Mountain houses have many attributes worth exalting: cleaner air, scenic views of snow-capped peaks and the feeling of instant calm that happens when you’re surrounded by nature. But for one empty-nester Chicago couple, the appeal was something much more concrete—literally. They had built a modern vacation home in Telluride, Colorado, 10 years ago and loved its mix of materials (namely the aforementioned composite), centralized floor plan and radiant-heat floors—so much so that they hoped to repeat some of that magic in a North Shore new build. “We love the warmth of the Telluride house even on snowy days,” says the husband, who foresaw a forever home in Chicagoland that encouraged visitors, including the couple’s three adult children who live out of state. “In Colorado, we all live in the kitchen when we have guests. We wanted that same functionality here.”
To accomplish this, they assembled a team led by En Masse architects Mike Shively and Lucas Goldbach that included interior designer Andrea Goldman and builder Jon Kogan. Starting from scratch meant the couple could recreate the features of their mountain retreat they’d grown fond of, particularly its medley of steel, glass, stone and wood, and an open floor plan organized around a central gathering hub. “Priorities shift when a home goes from a place where you’re raising a family to one where you’re welcoming that family back as guests,” Goldbach says.
Utilizing an H-shaped layout, Shively and Goldbach designed and situated the house in a way that encourages connection to the outdoors while shielding the neighbors on each side. In a region with frequent gray skies, natural light is a precious commodity, so the architects sought clever ways to accentuate it, such as floor-to-ceiling windows across most of the rear-facing rooms and the addition of a ridge skylight in the family room. “The light changes so much throughout the day as the sun moves across the space,” Shively says. “This skylight helps connect you to your surroundings, always making you aware of the time of day.”
For the interior finishes, the architects looked to the exterior’s Fond du Lac stone, which makes multiple appearances throughout the home. Using that stone as a baseline, they layered on more organic notes in the form of ebonized oak cabinetry, grayish wood tones in the ceiling treatment and an earthy concrete floor, which features radiant heat. “We wanted to give them the materials of a mountain home, but also interpret them in the context of this neighborhood, so there’s a level of refinement and tailoring that’s appropriate for the setting,” Goldbach says.
To usher the house into its final stage, Goldman brought in all of the lighting, furnishings, rugs and window treatments, following two major directives: “The wife didn’t want a lick of white furniture,” the designer says. “And every seat had to be something that you would actually want to sit on.” To that end, she played with a moodier palette, incorporating plush textiles such as bouclé and velvet in seating areas. And when light shades were used, Goldman chose soft-gray performance fabrics. The result is a richly layered neutral space with rare jolts of color in the form of navy Milo Baughman dining chairs and a pair of blue-green swivel chairs in the four-seasons room. “We didn’t want to use any color or pattern that might compete with the materials the architects had selected and with what’s happening outside,” she adds.
Beyond the wall of windows, landscape architect Ryan Kettelkamp designed an outdoor space for the wife—who is an avid gardener—featuring peonies, coneflowers, hydrangeas and birches. Planting pyramidal Eastern white cedar trees provides a privacy screen from the neighbors. Working with Shively and Goldbach, he continued the stone, so prevalent in the home, to the rear terrace, fire pit and spa. Of the collaboration, he says, “When there is a creative dialogue between the architect and landscape architect, that synergy delivers memorable results.”
No one appreciates that symbiosis more than the clients. “It’s very hard to express in words how we feel about the people who helped us design and build this home,” the husband says. “We were fortunate to find a team who could translate our vision into something better than we ever could’ve imagined.”