A Modern Chicago Home Built From the Ground Up

A Modern Chicago Home Built From the Ground Up

(Image credit: Arthur Garcia-Clemente)

Name: J. & Stephanie Stack, & Baby Leo
Location: Pilsen — Chicago, Illinois
Size: 5,000 square feet
Years lived in: 1-1/2 years; Owned

Calm, cool and collected…these are the feelings you get as you step through the front door of J and Stephanie's home. I am sure, however, the couple probably wasn't feeling calm cool or collected during the 15 month process that they embarked on to rebuild a home from the ground up. I'm sure the feelings were probably more like blood, sweat and tears! They turned an old and dark building into a made-to-measure, modernist, Chicago walkup, where their first son, Leo, would spend his first years. And what a payoff it was, because this hidden gem of a home at the end of the block is a stunner.

(Image credit: Arthur Garcia-Clemente)

A beacon of the modern Chicago style, the home conforms itself to the traditional plot size of the neighborhood, and then builds skyward. That means a plot of land that is long and narrow, and if you want to have enough space for a growing family, you have nowhere to go but up!

The open staircase really is the jewel of the home - it's not just a "wow" moment when you first see it; it also provides places to stop and relax, there's a skylight above the second floor, and it connects the whole house. It's at the stairs that you realize that every part of this home deserves a closer look.

(Image credit: Arthur Garcia-Clemente)
(Image credit: Arthur Garcia-Clemente)

The decor is minimal and clean, a calm background that allows all their classic statement pieces to have a voice, and trust me there are a quite a few. The Eames lounge and ottoman and the Womb chair by Eero Saarinen, are two of the best seats in the house!

The same materials are used throughout the house, but in different combinations – it's a beautiful design detail. The walnut paneling around the entry closet appears again as the floating shelves above the well-stocked bar in the dining room; the marble counter from that bar area shows up again in the kitchen; and the warm walnut tones come out again in the credenza behind the family-room sofa.

The basement is warm and cozy, with darker green walls, a leather arm chair in camel, and lighter wood tones. The showstoppers down here are the game tables - shuffle board and a pool table - you can't help but pick up a cue stick and rack 'em.

(Image credit: Arthur Garcia-Clemente)

The sleeping quarters of the house are all on the second floor: the master bedroom, the baby's room and the main guest room. Cool greens, warms woods and bright whites run throughout all of the rooms. In the light-filled hallway, there's a lovely gallery of family pictures that make you pause and enjoy each moment.

At the top of the stairs is one of the best spots in the house… the playroom! It feels like an attic, but without all the scary cob webs. The cubbies are all brightly colored, and the scale of all the furniture is the perfect fit for a little boy. This is the best spot for a busy bodied toddler!

(Image credit: Arthur Garcia-Clemente)

The building overall is modest, not drawing much attention to its modern interior. It sits on the edge of a small park filled with families, and blends in with its nearby neighbors. As the northern-most structure at the end of a cul-de-sac, its northern exposure is always a front row seat for the changing seasons.

The family all comes over, people are hanging out in the kitchen and front room, kids are playing games in the basement, and baby Leo is taking his first steps. Being with this family is to feel all the love that went into the design and construction of this home.

(Image credit: Arthur Garcia-Clemente)

Apartment Therapy Survey:

Our Style: Mix of modern, mid-century and industrial

Inspiration: We spent 15 months planning, designing and renovating a 100+-year-old home. Inspiration was found from a variety of design publications, hours spent on Houzz, and visiting random open houses. J and I work in the design and construction fields, and we drew inspiration from projects that we get to visit. Finally, our inspiration and vision grew with the help of Sara Kuchar Studios.

Favorite Element: Kitchen/Family room. I knew that I wanted Carrara marble from the day we started the project—regardless of the maintenance warnings. It is timeless and fit our overall aesthetic vision. This is the heart of the home and where we spend the majority of our time. The pendants over the island and barstools are some of my favorite design elements and the family room is cozy yet maintains clean lines—a perfect place to spend time with our son.

(Image credit: Arthur Garcia-Clemente)

Biggest Challenge: There were some architectural limitations due to the existing structure that was on the lot. In order to maximize the home on our city lot-size, we had to keep all exterior walls intact. This required significant planning of window placement, façade design and lots of old brick maintenance!

What Friends Say: Friends say that the the home is very "us." It fits our family perfectly.

Proudest DIY: Although we worked with an architect and a general contractor throughout the project, we think of the entire project as a DIY in many ways. We had a hand in every single decision and detail and the entire thing was a labor of love!

Biggest Indulgence: Furniture! I had my eye on a few signature pieces and was sure to find a way to fit them in!

(Image credit: Arthur Garcia-Clemente)

Thanks, J & Stephanie!


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