Designer Jean Stoffer puts her River Forest home on the market

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Lacey Sikora

Contributing Reporter

In the world of home design in the Chicago area, Jean Stoffer is royalty.

The popular interior designer has created numerous kitchens in Oak Park and River Forest, and a spring housewalk isn't truly an event without at least one of her designs included. Stoffer, and her husband, Dale, recently decided it was time to sell their family home on Lathrop Avenue in River Forest. Of course, the kitchen is a big draw, but the rest of the six-bedroom, four-bathroom home warrants some attention as well.

Stoffer, a native of River Forest, and her husband purchased the 1891 Victorian nearly 21 years ago. The couple raised their four children in the home, and with their youngest now a senior in high school, they are looking to downsize. She says that they were immediately drawn in by the home's Victorian charm, from the first sight of the welcoming stairway in the entry.

Stoffer credits the previous owners, the Nelson family, with preserving the home's details. Pocket doors remain throughout the first floor as well as an original fireplace. According to Stoffer, the Nelsons stripped off avocado paint to reveal the original decorative tile surrounding the fireplace.

"The home had all of its original goodness," she says. "All the moldings, the hardware, the doors and the decorative glass windows remained. What we've done is uncover the beauty. We removed the asphalt siding and repaired the clapboard siding. We put the porches back on. Over the years, we've also put on two additions."

Melisande Van Liedekerke, of Prudential Rubloff Properties, who is listing the home for $1,295,000, says the kitchen isn't the only luxury of the home.

"The gorgeous new kitchen, breakfast and family room, together with the existing 1890's Victorian creates an incredibly livable home, so close and convenient to all that River Forest has to offer," she says.

The kitchen addition

Anyone would expect that Jean Stoffer's own kitchen would be a thoughtfully designed room. Incorporating tricks of the trade and her signature style, the kitchen and breakfast room along with an attached family room exceeds expectations. Stoffer used new and old materials to create a space suited to modern-family life but complimentary to the home's Victorian roots.

The butler's pantry leading from a living room is the first glimpse into her ability to mix old with new. Stoffer integrated an antique window into built-in cabinetry, allowing sunlight to flow through the leaded panes. Marble counters with a decorative edge add to the period feel in the space.

According to Stoffer, the original kitchen was much smaller, and the addition completely changed the way the family lived.

"The old kitchen is now the mudroom, and the current kitchen, butler's pantry and family room were added on," she explains. "With the large eat-in space and the views to the yard, we spend all of our time back here. It's great when the entire family comes over."

One wall of the kitchen is devoted to a professional Wolf range inset into a carved limestone surround. Stoffer discovered some antique stained-glass door panels at a shop in Forest Park and had them installed as doors for built-in storage on either side of the range. A large island features a prep sink, while the principal sink, a farmhouse-style beauty, looks out over the side lawn. An antique armoire has been repurposed as a food pantry. The octagonal breakfast room features a peaked ceiling paneled in reclaimed chestnut to match the flooring throughout the family room.

The upstairs

The second floor features four bedrooms, including one with a front sitting room looking out across Lathrop. The Stoffers remodeled and expanded the primary bathroom on this floor when they built a master suite addition above the kitchen and family room.

Tucked away at the quiet rear of the home, the master suite features windows on three walls. Another custom bathroom, a laundry system, which is hidden behind doors and plenty of closets, rounds out the addition.

The third floor features two additional bedrooms, a full bath and another washer and dryer. Jean notes that this space makes a perfect living area for a teen or for returning adult children to spend some time.

Bonus spaces

The basement of the home has seen several changes. Stoffer notes that when they first bought the home, it had only one full bathroom, so the half bath in the basement got a lot of use during renovations. Once an overflow area for laundry and playing, the basement now boasts a television room and separate office space for both Dale and Jean.

With 18 years in kitchen design, her in-home work space reflects Stoffer's taste. A large chalkboard on one wall allows for note-taking. A wall of cabinets allows plenty of room for storage of materials. Racks accommodate blue prints and plans, and samples are lined up on the checkerboard-patterned floor. Now that one of her sons has joined her at work, the desk area has expanded to accommodate two.

When a fire burned down the original carriage house behind the home, the Stoffers rebuilt. The garage is now topped with a loft space, currently used by Dale and friends to lift weights and enjoy the occasional cigar. A set of drums and a disco ball hanging from the ceiling reflect the frequent use of the space by the kids as well.

Moving on

Stoffer says she could not have found a better place to raise her family.

"The location is great. You can walk to everything. We have a great lawn for soccer games, and great neighbors who are like family who love the area as much as we do," she says. "It is bittersweet for us to leave after raising our family here, but the next step will be exciting, too."

No doubt whatever that next step is, it will be beautifully designed.

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