Barrington Hills has the perfect terrain for stowing away divine pieces of architecture. Not to be confused with the compact historic village of Barrington, the Hills is 29 square miles of meandering country roads and private lane ways, heavily developed with estates and equestrian farms (Arlington Park racetrack is nearby). It’s a choice setting for works of the late architect Don Erickson, whose clients in the 1960s and 1970s were able to snag rugged acreage with ponds or valleys.
One of Erickson’s smaller homes, at 2,870 square feet (though still on six acres), has listed for sale for the first time. All of his homes are implanted in the landscape, with devices to bring the outside in, and this one does it tremendously well: outcroppings of rock engulf portions of façade; wood beams break the building’s envelope to dangle outside; the roofline is like a circus tent or pagoda, clearly channeling The Orient as mentor Frank Lloyd Wright was known to do; and a manicured, rolling lawn surrounding the home lessens its vertical intrusion.
The rear of the home faces something entirely different: wooded valley. This is where the exterior is given drama—window walls and double-decker wraparound balconies position the dwelling as a monumental tree house. That theme pervades the interior, with a swooping wooden canopy roof funneling daylight from above and a suspension bridge. You read that right: a suspension bridge runs from the foyer to the open living area, passing through mountainous dark gray rock formations installed as casually as furniture. Don’t miss the powder room hidden in the rock, definitely the most surreal space in this alternate universe.
The main level strings together vaulted common areas, including a newer kitchen tucked behind one rock wall and the master bedroom with a grand hearth centered in the space and a sunken room with a Jacuzzi pressed against a window wall. On the other end of the level there’s a small second bedroom and a two-car garage where Erickson also applied his visionary pagoda roof—it’s the third installment and makes the whole composition better than if there were just two.
Here’s an important question: what does that bridge span? Naturally, an in-ground pool—shaped like a crater and primed for parties. The pool wasn’t filled when I dropped by, but it’s ready to go. The spaces flanking it and the deck are less complete. “We have proposed third and fourth bedrooms down here,” says listing agent John Morrison of @properties, referring to he and the family holding the estate, just the second owners of the 1971 home. They have already made some improvements, including new tile floors and refurbished bathrooms.
Price Points: Morrison and his sellers are wise to introduce this property at $649,000. While the higher end has started to recoup and Barrington Hills is even seeing a new spec house or two, “we still have a lot of inventory to go through,” says Morrison. Using figures from the last three months, Redfin shows the village’s median list price at $995,000 and its median sale price at just $545,000 (with 22 sales). Another nearby Erickson house, the architect’s own home, spiraled from $3.9 million to an $835,000 closing. Such an extreme drop isn’t typical, but it’s still illustrative: Erickson’s widow Patricia listed the home not long after his death in 2006, so bore the brunt of a bad economy. That property included 10 acres, a coach house, and a larger main house.