A historic 19th-century, two-story brick and wood frame single family residence transforms into a minimalist home for a bachelor art collector. The house belongs to a landmark district of Chicago where regulations restrict any exterior changes visible from the street. The owner sought a compact, simple, light-filled home with a visual and physical relationship to a newly landscaped garden. Therefore, introducing daylight to the center of the house had to be done without impacting the existing street facade.
The building was formerly a stable at street level, with living spaces above and an entrance stair accessed directly off the street. The client desired an open first floor, which would allow functions of spaces to change throughout the year; i.e., living room, office, and dining room functions rotate throughout the spaces based on different seasons.
The existing small and dark interior was completely gutted and opened to the backyard—with a historic “face” to the street, and a contemporary interior and “face” to the garden. The newly opened space is defined and vertically connected by a central two-story volume, naturally lit from a series of skylights above. This central zone contains the home’s service spaces and is carved to reveal an open stair whose landing extends to form the kitchen counter.
Kitchen and fireplace elements are organized to span the entire east wall of the house, allowing the opposite facing walls to function as gallery walls. A warm, reduced material palette—glass, white oak, painted drywall, steel, and concrete floors—allow the artwork to remain the focus throughout the house.
The removal of a 1980’s 400-square-foot two-story addition in the rear yard opens the south facade to the backyard, extending living space into the garden and providing natural light and views deep within the house. Large floor-to-ceiling glass doors now stand in the first floor’s rear wall and provide a visual connection to the garden from all public spaces on the first floor.
A 1980’s 400-square-foot, two-story addition in the rear is removed. Large floor-to-ceiling glass doors now stand in the first floor’s rear wall, opening the south facade to the back garden and inviting natural light to penetrate deep into the house.