For Gil and Alma Cabacungan, rehabbing their south Oak Park bungalow has been a labor of love. For most of the 25 years they have lived in the home, they have been slowly making it into the house of their dreams, for themselves and their four children.
A recent rear addition opened up a whole new living space for the family and garnered a Historic Preservation Award from the village as well.
Gil says that he and his wife are only the fourth owners of the home, which was built in 1923. They moved to Oak Park in 1993 because they loved the neighborhood and the schools, and they have slowly been adapting their home to suit their family’s needs.
“I’ve been doing upgrades to it forever,” Gill said. “We’re now on phase seven.”
Previous phases included redoing the kitchen, creating period-appropriate new windows and a curb-appeal makeover on the front of the house. The award-winning rear addition was phase six, followed shortly thereafter by phase seven: a heated brick paver driveway and patio.
Originally, Gil, who calls himself a designer at heart, envisioned a rear addition with a master suite on the second floor. He had plans drawn up for that work in 2000. As time went on, the family’s focus changed and, by 2015, they approached local architect Mark Zinni about planning an indoor/outdoor family room, with grade-level entry from the driveway.
The Cabacungans’ son requires the use of a wheelchair, so much of the addition was designed to accommodate him and visiting friends. Gil points out that his son can roll right into the room from the driveway and uses the new lift to access all three floors of the bungalow.
In the process of designing a room that was easily accessible, Gil also charged Zinni with creating an indoor family room that brings the outdoors inside in all seasons. Not an unusual charge, but one that Zinni says was accomplished via a wall of 12-foot high glass doors — something that is a bit unusual for the area.
“Gil wanted something a little different and unique for the area, like something you would see out west in Colorado or Utah,” Zinni said. “You rarely see people here wanting to use that much glass to surround a room. You expect to see that overlooking a mountainscape.”
In spite of the vista of neighboring houses and suburban lawns, Gil says that the room achieves his desires.
“I come home, and I feel like I’m in Colorado,” said Gil. “I wanted a lot of light and a lot of windows.”
Gil says that having lived in the house since 1993, he knew where the light came in and where the sunrise was visible. He turned to Zinni to capture that in the addition while making everything ADA-compliant for his son. Gil also wanted to continue the design aesthetic that weaves throughout the rest of the house.
The family room skews more modern than the 1920s era home, but relies on many of the same materials to make a connection with the original home.
“I like the idea of wood, stainless steel and glass,” Gil said.
The stairwell is stainless-steel framed glass, creating open sight lines in the family room. The original brick exterior wall is exposed as is the rear wall of the addition.
Above the bricks, wood siding clads the addition, which rises up above the home, creating a cathedral ceiling. Two walls are formed of windows, and the third wall, which faces the back yard, is constructed of 12-foot sliding glass doors, which allows the entire room to be open to the paver patio in nice weather.
Gil notes that Marvin Windows recently began developing the large-scale sliding doors just a few years ago, and he knew they would be perfect for his project. All the Marvin Windows were planned with the assistance of Marvin Design Gallery by Evanston Lumber.
He called on his contractor, George Guerguyev of G&G Improvement, to help him achieve the precision necessary for the work.
“He is one of the best in the business I think in terms of being a master craftsman,” Gil said. “He did everything by hand. The doors had to be very precisely fitted.”
Through it all, Gil managed the project and documented it. He tried to anticipate every last detail. The radiant-heat flooring keeps the room warm during all four season, and the acoustics are another bonus.
The entire family loves music, and Gil notes that the space has already hosted several impromptu concerts. He envisions more taking place on the adjoining patio come summer.
The new driveway includes an ice-melt system, which allows his son to easily access the home from a car during inclement weather, and Gil made sure the workers installed the driveway at the appropriate pitch to drain into the yard when it rains. He also specified such details as burying the utility wires underground to create an unobscured view.
The entire family loves to use the space, and Gil says he already has a plan in mind for phase eight: the landscaping.
“I’m not in a hurry though,” he said. “This took 15 years from concept to build.”