From the outside, the unassuming bungalow on Elmwood Avenue looks like many others that dot Oak Park. Any passerby would assume that the sturdy brick shell concealed a cozy, early 20th century interior with lots of dark wood trim and maybe a stained glass window or two. But while the neat exterior may scream vintage bungalow, the interior is anything but old style.
Many home-seekers arrive in Oak Park looking for a historic home. When city-dwellers Angela and Brian Pettit purchased the bungalow in 2004, they wanted something that exuded history while also giving them a chance to imbue the home with their own modern design ethos. The bungalow on the 1000 block of Elmwood Avenue gave them that chance. The footprint was perfect for their growing family, but the condition of the interior presented the opportunity to do a full-blown renovation that Angie says fit this family of four.
“We’ve always lived in loft-like spaces, so that really influenced our design aesthetic as a couple because that is how we’ve lived as a couple,” she says. “As we redesigned the interior of this house, we really focused on how we wanted to live as a family, and opening up the space made that work.”
Brian, a creative director with a degree from the Art Institute of Chicago, and Angela, who works in marketing, are design savvy rehabbers with a definite vision of what they wanted the interior of the home to look like. The condition of the much-altered interior allowed them to start from scratch. Brian notes, “It was a 1960’s explosion on the inside of the house, but the footprint was perfect. We didn’t have to add dormers or do an addition to have the living space we needed.”
Angela agrees, stressing that “the house had been redone many times, and there was very little original detail left. Bungalow purists may initially be dismayed at the idea of the modernization we did on this house, but there was nothing left to protect, so we felt like it was okay to modernize.”
With visions of an open floor plan in their heads, the Pettits took on a seven-month renovation that opened up the space, filling the home with light and bringing a loft-like flow where there was once a warren of rooms. As the couple began a complete overhaul of the home’s mechanical systems, they realized they had to get rid of walls. This helped them achieve the floor plan they had always wanted.
Angela says that updating mechanicals often turns into much more when working with homes of a certain age.
“Once we started taking things apart, we realized how much we needed to do.”
The foundation needed to be shored up, new beams were put in, the old multi-layered roof was replaced, and all new electrical, water pipes, and HVAC systems were installed.
The home’s open floor plan functions perfectly to accommodate family, guests and frequent entertaining. The heart of the home is the open kitchen. With travertine floors, a 48-inch Wolf range, double ovens, Silestone counters and a 42-inch refrigerator, the kitchen is prepared for serious cooking. The room opens seamlessly into the dining room, formal living room and family room.
According to Brian, the flow of the home functions perfectly.
“After school and work, everybody hangs out in the kitchen, family room, dining area, doing homework or cooking and eating dinner. As it gets later, we tend to migrate upstairs to our second floor family room, as the boys get ready for bed.”
In rearranging the interior of the home, the Pettits created an entryway where none existed, and by reconfiguring the front stair case, opened up a second floor family room, bringing in light to the second level. Three bedrooms and two new bathrooms, including a sumptuous master bath with a steam shower, complete the upstairs renovations.
While the modern, open space may not have been what originally existed in the house when it was built, the Pettits feel like they have married two complimentary styles. “A bungalow is a perfect way to do a project like this,” says Brian. “The styles dovetail philosophically. You have a utilitarian, working man’s bungalow built for a middle-class working family, and a contemporary update that is all about the needs of a modern-day family.”
Brian is particularly proud of two areas at the front of the home. “I designed the built-ins around the fireplace as a nod to what you would expect in a bungalow. They didn’t exist when we bought the house, but it was what you would expect to find here.
“We brought in the old function with a more modern design. I also really wanted to save the old doors in the house, but it just wasn’t possible to salvage most of them. I did manage to save two and stripped down layers and layers of old paint. Those two doors now lead to the coat closet in the entry and welcome everyone who enters the home.”
After six years in the home, the Pettits are looking for their next home design project and have put their bungalow on the market. Realtor Marcee Gavula of Baird and Warner notes that she is not surprised at the great level of interest in the home.
“This style is what people want now,” she says. “There is great interest in loft-like living, and in simple, linear lines. The great flow really draws people in. They love being able to see from the front of the house to the back.”