A three-block stretch of Forest Avenue — between Ontario Street and Chicago Avenue — in Oak Park is arguably one of the village’s finest places to call home. Between the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, several of Wright’s masterpieces, and many more stunning homes in styles ranging from Victorian to Colonial, there isn’t an unsightly house to be seen.
While the view out the front windows of all of these homes is certainly pleasing, so is the location in the heart of the village. Homeowners can walk to local schools, parks, restaurants, shops and the movies. One of these significant homes recently hit the real estate market, and the interior rehabilitation makes it seem like a veritable bargain at $1.25 million. Built in 1899, the three-story Victorian on the 200 block of Frest Avenue boasts grand old school features like 11-foot ceilings, along with modern amenities in the all new kitchen and bathrooms.
The home was completely rehabbed in 2008. According to April Moon, who is listing the house for Baird and Warner, “All of the systems, including plumbing, electrical, and HVAC are new. Even though they redid all of the major systems and rooms, the house retains its Victorian feel. The renovation was truly well-thought out.”
The wife of the couple selling the home said that she and her husband, who didn’t want their names published for this story, put a lot of care into the renovation. “It really was a great project because we wanted to craft a house that mixes family friendliness and elegance at the same time,” she said. “It’s really comfortable, but it has its impressive points.
“We had the most trouble making it work for a family while respecting the integrity of the house. We didn’t want to gut it and get rid of walls, but we did want to update everything beneath the walls. There isn’t one old pipe or one old wire left, which is really hard to do without gutting a house.”
The Cadillac of kitchens
One of the most impressive aspects of the home is the kitchen, which was featured on a recent Parenthesis Kitchen Walk. Floor to ceiling mahogany cabinetry with antiqued glass doors disguise both a full-size Thermador refrigerator and freezer. Four-inch thick Calcutta marble countertops grace the perimeter cabinets, and the marble continues up to create an impressive backsplash behind the six-burner Dacor range. A mahogany island is topped with a thick granite counter that offers space for casual dining and food preparation.
Throughout the kitchen, thoughtful details shine. A custom lighted nickel pot rack hovers over the island. Three dishwashers, two beverage refrigerators, a granite prep sink and built-in spice racks make it easy to cook for friends and family.
Moon points out how all the different details play off each other. “I love what they did mixing the industrial, with the pot rack and the pendant lighting, and with the more delicate fixtures in the crystal sconces flanking the range.”
The formal double living and dining rooms feature inlaid wood floors and leaded glass. Original built-in bookcases with columns delineate the back parlor from the dining area. The first of the home’s three original fireplaces warms the living room. Another fireplace exists in the family room adjacent to the kitchen where there’s also access to the covered porch overlooking the backyard.
The second floor master suite is home to the third fireplace and all new oak floors. A walk-in closet is more of a private dressing room with built-in cabinetry and a window. The master bathroom features heated marble floors, a glass-tiled steam shower with surround sound and dual rain showerheads and nickel faucets in the furniture-style vanity.
Also on the second floor, two roomy bedrooms with large closets and backyard views share a completely new bathroom with a whirlpool tub, dual vanities and heated floors. While modern conveniences such as the second floor laundry are convenient, the decorative molding around the windows and transoms are reminders of the home’s past.
The sellers completely renovated the home’s third floor, replacing the roof in order to do so. The area now features a spacious family room, two additional bedrooms and a full bathroom with subway tile, soaking bathtub and separate shower. The space is fully outfitted for a perfect guest or nanny quarters or an enviable teen retreat.
The owner says the renovation process necessary to create the finished product was daunting. “It took a full year to renovate. There were times that so much was going on that we couldn’t live in the house, and there were times we were in the house while a lot of work was going on.”
It was all worth it in the end though, she says.
“It is hard to find a house with the heart and soul of a home plus a great neighborhood. We really created that here. While it looks great, at heart, it is a family home. I’ve caught our kids going through the house in rollerblades.”
While the sellers say leaving is bittersweet, a new project has found them, and these eager renovators are ready to pass their beloved home onto another family.
“One thing we’ve loved about this house is the fact that it’s a lifestyle house,” says one of the owners. “The kids can walk to the elementary and middle schools and to the movies. Our house is a real hub for them and their friends. The neighborhood is alive with kids. It’s just a fantastic place to live.”