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.

May 01, 2007

Custom Luxury Residence
What is a Bungalow?
Secrets to Detached Garage Success

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."

Design Concept

"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."


Custom Luxury Residence

Style of Home: Craftsman-style bungalow

Location: Glen Ellyn, Ill.

Total Square Footage: 4,500 square feet

Architect: Studio 1 Architects, Western Springs, Ill.

Builder: Ladesic & Scott Custom Builders, Glen Ellyn, Ill.

Interior Designer: The Dion Group, Chicago

Hard Costs: $250 per square foot

Major Products Used: APPLIANCES: Sub-Zero, Thermador, KitchenAid CABINETRY: Crystal Cabinet Works COUNTERTOPS: Granite, marble PLUMBING FIXTURES: Kohler, Grohe FLOORING: Red oak SECURITY SYSTEM: Ademco HVAC: Trane DOORS: Simpson LOCKSETS/HARDWARE: Emtek WINDOWS: Pella EXTERIOR FINISH: James Hardie PAINTS & STAINS: Benjamin Moore WATERPROOFING: Tuff-N-Dri ROOFING: CertainTeed

What is a Bungalow?

Beloved since the turn of the 20th century by the American homeowner for its comfort, practicality and affordability, the modest bungalow once symbolized this country's population shift from city to suburb. These days its versatility and historic character makes the modern bungalow a top choice among new home buyers who are rediscovering the desirability of an in-town lifestyle.

Popular in housing markets across the country, regional and economic influences through the years have transformed the simple single-story design theme originally associated with the term "bungalow" into one that describes a wide range of home styles and sizes, including Craftsman, Queen Anne, California, Chicago, Mission, Prairie, Tudor, Foursquare, Colonial, Log Cabin and Cape Cod.

One thing that has not changed, however, is that the bungalow remains a favorite with families.

Architect Steven Poteracki characterizes this home as an "Art and Crafts bungalow with Prairie influences." Its classic design elements include:

  • A low profile, one-and-a-half story street elevation
  • Clapboard and shake shingle exterior cladding
  • A combination of wood, stone and brick accents
  • Multiple gables, wide eaves
  • A deep front porch with a central entry
  • Detached garage
  • A natural color palette
  • A family-friendly floor plan
  • Handcrafted trim details inside and out
  • A prominent fireplace with a broad, flat chimney

Secrets to Detached Garage Success

When it comes to new construction in established neighborhoods, municipalities tend to favor traditional historical architecture that complements the existing town architecture, says architect Steven Poteracki of Studio 1 Architects in Western Springs, Ill. Often that means building the new home with a detached garage.

"The location of the garage can be a function of the historic architecture of the home or of the requirements set forth by the city itself," he says. "In most cases, you don't want a big garage that faces the street on the front elevation because that just adds to the mass of the home and diminishes its character."

Appearances aside, a detached garage can help a builder get more living space into the home itself. How? In some municipalities, the square footage of an attached garage is included in the calculation for the total square footage for the house, while detached garage space is not. "You actually get a bonus in terms of lot coverage in this case," says Poteracki.

"Most don't mind a bit," says Ladesic of clients with detached garages. "These are clients who have deliberately made the choice to go with a historic home style, and they accept that a detached garage is an important part of the architecture. They are willing to sacrifice some of the convenience of having an attached garage to achieve the right look. Besides, there are lots of ways to make a detached garage work well for the homeowner."

To make detached garages work for the homeowner, he suggests custom builders:

  • Be sure to match the garage to the home in terms of style and materials, keeping in mind the existing streetscape.
  • Keep the garage as close to the home as the community regulations allow — for example if the garage must be 10 feet from home to be considered detached, build it 10 feet, 1-inch away.
  • Create a covered breezeway or portico between the home and garage.
  • Design the home with a separate entrance alongside the driveway for the homeowner's convenience when making quick trips and drop offs. The family car can then be put away in the garage at the end of the day.
  • Finish the upper level of the garage as a "man den" retreat or additional living space. Be sure to check local codes about what utilities can be included in the garage, as well as restrictions on having more than one dwelling on a single building site.
  • Create a transitional space inside the home that connects the outdoor access from the garage to the indoor living areas. Ladesic recommends including a space-saver washer/dryer combination in this area for the family's outdoor wear while keeping the main laundry facilities close to the bedrooms.

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