They say a property owner's home is his (or her) castle, and the recently rehabilitated Charles Castle house on Linden Avenue is hitting the market with all the bells and whistles that home buyers, male and female, will find attractive. Listed on the National Historic Register, the home was in a state of some disrepair when Oak Park contractor Pam Whitehead of P&P Ltd. and realtor Catherine Simon-Vobornik of Baird and Warner decided to take it on as their next project.
The two have partnered together on five projects, but they agree this one really got their attention from the start. Built in 1924 for Castle and designed by architect Frederick Schock, the home had great bones and original features, but bringing it into modern times clearly would be no small labor. In fact, the rehab took approximately nine months, and Whitehead says comparisons to human gestation are apt.
The five-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bath home, which is close to completion, will headline the Oak Park-River Forest Historical Society's spring housewalk later in the season. As Whitehead and Simon-Vobornik prepare to list it for sale for $1.7 million, they are opening the home to the public for another charitable event, designed to raise funds for the Oak Park-River Forest Food Pantry.
When Whitehead and Simon-Vobornik started the home's rehab in June 2013, they walked in with eyes wide open. The home needed all new plumbing and electrical systems as well as a revamped layout. Simon-Vobornik stresses that it was important not to lose the home's history in the remodeling process.
"It's kind of a balancing game," she said. "We like to keep the architectural integrity of the home but make it livable. We try to keep as much of the original features as we can. Here, we were able to restore the original wood trim, some tile and plaster work. We also rewired all of the original light fixtures that we found in the home to bring them up to code. Only one sconce in the living room didn't need rewiring."
Some of the structural changes to the home involved making rooms bigger to suit the way families live today. According to Whitehead, "the main thing we tried to do was open it up where it made sense."
In the open kitchen, that meant taking down a few walls to create a family-room space with better access to the backyard. A powder room was relocated and a back stairway removed to gain square footage in the kitchen. The new kitchen includes the amenities of a chef's kitchen, including an Italian range, paneled dishwasher and butler's pantry.
Upstairs, a master suite area was created out of two bedrooms, resulting in a separate dressing room with his and hers closets. The spacious master bathroom includes his and her vanities, custom Pratt and Larson handmade tile, a steam shower and a soaking tub. Former maids' quarters on the second floor have been reconfigured to create a bedroom and bathroom suite ideal for a teenager or guests. Two more bedrooms share a new Jack and Jill bathroom.
The home also includes livable space in the attic and a family room, office and bathroom in the large basement. Throughout the restoration process, Whitehead and Simon-Vobornik were careful to maintain and enhance original features and complement those original items with their new design choices. Simon-Vobornik, who has a BFA in interior design, notes that she and Whitehead collaborated on the colors.
"This time we did a lot of neutral colors with green tints," she said. "Sometimes, I'll pick it all out, and Pam will give it a pass by; sometimes she chooses things, and sometimes we fight it out. We're like sisters. Usually, we look to the house for inspiration."
Whitehead chimes in, "It's what the house says it wants."
The color palette was inspired by an original mural painted on the coved ceiling of the entryway. Whitehead and Simon-Vobornik brought in a restoration painter to revive the mural, and as she uncovered the green paint and gilded accents, the other room colors drew off that inspiration.
After each of their collaborations, Whitehead and Simon-Vobornik open the house to the public with an event to benefit a local charity. This year, they are partnering with the Oak Park-River Forest Food Pantry. Whitehead says that once they spoke with Executive Director Michele Zurakowski, it was an easy choice.
"When you know there are people nearby struggling to get enough to eat," she said, "it's an obvious choice."
According to Zurakowski, the food pantry is seeing record demand for its services.
"In November," she said, "we set a record of the most people ever served in a month. Even though we shrank the counties covered from 28 to 12 in 2012, we still saw a record number of 1,759 visitors in November."
Zurakowski points out that a donation of $9.80 feeds a family for a week, and the $20 contribution to the charity event will feed two families for an entire week. The Food Pantry served over 40,000 individuals in 2013 and anticipates a continued strong need for its services.