Infill housing built to order
The ability to build fine custom homes on urban infill sites has its rewards. Even when the overall housing market is soft, there are always customers who want luxurious homes in desirable neighborhoods.
Lightening up the limestone mansion
LG is known for its stately custom homes in prestigious Chicago neighborhoods such as Lincoln Park. Says LG’s Brian Goldberg, “Our work volume remains stable no matter how bad the market is in general.” But building on infill sites in such neighborhoods is not for the faint of heart. He notes: “You’re building within 1 or 2 feet of your neighbor, so it’s very dangerous. You’ll be excavating next to a 100-year-old house that’s not in great shape.”
The company recently completed the personal residence of a real-estate broker. “We’ve built several houses for her on a spec basis, but this particular home was built for her to live in with her family,” Goldberg says.
Excluding the garage, the home is 8,833 square feet. At 32 feet by 125 feet, the lot is a bit wider than the standard Chicago lot and doesn’t have an alley in the rear, so the garage is front-loaded. In compliance with a local zoning ordinance, it’s 50 percent below grade. LG installed a snow-melt system in the steeply pitched driveway and radiant heat in the garage. Also on the garage level is an exercise room, a recreation room, and a wine cellar.
“The client wanted high ceilings and open, warm living spaces, and she had a transitional style in mind,” Goldberg says. “The home is elegant with crown molding and nice trim, but it’s a little cleaner and not overly traditional.” The ceilings on the main floor are 11 feet, 6 inches and 10 feet high on the other floors.
Goldberg says the client came to him with a “well conceptualized” floor plan. “She knew exactly what she wanted, down to having the laundry room next to the master bedroom,” he says.
Phil Casagrande of Casagrande Architects, Chicago, says the plan is based partly on a previous house he designed for the client. He was pleased that she wanted a façade that was a little more contemporary than the heavy limestone structures prevalent in the neighborhood.
“I immediately thought of lightening up the façade by punching some large door and window openings in it, rather than putting columns over the garage door,” says Casagrande.
Goldberg’s favorite room is the chef’s kitchen, which is equipped with a massive island and professional-grade appliances, including two dishwashers and a warming drawer. Formal living and dining rooms at the front of the house are balanced by a great room at the rear. This expansive room has a fireplace and coffered ceiling and opens to a terrace and a back yard that is approximately 25 feet deep.
On the second floor are the master suite and the children’s bedrooms, each with a private bath. The third floor includes a family room, a study, and two additional bedroom suites, and has access to a roof deck. The curved staircase is a conversation piece in itself, though there’s also an elevator for convenience.
“I love that space in the back with the kitchen and great room,” says Casagrande. “It’s where people live 90 percent of the time.” His goal was to make the space comfortable for family gatherings as well as large numbers of guests.