The Properties: The façades of two recently sold new houses in the city feature big, playful visual puns—and each of them is part of a different builder’s long-range game plan.
First is a house whose windows and trim form a gigantic E. It stands on Erie Street, appropriately enough. That exuberant exterior element fits into a pattern: Earlier this year, the same builder sold a nearby house with a large L on the façade, and the agent on the E and the L houses is now representing two more by that builder with a capital I on their fronts.
That suggests the builder is slyly spelling out the name Eli. But his agent, Ivona Kutermankiewicz, suspects something more ambitious is afoot. She wouldn’t say what, but directed me to her client, Sergei Vasilechko. Vasilechko did not respond to a request for comment, but notice that the letters E, L, and I are in his last name. How he’d manage to make a V out of windows, I can’t imagine.
The other odd façade is a little harder for some people to figure out, said its builder, Eric Parfenoff, and its listing agent, Kristi Gunther. Part of the challenge is that the mix of sun and shade often obscures the top of the building— which is why you have to look at both my pictures to get it.
Yep. On top of the building is a row of five fish heads, and their bodies hang down the front, all the way to the tails that end just above the front door and main-floor windows.
“My whole philosophy is that the building shouldn’t take itself too seriously,” said Parfenoff, whose company, Cobalt Associates, has done about 20 homes on the North Side. His last project, sold in August 2011, has toy knights lined up across the façade, and Parfenoff said that the next is going to appear to have hair. (We’ll shoot video there next spring, when it’s nearing completion.) The motifs in past projects have included flames in the windows and an old-time movie marquee, he said.
Parfenoff explained that he’s the son of an art professor, and that he thought about going into art before becoming an architect. “I build these houses to sell them, but I also want them to be a piece of sculpture,” he told me. The fish motif is a nod to his early college days as a marine biology major and his brief stint working as a commercial hard-hat diver in Los Angeles.
Parfenoff, who is a one-man operation, said that he doesn’t make much mention of the fanciful façade when trying to sell a house, nor does Gunther, his agent. “I don’t mention it unless they ask about it,” Parfenoff said. The buyers of the house with the knights didn’t notice the motif until after their purchase, he said. “But when I mentioned it, they really enjoyed that. People do enjoy a little bit of creativity and something more than just your standard house you see everywhere.”
Price Points: The E house sold September 13 for its full listing price, $799,900. The fish house came on the market in September 2011 with an asking price of $1.099 million. Its sale closed August 21 at $1.025 million, or 93 percent of the asking price.