It's hard to miss Oak Park's finest abodes. While you drive the umpteenth carpool of the week or take a leisurely weekend bike ride, the estate section homes in the center of the village run the spectrum of architectural styles.
There is no formal designation as an "estate section" in Oak Park, but the term is commonly held to encompass an area north of Lake Street between Forest and Ridgeland avenues. These homes often boast more square footage and larger lot sizes than a typical Oak Park home, and for those of us with more pedestrian castles, it's fun to wonder what life must be like within.
A home on the corner of Augusta and East, which just hit the market, is a prime example of what sets this section apart from the rest of the village. With close to 5,000 square feet of living space and a double lot with gracious outdoor gardens, the home manages to combine the best of historical architecture with modern amenities.
It was built in 1904 and the current owners purchased it in the late 1980s. In 1989, they added a two-story addition in order to create a large kitchen that opens into a family room with a master suite above it. Baird & Warner's Lynn Scheir, who is listing the house along with Anne Ferri, was impressed by the addition's ability to transcend a specific era.
"Part of the intrinsic beauty of the home is how well the two parts mesh," Scheir said. "They made a conscientious effort to keep the traditional feel but make it live like a contemporary home. All of the rooms are generous sizes and filled with light. It's the best of both worlds: traditional architecture with a contemporary feel."
With the addition, the owners created a "great room" concept, combining an open kitchen with a casual dining area and family room. This room opens up to views of the home's extensive gardens and also has a second staircase providing access to both the master suite above and the finished basement below. Scheir notes that the layout is what so many families today are looking for in a home.
"Open is the operative word with this room," she said.
The kitchen and family room were renovated in 2011 to freshen up the style of the home. The Italian oak cabinetry bears a new glazed finish, and marble counters and high-end appliances from Dacor and Sub Zero were also added. The kitchen includes a staging area, making it ideal for catering or homework.
In the kitchen's dining area, the owners added a custom sideboard with matching marble counters. In the family room, the owners installed a coffered ceiling and new carpet.
Some things old, plenty new
Throughout the home, little details from the past and present contribute to both the style of the house and the comfort of the home. Ten-foot ceilings, decorative moldings and hardwood floors proclaim the home's timeless character. Three fireplaces provide warmth on snowy winter days: a wood-burner in the formal living room, one with a gas starter in the family room, and gas-only in the master bedroom. An original silver closet in the foyer next to the dining room provides a felt-lined place to store delicate household items.
In 2001, the owners added an elevator that travels from the mudroom to the first two floors of the home, making it accessible and multigenerational. The elevator was carefully integrated into the home's design, making it almost imperceptible to most visitors. The first floor mudroom with heated floors provides a spot to corral winter boots and sports gear. A basement rec room, accessible from the family room via the rear staircase, was designed to accommodate a full-size pool table.
Up the stairs
The second story of the home includes five of the home's six bedrooms and three full bathrooms. Part of the addition, the master suite is a spacious 28 x 15 feet and includes a large walk-in closet and private bath. With a vaulted ceiling and fireplace in the sitting area, the bedroom provides plenty of space for relaxation. A fifth bedroom off the master is currently used as an office.
The third floor offers yet another bedroom and full bathroom, making it an ideal guest suite or teen retreat.
Not many homes are lucky enough to have an entire side lot for outdoor space, and the current owners have taken care to create a garden that takes full advantage of the space. According to Scheir, "It's a garden beyond most people's dreams. With a 100-foot lot, the house is situated on the south side with the yard on the east and north to provide privacy."
The lot is enclosed with decorative iron fencing, keeping the view scenic but safe for pets and children. Off the great room, a screened gazebo offers a place for a meal. A pergola at the rear of the property shades the back gardens, and in 2004, the owners replaced the old deck with a two-level Trex deck.
No detail was overlooked in the planning of the vegetable and flower gardens. Scheir pointed out that the top 20 inches of soil were amended to create an ideal growing environment. The property is fully irrigated with a sprinkler system that includes both walkways and gardens. Even the flower boxes beneath the windows and decorative pots have irrigation.
Preparing for an empty nest, the current owners have listed the home with Scheir and Ferri for $1.395 million, so it's ready for another family to fill its rooms.