the downstairs gym was painted in the 1980s with over-sized images of people exercising—including a gigantic Jane Fonda in period-appropriate leotards and leg warmers. Let’s get physical!
With their three children grown, the Berhoffs are moving downtown. They listed the house for sale in August.
Price Points: For the asking price, there is quite a bit of space here, inside and out. Even the inevitable cost of redecorating shouldn’t be intimidating: except for the children’s bedrooms and the basement, the house has an airy, neutral style. There are some 1970s-style mirrored built-ins in the master bedroom, but they are not hideous, just out of date.