Master Suite

High-tech treats and fine detailing create a luxurious home-within-a-home

July 31, 2004


The homeowner's decision to use radiant heating coils underneath limestone flooring kicked off a series of installation challenges. A structural engineer helped D+CC design closely spaced floor framing that was thin enough to line up with the rest of the second floor but strong enough to support the heavy load of limestone plus a 21/2-inch bed of concrete for the heating coils. D+CC mixed the concrete in the back yard and then raised concrete-filled wheelbarrows to the second floor using a cherry picker. Installers hoisted the piles of limestone tiles the same way and then distributed them around the space before installation to avoid overloading the flooring members.

Photos by Kaskel Architectural Photography

Remodeler: Design Construction Concepts Ltd., Northbrook, Ill.

Project location: Lake Forest, Ill.

Age of home: 106 years

Scope of project: conversion of several second-floor rooms to a 2,500-square-foot master suite, including bedroom, bath, dressing area, entry rotunda, kitchenette, laundry and sunroom

When the raw material is a century-old, 17,000-square-foot Georgian mansion, the concept of home improvement takes on a whole new dimension. Starting with such a grand house raised the bar particularly high for Design Construction Concepts.

The homeowners asked D+CC to recast a 2,500-square-foot section of the second floor, incorporating several rooms to create a luxurious master suite with large, open spaces in the style of a 17th-century Italian villa. They gave D+CC one year to design and build the suite, down to all custom finishes and furnishings. And they wanted the work done without disturbing themselves or the spaces above and below the suite: a historic, wood-paneled library on the first floor and the husband's bath and exercise room on the third floor.

To win the job, D+CC researched 17th-century Italianate styling and produced a computer-generated tour of their proposed design, which featured a central master bedroom with fireplace and gilded columns. The wife's bathroom, walk-in closet and a spacious dressing room with circular dressing table sit on one side of the bedroom. On the other side, D+CC enlarged a greenhouse and converted it to a sunroom with adjacent kitchenette and laundry room.

The suite's entryway spotlights the intricate marriage of design and technology that pervades the project. "Because they wanted an Italianate feeling, we thought about Roman baths and the round tubs encircled by columns," says D+CC co-owner Michael Menn, AIA, CGR, CAPS. Adapting that concept, D+CC designed a domed rotunda with lighted glass display cases, hand-carved glass doors and fiber-optic lighting that washes the ceiling in continually changing colors. The rotunda's floor consists of a mosaic medallion, 10 feet in diameter, which D+CC assembled on site using 64 numbered sections, pre-coded by the manufacturer.

Many ornamental elements of the suite, from the carved glass to the chandeliers, cabinetry and decorative flooring, were custom built. Both the air conditioning and the underfloor radiant heating were programmed to operate in four zones throughout the space. Two televisions flank the bedroom fireplace so that husband and wife can watch different programs simultaneously. Hidden wires connect to bedside headsets. When not in use, the televisions hide behind mirrored doors operated by hydraulic lifts.

Though the homeowners moved to another part of the house during construction, assuring that they were undisturbed required constant vigilance. Menn says any plumbing or electrical hookups that had to be disconnected were reconnected at the end of every workday. D+CC also brought in a weekly cleaning service to combat the especially large amount of dust generated when the walls were opened.

The biggest potential problem was getting to the construction area without traipsing through the house. D+CC addressed this by building an elaborate temporary staircase from the backyard staging area directly to the work site. Because the house is built on a slope, the back yard is three stories below the work area: D+CC's staircase had several landings and side stairs that allowed workers to carry things up and down by the safest, most convenient route.

Air conditioning: Carrier Audiovisual system: Proline Glass doors: Alternative Designs Lighting (recessed and cove): Juno Locksets: Emtek Mosaic floors: New Ravenna Radiant floor heating: Wirsbo Sink, toilet and bidet: Kohler

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