A Vintage Row House

Architecture remains a social art. It can have a profound impact on the people it affects not only at creation, but for years to come.

No textbook or continuing education class could ever accurately illustrate the impact our designs have on the people who live in the spaces we create. Our clients trust us to improve their lives by converting the dreams and goals they have for their homes into reality. That means listening to them, and making sure we understand those dreams and goals.

For example, many of our clients today live in older homes. Too often, we equate old with bad. If a house is old, we want to get rid of all the vestiges of the building’s past, and replace it with all new. A growing number of our clients, though, appreciate the beauty and the charm of their old homes. They want to renovate their residences by adding modern amenities making them more livable, but also insist that we work to replicate those details that lent character and texture to their homes.

One such client — a couple living in a four-story row house built in the 1890s in Chicago’s Gold Coast, recently experienced the joy of successfully renovating their vintage home. Working closely with the client, we were able to maintain the 19th century appeal while making 21st century updates and increasing living space. The end result: a beautiful home and a delighted client.

When they first decided to renovate their home, the couple interviewed a few architectural firms. Then their kitchen designer referred them to us. The client had two needs. They wanted to begin and end on time, and they wanted to keep the integrity of their home.

It may sound simple, but the project was anything but. First there were design and construction challenges. The house was narrow — the interior was only 15 ft. wide. Due to its age, the structure was antiquated. Wiring, plumbing and other systems needed to be completely updated. The couple also wanted to expand living space. This meant a complete gutting of the first two levels, including floors, walls, ceilings, stairways, plumbing, mechanical and wiring.

To expand living space, it was decided to eliminate the rear stairway to the upper floors, which cut through the kitchen on the second level and the study on the third level. The butler’s pantry was also eliminated. The result of these two decisions was a 35 percent increase in living space. Instead of a postage-stamp kitchen, the client would have a full-sized family kitchen... perfect for when the kids and grandkids visit.

Behind the scenes, wiring and plumbing systems were modernized. The next challenge was adding the finishing touches to duplicate the original charm of the home. To accomplish this, period details were replicated in everything from moldings to doors to balusters on the staircase to the fireplace surround, and even to the radiator covers. No detail was too small.
The end results? A beautiful home, a delighted client, and a lesson for us. We learned again that we can create a new masterpiece from an existing masterpiece; our artwork does not always require a blank sheet of paper.

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