For years, realtor and serial renovator Mimi Collins admired a historic early 20th-century Tudor Revival home in Hinsdale, Illinois, by renowned architect R. Harold Zook. So when its owner decided to sell the house after more than five decades, Collins and her husband, Dan, swooped in and bought it. “Dan knew that I would fix it,” Mimi says.
Mimi has renovated more than a dozen other houses, so she used her expertise to assemble a skilled team to carry out her vision, recruiting designers Jennifer Kranitz and Aimee Wertepny, along with architect Michael Abraham. Abraham could arguably be considered an expert in Zook homes, as he’s revitalized several others in the area. “Zook’s work has been a source of inspiration over the years,” Abraham says. “His houses are all kind of funky and cool for the time.”
Like Mimi, Abraham had long loved the house, even touring it on several occasions, and he already had ideas about how to bring it into the modern era. For example, he eliminated a wall in the front foyer, opening up the curved stairway and creating a sight line between the front and back doors. He also eliminated a narrow back stairway altogether. “It was kind of a maze of little rooms and hallways that were difficult to use,” he explains.
Barely touched by the previous owner, the charming abode still boasted its original flooring and millwork, hand- forged brass hardware in the shape of animal heads and signature Zook touches like a small window with a spiderweb motif, which is hidden away in the foyer closet. “This home really has its own language,” Kranitz says. “We just had to show up and let it shine.”
To achieve that, Kranitz says the designers asked themselves, “How do we bring this house up to date without undermining the original intent, character and charm?” In one of the most dramatic changes, they converted the small original kitchen into a breakfast space outfitted with a wall-to-wall tufted banquette and a pair of intentionally mismatched round tables. At one end, Mimi’s office houses handsome built-in cabinetry. On the ceiling, a quatrefoil pattern in a motif taken from the home’s front façade elevates the look. “I call it SoHo House of Hinsdale,” Mimi says of the room, noting that she and Dan often sit in there all day long.
The original formal dining room is now a much larger kitchen with gray-stained walnut cabinetry by O’Brien Harris, honed white Lincoln Calacatta marble countertops and open metal wall shelving. When illuminated, the vintage Paris streetlights above the center island reflect off the original beamed wooden ceiling and the Venetian plaster-covered walls. “It’s alive with texture,” Wertepny says. “Buh-bye, subway tile.” Although the designers lobbied Mimi to open the spacious new kitchen to the adjacent living area, she resisted. Instead, a pair of doors integrated into bar cabinetry can either be closed off or left open, creating options. Nearby, a pair of contemporary sofas and more traditional wing chairs surround the original stone fireplace atop an elegant wool- and-silk rug that’s based on a painting by Francine Turk. “We push Mimi away from her comfort zone and make her spaces a little funkier than she would do on her own,” Kranitz says.
Mimi especially credits the designers for sourcing the many new light fixtures throughout the interior. A modern linear leather-wrapped bronze fixture contrasts the original moldings and beams in the living room. And a sculptural tiered glass medallion chandelier takes advantage of the newly lofted ceilings in the master suite, where a low-slung tufted headboard and a decidedly modern chaise lounge coexist with classic antiques from Mimi’s existing collection. “The room is humanly scaled, yet the volume allows the light to pour in,” Wertepny says. “It’s heaven.”
While Mimi sacrificed a bedroom to create a more spacious master bathroom with dual vanities and a spacious Carrara marble-clad shower, there’s plenty of room for guests in the new detached garage and second-floor coach house. Built with the same materials as the original and featuring the same unique roofline, the structure looks as if it’s always been there.
Dan and Mimi feel right at home in the newly revitalized house. “I have to give Mimi a lot of credit,” says Kranitz. “If any other client had said that she was going to do the renovation herself, I’d say, ‘We’re out,’ but I’d seen her do it before. Most people don’t have the vision. She does.”