Nancy's Mid-Century Swanky

Green Tour

Name: Nancy
Location: Winnetka, IL
Size: 4000 sq/ft
Years lived in: Owned 6 Months

Nancy’s got a great eye — when she first saw this mid-century gem she knew it had potential. At the time however, it was seriously in need of an upgrade: the interior reeked of early 90’s décor, the structure was thermally deficient and it wasn’t quite large enough for her family of three boys. A couple of years later the house is a shining example of a sustainably swanky renovation.

To add additional square footage to the house, without enlarging the footprint, the garage was rebuilt with a full basement below and a new “teenager suite” above. Connection of this new space to the main house was achieved via the construction of a masonry stair tower, which was designed as a continuation of the existing serpentine brick exterior wall. The tower is punctured by obscured glass block and circular domed skylight at the roof to provide lots of natural daylight.

Visually, the original home design had an interior/exterior relationship through the use of expansive glazing and brick masses that punctured the building shell from the exterior into the interior. This theme was expanded in the redesign in several ways: the existing upper-story stair railing was raised and re-clad in exterior cement fiberboard siding to visually extend from the exterior deck half wall; at the living room, an existing corner planter was extended to the exterior to complete the rectangle; and at the rear courtyard new black bluestone pavers extend the existing interior slate flooring.

One of the other main issues was a poor thermal envelope, which was primarily due to large expanses of un-tempered and single-glazed windows. Almost all of the windows were replaced with new Marvin insulated, low ‘E’ glazing and a number of rooms were reinsulated with rockwool and spray foam insulation. Additionally, the existing exterior was previously clad with very badly deteriorating wood siding. This was replaced with low-maintenance and long-lasting cement fiberboard siding.

Other green elements introduced during the renovation were solar thermal panels (for hot water and furnace assist), Retroplate concrete flooring in the basement, bamboo flooring and stair treads in the addition, no VOC paints and low VOC sealants, ECOmax recycled tire flooring at the exterior deck and locally sourced ground face block by Trenwyth for the stair tower.

AT Survey:

My/Our style: Functional and flexible, comfortable for an empty nester, entertainment and 3 sons when home for a visit. Contemporary and colorful but dog-durable.

Inspiration: The house itself and architect, Nate Kipnis. While I peruse many shelter magazines, I have difficulty translating their concepts and images into my own personal space.

Favorite Element: Modular Arts ceiling panels.

Favorite Green Element: Solar thermal panels.

Biggest Challenge: Miserable weather. Due to early cold and snow last November, masonry work and siding installation was stalled for months.

What Friends Say: 180-degree spin from my prior home, a 1920’s French Norman a mile away.

Biggest Embarrassment: Completely underestimated the cost of landscaping. While the landscape designer/contractor I had selected preferred to submit their plans after most of the remodeling was completed, I was unprepared for their price tag and cut back their plans due to insufficient budgeting. It would have been advantageous for both of us to plan earlier.

Proudest DIY: Aware of my limitations, I did no work myself. I did re-cover a few chairs and sewed some pillows.

Biggest Indulgence: Digging out a basement under the rebuilt garage (with the new bedroom suite up above). When my sons are home they have a man-cave to keep whatever hours they want with a 52” TV and various gaming consoles. It will also add resale appeal when that time comes.

Best Advice Received: Do whatever you want to do NOW as you won’t want to go back and do it later.

Best Advice You'd Give To Anyone Trying To Green Their Home: Find a design professional and experienced sub-contractors you trust whole-heatedly. All the research doesn’t mount up to much compared to real life experience with installation and results.

Future Goals: Add additional landscaping for sunlight control and traffic sound absorption.


Landscaping: Klaus Schmechtig Landscape

Appliances: GE Monogram, Fisher and Paykel dishwasher.

Hardware: Cifial and Baldwin door knobs.

Furniture: Mitchell Gold & Bob Williams living room sofa and side tables; Room & Board family room sofa, master bedroom furniture, and living room chairs; DWR dining room chairs, Ero/s chairs and Louis Ghost chair; West Elm and Crate and Barrel bookshelves; Antique Hindu chairs from ABC Carpet and Home; kitchen table and chairs CB2

Accessories: CB2, West Elm

Lighting: Lightology, West Elm

Rugs: Crate and Barrel area rugs

Tiles and Stone: Susan Jablon Mosaics glass tiles

Beds: Room & Board, Ethan Allen and Pottery Barn

Paint: Pittsburgh Paint Pure Performance

Flooring: RetroPlate finished concrete floor, ECOmax recycled tire tile on balcony.

Other: Stainless metal by V. A. Robinson, spiral stairs and railings by MILKdesign.

(Thanks, Nancy!)

Top images: 2009 Wayne Cable/ All others by Rachel Wray. Architectural drawings by Nathan Kipnis Architects, Inc.

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