Architect Scott Fortman’s firm has a motto: “We learn from the past and we design for the future.” It was this notion that he and general contractor Jake Goldberg brought to a Prairie-style abode they created for an empty-nester couple in search of a forever home near Chicago. Fortman’s expertise in interpreting historical styles, and Goldberg’s reputation for having a strong understanding of the architectural intent behind a building, made them the ideal team to build “something that’s going to be there for generations to come,” as Fortman puts it. Here, we dive into the design decisions behind the Frank Lloyd Wright-influenced residence.
Bringing the Past Into the Future
With its flat, overhanging eaves; clay tile, limestone and brick; and thoughtful landscaping by Craig Bergmann, the house was designed to look over a century old. But what lies beneath is a different story: “We put in geothermal heating and cooling,” says Goldberg. “Underneath the driveway we have 400-foot-deep wells that are invisible, so they don’t distract from the Prairie architecture.” This technology, combined with the use of solar panels, makes the 15,000-square-foot house surprisingly environmentally friendly.
Down to the Details
Taking cues from Prairie-style masters, Fortman modeled the dwelling’s design after its surroundings. “The home was sited around an existing 150-year-old oak tree, and details were drawn from it” he explains, pointing to the entry’s carved-wood panels—designed by him and executed by local maker WoodLogic Custom Millwork—as a “literal interpretation of bringing nature indoors.” The leaded glass sourced from Drehobl Art Glass (much of it a century old), the handmade Motawi tiles, and a gold-leaf ceiling by Simes Studio “are a celebration of craftsmanship and the Arts and Crafts aesthetic,” Goldberg says.
Light from All Angles
Inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Little House living room, reconstructed at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fortman designed the main living space to mirror the tranquil Lake Michigan views to the east. The same handmade Motawi tiles found in the entry adorn the fireplace. In another reference to the Great Lake, designer Linda Arkules Cohn incorporated Holly Hunt seating in an eye-catching blue.
From the Top Down
For the two-story dining room and library, Fortman once again referenced Wright—this time looking to the wood ceiling beams of the legendary architect’s home studio. The Drehobl Art Glass windows offer panoramic views of the landscaping and the lake beyond. Cohn selected Holly Hunt chairs to surround the table designed by Fortman.
The sitting room was initially imagined as a true sun porch, but, to avoid blocking lake views, it was transformed into a living space that, in Fortman’s words, “juts out into the yard like the prow of a ship.” To create a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere, Cohn turned to Michael Taylor Designs for a deep sofa and pair of chairs that encourage lounging. The leaded-glass windows by Drehobl Art Glass and hand-stenciled border tile on the floor from The Fine Line carry through the handcrafted story of the home.
Capturing the light in the south-facing kitchen was key. “We wanted to bring that light in, but not focus on the view of the neighbor’s house,” says Fortman, speaking to the team’s decision to use clerestory and under-cabinet windows. Taj Mahal quartzite countertops and custom quarter- and rift-sawn oak cabinets by WoodLogic Custom Millwork create the warm, cozy atmosphere the homeowners wanted.