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List Price: $3.15 million
The Property: When you first approach this mansion in Glencoe, you might be a little puzzled because you’re in a very pretty natural setting but there are almost no windows, which is why you go around back. There, you see that the house opens up to its natural setting.
The house was designed in the mid-1960s by the architect Ed Dart. It’s sort of an abstraction on its natural setting. Dart picked up the natural verticals of the surrounding oak trees and replicated them in the lines of the concrete patio wall and, more importantly, in a series of tall brick piers around the house. The house is a reflection of, but apart from, its natural setting. It’s made of earthen materials—brick and concrete—so that the house is part of nature but removed from it.
The earthen materials carry through inside, where the design continues to abstract on nature. That’s most clear in the foyer, where the verticals of the trees are brick piers, there’s light filtering in through windows high above, as if it’s coming through the leaves, and you’re surrounded by wood: a welcoming bench in the foyer is the first of many walnut accents throughout the house.
Near the foyer is a library with walnut all around: in shelving, a bar, and other accents—not to mention a handsome keyhole-shaped fireplace made of brick. And the kitchen is full of rich walnut cabinetry. It has a dated floorplan, so buyers are likely to update it, but I hope what they do is re-position the cabinets, keeping all that prized walnut as well as the idea that the house was built as a piece in the mid-1960s.
Former Chicago Mercantile Exchange chairman Leo Melamed, his wife, Betty, and their family have lived in the home since the mid-1970s. Betty recalls falling for the place the instant she first walked in: “The architecture was so unusual,” she tells me in today’s video. “We loved it and we walked in and felt an immediate connection to the light and the shapes of the rooms. The brick was all very appealing to us.”
We stood in the dining room, an approximate octagon. “Most of the rooms in the house are an unusual shape,” she pointed out, “rather than the usual rectangle or square.”
The house is decidedly not a rectangle; the only word for its shape is “amorphous.” The blueprint shows projections in several directions, with the result that each of the five second-floor bedrooms looks in a different direction. They have individualized views out into the trees, over the pool, and I understand when the leaves are gone, out to Lake Michigan.
The master suite has two main rooms on two levels. The lower one is now a mirrored dressing room but could become anything—an office, a sitting room. There are more of those walnut accents, but in the sleeping room on the upper level, the primary things you see are the oak trees that surround the house.
In the basement, you’re surrounded by items from the 1960s, including an intercom and a soda fountain, and then in the billiards room, you’re surrounded by dozens of posters of Hollywood stars: Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, and other bombshells. That’s next door to the bomb shelter, a room whose concrete ceiling, walls, and floor are all extra-thick. There’s a treadmill in it now, and Betty says the family and neighbors have always chuckled about having a bomb shelter. The neighbors, she says, have long said “they’d visit us if there was an attack of some sort.”
Price Points: The home, originally built for members of the prominent Crown family, stands on an acre among homes on half-acre lots in a Glencoe neighborhood that overlooks Lake Michigan. The ample lot, the home’s size—5,200 square feet—and the pool and poolhouse are concrete factors that went into the pricing of the home, says the listing agent, Jennifer Waldman. The architectural pedigree is icing on the cake. The property was on the market for part of 2012, with a different agent and an asking price of $3.495 million. It came back on at its present price July 12.