There wasn’t much debate for a North Shore couple about building a new house versus reimagining their 30-year-old home that faces a preserve of designated prairie land. “We have a wonderful piece of property,” says the homeowner, who remembers telling his wife that they could build anew “if she could find something in the area that she liked better, but that was just not possible.” Intent on staying put, the couple decided to rework their existing single-level house, which they commissioned from Marvin Herman—who helmed the original architecture—and interior designer Daniel Du Bay in 1978 when their three children were young. Now, with the kids grown and five young grandchildren who often visit, the wife says, “I wanted a different allocation of space.”
Du Bay, who had orchestrated several updates over the years, was ready when his clients decided to rebuild. “We have a mutual respect for each other,” he says, “so we really were given a lot of free rein.” The new layout combines the home’s original bedroom wing into one master suite with his-and-her offices, extensive new closets and bathrooms for both husband and wife—a grand retreat from the rest of the house. A second floor was also added for visiting children and grandchildren, along with a new kitchen, expanded breakfast room and new family room.
The new design also breathed new life into the owners’ vast art collection. “Their art is very colorful—and very strong,” says Du Bay, noting that he went for rich, dark neutrals in the home’s furnishings to emphasize the art and worked with lighting designer Mitchell B. Kohn to make sure it was properly illuminated. The house itself combines sumptuous materials and finishes that complement their collection. “It was more of a sculpting effort than a construction effort,” builder Mark Fettner says. “We molded the original house to the shape that it is now.”
Architects Anna Bugaj and Artur Kaczmarek then clad the structure in painted cedar, metal panels and Indiana limestone—natural materials that reference the outdoors—while huge walls of windows allow for panoramic views. “One of the aspects of the project was incorporating the design into the surrounding prairie,” Bugaj says. They accomplished this feat with a faceted, hand-cut limestone wall that bisects the home both inside and out. The wall’s texture, Bugaj says, “plays with the light, reflecting sun and shadows,” which creates changing patterns throughout the day. The design is replicated on a massive 4-ton chimney above the fireplace dividing the living and dining areas.
Echoing the architecture, Du Bay infused rich texture into the interiors. “I like to go with very substantial and luxurious finishes and materials,” he says, pointing to the slivered slate in the husband’s bathroom; cabinetry and built-ins crafted from espresso stained Claro walnut in the kitchen; 6-inch-wide fumed white oak plank flooring, which took a month to perfect its pale taupe hue; and custom breakfast area tables made of stainless steel with acid-washed and back-painted glass tops— an effect that visually resembles suede.
Outside, landscape architect Rocco V. Fiore evoked the nearby nature preserve with a tableau of prairie grasses and ornamentals. “We wanted to get that same ambience of open land around the rest of the house,” Fiore says, especially because its windows steer views in every direction. “We tried to place as many native plants as possible to create a distinct palette that would allow for color throughout the property,” he explains.
The owners praise the team for not only creating “a really functional house that accommodates grandchildren,” the wife says, but that also celebrates its natural surroundings and showcases their modern art. “We all had tremendous input; we all listened to one another; we all added; and we all subtracted. I feel very strongly that a team approach brings about the very best result.”