Contemporary Chicago Lakefront Property with French Provincial Exterior


Contemporary Brick Neutral Exterior

A renovation done in the 1980s had given the lakefront house a campy demeanor, with mirrored walls, Grecian columns, French Provincial wallpaper, rams’ horn hardware and bejeweled faucets.

Contemporary Rear Exterior with Pool and Lake Views

The home’s existing outdoor area was completely updated, with the deck being redone in finely honed bluestone and the pool retiled and refinished to give the water a deeper hue of blue. The furnishings are from Janus et Cie.

Contemporary Brown Living Room with Detailed Mantel

A deft mix of textured and patterned fabrics complements the living room’s original cypress paneling and lends sophistication to the space. Stylized motifs, such as the ikat pattern on a pair of Gary Hutton Thomas chairs add exuberance to the serene palette of creams.

Contemporary White Foyer with Checkered Tile Floors

The home’s original 1930s glamour is most evident in the foyer, which sports an existing black-and-white marble tile floor. Dazzling contemporary pieces that feature a traditional vibe—namely a Bella Figura chandelier from Edward Ferrell + Lewis Mittman and a CR Currin table—play to the vintage charms of the space.

Contemporary White Dining Room with Floral Wallpaper

In the dining room, the ceremonial demeanor of a magnificent Dennis & Leen chandelier from Holly Hunt and custom chairs by jamesthomas, fabricated by Eurocraft, offset the Nina Campbell wallpaper from Osborne & Little and a lively Barbara Barry carpet from Peerless Rug Company.

Contemporary Cream Living Room with Lake Views

To give the reconfigured family room architectural significance to match the rest of the home, the floor-to-ceiling Marvin Windows were topped with divided transoms and the ceiling was detailed with coffers. Nancy Corzine sectionals and a pair of coffee tables from Niedermaier anchor the room.

Contemporary Cream Kitchen with Breakfast Island

The architects used a mix of cabinets designed by Mick De Giulio for SieMatic and reference several periods to give the newly enlarged kitchen a timeless spirit. Countertops are from Stonecutters, backsplash tiles from Ann Sacks and pendants from Boyd Lighting at Donghia.

Contemporary Cream Breezeway with French Windows and Doors

A meticulously detailed breezeway that ends with a mudroom was the sole addition to the home, but a pivotal one because the garage was previously unattached. The new L-shaped construction also connects the outdoor parking area to the house. Tiles from Materials Marketing clad the floor.

Contemporary Neutral Indoor Patio with Picture Windows

A former mudroom was transformed into this year-round alfresco eating area with a coffered beadboard and beamed ceiling and glass sliders that bring warm weather in. The new sunroom features an arched wall framing a panel of Chicago common bricks installed in a herringbone pattern.

Contemporary Cream Bedroom with Vaulted Ceiling

A new vaulted ceiling makes the once-lofted master bedroom much more intimate, while serene sand and blue furnishings lend it tranquillity. A cushy daybed designed by jamesthomas and fabricated by Eurocraft is paired with Philip Nimmo’s Ellittico side table.

Contemporary White Bathroom with Oval Plan

Independent his-and-her bathrooms were united to create an opulent ovalshaped bath off the master suite. The curved custom mahogany cabinetry was precisely templated to assure a snug fit into the space. Mirrors in pivoting frames are by Acrotek.

The most compelling reason to live on the lake is for the views. Yet, after a very long search on the North Shore for just the right lakefront property, the 1937 French Provincial that one family bought didn’t relate to the water at all.

Nor did it suit the sleek aesthetic and easy lifestyle they had honed with their three sons in a modern 1970s split-level across town. A renovation done in the 1980s had given the lakefront house a campy demeanor, with mirrored walls, Grecian columns, French Provincial wallpaper, rams’ horn hardware and bejeweled faucets.

What it did have were good bones, great tableland, a gorgeous façade, an elegant footprint, plenty of space and loads of potential. “If we were going to move there from a house we loved, it had to be worth our while,” explains the wife. “And this was a very special property. We figured we’d revamp the kitchen and master suite and streamline the interiors.”

Yet, once they brought on architects Elissa Morgante and Fred Wilson, the project kept growing as they realized the home’s many shortcomings. “They needed to open up the house to the lake,” says Wilson. “It ran parallel to the water and didn’t take advantage of the water views at all. And most of the windows that did exist lakeside were small and covered with heavy metal shades to block the sun.”

The overwrought décor, at odds with the home’s elegant architecture, was also an issue. “You had to pick through the house to see the bones,” says Wilson. The same was true of the once-stately grounds, which “were totally chaotic,” says landscape architect Drew Johnson. “Over the years, each owner did their own thing, so there were all these walls breaking up the property and diminishing the sightlines to the lake.” Says the wife, with a laugh, “We ended up touching every square foot.”

Decades of inappropriate interventions were removed, reducing both house and grounds to a clean slate. From there, the front façade was restored and given a gracious new courtyard and entry drive, the grounds were reoriented to relate to the lake, and a majestic pool and deck got a total overhaul. “The goal was to make it look like we were never there, and attain landmark status,” explains Wilson.

Inside, only the living and dining rooms remain intact, though they were also painstakingly refurbished. The biggest gestures on the first floor merged the kitchen with the butler’s pantry and turned a dark library and screened-in porch into a spacious, airy family room with expansive floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the lake. It was also given tall new windows to provide lake views.

Marrying the family’s streamlined contemporary aesthetic with the home’s more formal historical demeanor was a challenge left to designers James Dolenc and Thomas Riker. The modern fixtures, finishes and furnishings that the wife originally thought would work well in the home, “wouldn’t do the setting justice, but über traditional wasn’t an option,” says Dolenc. He and Riker skillfully helped the wife outfit the home in mostly clean-lined transitional options, and they added personality and depth with a smattering of significant antiques.

Vintage Italian black dressers in the foyer found by the designers at Blend Interiors in Los Angeles add a touch of glamour to the already alluring space, while a curvy metal-and-antique glass lantern from Urban Electric glimmers in the hallway and vintage metal shelving from Modern Times creates the perfect note in the sunroom. The designers kept the master suite’s furnishings soft and welcoming with a Paris Writing Desk by Maxine Snider and an Empire chair by Niermann Weeks.

The entire second story was also reconfigured, especially the master suite, which had absorbed the attic to become a loft in the 1980s. A deftly detailed vaulted ceiling gave the room back its architectural vigor and allowed the owners to reclaim the attic, which proved to be “one of the trickier aspects of the reconstruction,” says builder Matthew Kurtyka. It also got big new dormers with windows overlooking the lake, of course.

Copious lake views and landmark status were both realized at the project’s completion, as well as acceptance. “We never thought we’d be so at home in a more traditional setting,” says the wife. “But the blend of styles and glorious views strike the perfect balance.”