Chicagoland Craftsman Bungalow solves infill issue
The historic details and low-maintenance finishes in this Craftsman-style bungalow show one of America’s most beloved and diverse housing styles can offer custom home owners the best of old and new.
Custom builder Peter Ladesic doesn't mind when someone mistakes one of his brand-new houses for one that is much older. In fact, for this builder who specializes in constructing period reproduction residences on tear-down sites in some of metropolitan Chicago's most upscale and historic communities, it's the biggest compliment he could receive.
This $1.7 million Craftsman-inspired bungalow in Glen Ellyn, Ill., serves as an example of the workmanship and dedication to recreating historic architecture that Ladesic brings to each of his projects. With its welcoming front porch, lap and shake shingle siding, and numerous gables and bracket accents, the home's distinctive yet unpretentious exterior is a variation on one of America's most beloved — and diverse — housing styles.
It’s the details that give this Craftsman-inspired bungalow authentic charm and character. Fiber cement exterior siding provides a traditional look that requires minimal upkeep.
"This home was really an exciting project to build, and it helped that I was able to assemble a great team, which included the architect, the interior designer and the homeowner," says Ladesic.
Its character and charm come from its intricate details, rustic finish materials and approachable nature rather than dramatic architecture outside and grand volumes inside.
"It is one of my favorite styles to work with," says architect Steven Poteracki. "And this builder is exceptionally dedicated when it comes to getting the details just right."
"Many towns encourage the use of historical architecture for new residential construction because it complements existing homes without overwhelming them," says Poteracki. "This preserves the integrity of the original streetscape."
Viewed from the street, the 4,500-square-foot home's modest story-and-a-half scale reflects the traditional character of a classic bungalow. With its stepped footprint, which gets wider as it progresses toward the back of the lot, the house's true two-story form is only revealed on its side and rear elevations. "This is actually a very large home, but we intentionally designed it to downplay its size by giving it a front-to-back orientation. This makes it appear to be much less massive from the street."
The home's exterior features a combination of lap and shake shingle fiber-cement cladding that duplicates the grain and texture of traditional wood but requires minimal upkeep. Ladesic says the homeowners wanted the siding because it was similar to that used on their previous home in Texas.
Ladesic credits his willingness to use fiber cement as one of the reasons why the homeowners choose him for the project. "We were using fiber cement when other builders that they had interviewed were not familiar with it."
The front elevation features a deep front porch that spans the width of the main body of the house. Battered wood and stone columns provide support for a steeply pitched shed roof that is punctuated by gabled dormers.
Inside, the four-bedroom home features a family-friendly floor plan oriented around a traditional central hall concept, which separates areas dedicated to formal entertaining, home-office capabilities and recreation. The homeowners also wanted space for a private guest suite as well as separate bedrooms for their two young children.
"One of the biggest challenges that I face when I design a historical-style home on an infill lot is that the client generally wants to squeeze every bit of living space possible out of the site," say Poteracki.
Interior living spaces, including the kitchen (top), sunroom and library, all feature deeply-stained custom millwork that complements the home’s historic design.
In most cases, local building and zoning codes strictly regulate lot coverage and building height to limit the size and visual presence of a new home to preserve the original streetscape.
"It really becomes a square-footage management problem for the architect. For this project, we had to achieve the large square footage that the client was looking for and also work within the confines of the village's lot coverage and ridge height restrictions."
By reducing the home's attic height, the builder was able to give his clients the high ceilings that they wanted inside the home, including 10-foot ceilings in the basement and first floor and 9-foot ceilings on the second.
Living space is generous on the main floor of the four-bedroom home and includes a formal dining room, library, study, sunken family room, spacious kitchen and sun room. One of Poteracki's favorite elements of this particular floor plan is an L-shaped alcove connecting the kitchen and dining room that functions as a butler's pantry and the family computer center. "It turned out to be a great solution for removing clutter from the kitchen," he says.
Abundant windows make the second floor master suite and sitting area a bright retreat for the homeowners.
The master suite is located on the second floor, which is common for homes in infill locations, says Poteracki. "Typically, these sites are so tight that we rarely have the available square footage for a main-floor master. For the most part, our clients are OK with that. In some cases, we have incorporated an elevator into the plan in order to increase accessibility for the homeowner."
The architect strongly discourages clients from sacrificing storage space in favor of boosting square footage. "In my experience, that is never a good idea, particularly for a family-oriented house."
Another one of the home's design features that turned out especially well, says the architect, is the "chimney" of stacked windows created along the corner of the outer wall in the study on the main floor and master suite above it. "Because this part of the house faces south, it really brings a lot of natural light into these rooms, which were very important to the homeowner."
Ups and Downs of Infill Construction
Location, access to mass transit and a renewed sense of community are all factors that have lured high-end home buyers back into city centers today. Lack of undeveloped property is not a deterrent to new construction, says Ladesic, because skilled demolition experts can remove older and smaller original homes from a building site in a day or two.
However, Ladesic warns, building a new home in an older neighborhood can be stressful for everyone unless it is handled knowledgeably and sensitively.
"You have to be thinking on a lot of levels at the same time in order to be a successful infill builder," says Ladesic. Not only do you have to please the client in terms of the style and square footage they are looking for, but you also have a responsibility to make sure that the new home will be a positive addition to the community.
In an effort to preserve the historic character of their older neighborhoods, cities large and small have adopted strict regulations and restrictions that impact everything from building height to square footage to exterior style for new residential construction within their boundaries.
"One of the misconceptions that we constantly struggle with when it comes to overly aggressive building height restrictions is the concept that 'height' means 'bulk,' and that is not always the case," says Ladesic. "The negative impact of restricting the height of some classic styles, like the steep rooflines of a Queen Anne-style home, is that you really can't get the home to look like it is supposed to."
When a project is done right, says Ladesic, everyone benefits. "We replaced a much worn, 1970s two-story colonial home with one that has become the jewel of the street. Right after it was completed, other builders began buying adjacent lots with plans to follow in our footsteps."