When the time was right to build their dream home on a nearly 1-acre site in Chicago’s North Shore, a 40-something couple chose to embrace a California style. It was an easy choice: He grew up in Los Angeles, and they both had lived in San Francisco for a time. And now they wanted to bring that same West Coast spirit to their son and daughter (aged 13 and 10, respectively) in a place with open spaces and plenty of light, all wrapped in comfort. “My husband and I have always loved indoor-outdoor living,” the wife says. “As much as we can, we try to bring nature into our home in a style that’s clean and serene with a simple aesthetic.”
From the inside-out, designer Andrea Goldman, architect Bill Massey, builder Jon Kogan and landscape architect Sara Furlan translated the couple’s vision into a warm, contemporary home that’s laid-back but with a few exclamations. A subdued palette of blues, grays and creams dresses the interior and exterior. “They wanted a real California, easy-breezy feel,” Goldman says. “That’s why there’s no color on the walls, not a lot of pattern—just a pop of geometric shapes here and there. There’s a layering of texture, things you want to touch and feel. This house is really about the architecture and the views.”
Adds Massey: “It definitely has a street presence. At first, it appears solid and imposing. Yet when you walk up to the front door, it becomes almost porous, as you can see right through the house.” A bluestone-paved courtyard stepping up to a raised terrace framed with low boxwood and a pair of pear trees announce the dominant three-base-front Indiana limestone, smooth trowelled stucco and dark-stain cedar façade. The modern Mediterranean features three sets of doors, plus windows stacked above to the second story, with the center entry recessed 3 feet. Mindful of the building’s scale, Furlan approached the landscaping with simplicity, incorporating plantings of varied heights. “It’s easier to decompress when there’s not a riot of things happening,” she says. “I’m a big fan of limited color. Here, greens, whites and blues keep it quiet.”
The mostly open layout presented a challenge lining up interior spaces with outside forms, and the team paid careful attention to views both inside-out and outside-in. In the entryway, the wood-paneled foyer opens into a library-like living area, a dining room and a family room. “They didn’t want a formal living space,” Goldman says of the family’s request for the front room. “So that space is the husband’s hang room—a ‘grown-up lounge’—with a big built-in wall with a TV.” Opposite is the dining room, which is “very layered, kind of monochromatic and quiet, with luxurious materials,” Goldman says. A Phillip Jeffries textured wallcovering, for instance, looks like ombré silk but is cleanable vinyl.
The wife appreciates the practicality of luxe yet comfortable fabrics, and the wallpaper is just one of a variety of performance materials the designer incorporated throughout the home. “It’s our escape from a very busy world, so we wanted the furnishings to feel peaceful,” the wife says. “The house is really livable—it’s beautiful, warm and comfortable and very much a family house.”
The home’s white-walled envelope is grounded by dark-stained 6-inch-wide-plank white-oak floors. However, the wife did not want a pristine white kitchen. Instead, she opted for cerused cabinetry weathered with stain and a light wash for warmth and interest. And there was one specific request: a large eat-in space, which is situated in the bay opposite the 4-by-10-foot island. There, a long rustic table is teamed with a built-in custom metal bench upholstered in a cleanable faux leather. As within each room, there’s layering and a thoughtful mix of materials: velvet, linen, wool, metal, stone, glass, woven leathers, basket, hide and shagreen.
Nearby, a somewhat-formal family room still spells easy comfort. It’s appointed with a cozy sectional and a classic Womb chair near a simple replace framed in a mitered limestone mantel. But the home’s hands-down standout space is the sunroom, where the focus is a dramatic replace in thermal bluestone. Telescoping doors open on two sides, underscoring the relationship to terraces and beyond. “My husband likes to call it ‘the California room,’ ” the wife says. “It really is indoor-outdoor living.”
Besides the half-sized basketball court the husband enjoys with his son, it is this sun-drenched room that is his favorite place in the home—even in winter, when he sits in front of the re. And it’s one space among many in the house that evolves throughout the year as a result of the connection to the landscape, from lush green in the summer to red and yellow in the fall—an aspect the wife loves. “Any single place you stand in the house,” she says, “you always see outside. It’s authentic.”