1815 North Park Boulevard (1995)


Like its neighbor 1803 North Park on this year's Tour, this home was built as a Cape Cod bungalow in 1952. Over the past four years new owners have transformed the home and surrounding property into a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired estate. Gone are the original box shaped and separate rooms, colonial dormers, picture and sash windows, sections of solid exterior walls, closets, doors and more. In place is a home of classic modernist sensibility. To do so required conceptual re-orientation, and extensive structural and cosmetic alterations.


The owners did most of the work themselves, including the designs for the architectural (structural) renovations, furnishings and landscaping. They were undaunted by the magnitude of their project, even in the face of a nearly disastrous fire on the coldest winter's day in 1993, because the property offered a preferred location, an in-ground swimming pool, a huge 100' by 200' lot, and easy access between home, pool and gardens. Most importantly, they believed they could "do enough to have a dream home, and then get on with our lives." Re-sale was not considered.


An "organic architecture" espoused by Wright was achieved by strict adherence to four design principles in every aspect of the project: 1) a horizontal orientation, emphasizing a closeness to the terrain, 2) use of natural materials, native to the mid-West - slate, maple veneer, glass and stainless steel, 3) use of a monochromatic palate of gray, tan and beige, and 4) visual and functional interweaving of the dwelling and its setting.


Architectural renovations began with a wall built in front of the home the full width of the property. It establishes privacy, and at the same time serves to enclose a courtyard through which the home is accessed. Here, a fish pond and fountain, trees and other plantings, and various seating set the theme of living with nature.


Two walls forming the front and back walls of the home's living room, originally of stone and clapboard, were replaced with glass, and an interior wall was mirrored to visually merge outdoors and indoors. Floors are of slate throughout, and cover a radiant heat system housed in the slab foundation. Maple columns designate a foyer. The living room fireplace remains the focal point of the room, but it has been given a horizontal orientation by being incorporated into a long, low maple cabinetry (mantle) which extends into the area of the former dining room. A rectangular grouping of oversized, custom made sofas, chairs and ottomans, upholstered in gray mohair, fills the room and echoes the modern design motif. The ceiling was not overlooked - it was lowered and sculpted to reach out to adjacent areas.


Major alterations were necessary to create the master suite on the second floor. A dormer in the bedroom was replaced with a skylight, and the closet was removed to give room for a built-in bed. A second room serves as a dressing room. Removing its former closet gave room to extend the bath, which has an etched glass counter with two stainless steel sinks. Giving the shower stall a deep square tub permits a bath Japanese style.


The backyard has been enclosed with fencing along the property line, thus taking advantage of the huge lot. The landscaping, like the home, was carefully considered and intentionally rendered.