Rebuild: A Lakeside Home Rises Above Restrictions

Chicago's North Shore is well known for teardowns, and this 1950s ranch home set on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan seemed a perfect prospect. The roof leaked, windows needed replacing, mechanicals were out of date, and the house was about half the size of those surrounding it in the community of Glencoe.

December 31, 2004

Maintaining a modest profile and fitting the home into an established neighborhood was essential to the homeowners, so the design team selected a rusticated brick that had mottled color tones and a timeworn feel. The cast stone accents the window and door openings and lends richness to the masonry facade. The scale of the frieze board and trim make for an appropriate base for the large roof mass that conceals most of the second floor living space. Hipped rooflines prevent guests from encountering a massively scaled two-story facade upon entering the front drive court. The copper-roofed dormers feature custom arched crown molding, while copper gutters and downspouts add authenticity and charm while maintaining a consistent material palette. A central dormer allows natural light to filter through a handmade leaded glass insert past the second floor walkway and into the arched volume ceiling of the family room.
Because of the constricted buildable area, the large second-floor footprint forced judicious selection of where to build volume ceilings on the first floor. This barrel-vaulted family room ceiling is more complicated and labor intensive than a traditional cathedral vaulted ceiling. It required radiused structural beams at each end of the ceiling with close rafter and fastener spacing to ensure the drywall would shape itself to the radius without segmenting. The tight rafter spacing eliminated the possibility of fitting standard insulation batts and recessed can lights in the rafter cavities.
See the Floor Plan

Chicago's North Shore is well known for teardowns, and this 1950s ranch home set on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan seemed a perfect prospect. The roof leaked, windows needed replacing, mechanicals were out of date, and the house was about half the size of those surrounding it in the community of Glencoe. But the owners weren't looking to build another "McMansion." Instead of a whole-house demolition, they elected to revive the tired structure from the ground up and maintain a modest profile. That's when they contacted Evanston, Illinois-based full-service remodeler Benvenuti and Stein Inc.

The owner, together with Benvenuti and Stein, developed a plan that doubled the home's space to 6,000 square feet. The project included extending the garage from a two-car to a three-car structure, creating a custom kitchen, adding a bedroom, and more than doubling the number of bathrooms to five full and two half-baths. Furthermore, all bedrooms needed to face the lake so family members and guests could enjoy the magnificent water views. To accommodate the owners for many years to come, the master suite was located on the first floor. The other bedrooms were designed as mini-suites, to suit the owners' college-age children today and in the future, when they would enjoy the home with their spouses and children.

Stringent local setback restrictions on all sides limited design options and forced the contractor to build up instead of out, and to reconfigure the existing first-floor space. "The challenge was not only adhering to the setbacks imposed by the village, but also keeping the house set back from the steep bluff so the structure didn't slide into Lake Michigan," says Geno Benvenuti, founder and president of Benvenuti and Stein. This left a small footprint on which to build and meant the second floor needed to mimic most of the first floor. The result was that all circulation and servant spaces were pushed to the front of the home and rear-facing water views were appointed to the bedrooms and living spaces.

Because the owners and the Benvenuti and Stein team wanted to change several window locations and raise the first floor wall height, they determined it was cost prohibitive to keep the first-floor frame walls. "The labor cost to modify the existing walls would have exceeded the cost of building new stud walls," says Benvenuti. This decision also eliminated the need to replace rotted materials and allowed the team to re-level the new floor joists. "We preserved most of the existing foundation, and even then we drilled new holes in the top of the foundation for new anchor bolts to properly secure the framing to the concrete," he says.

The team designed a flexible plan that kept in mind future accommodations. They incorporated a guest suite into the basement by building a private sleeping area, but kept the full bath and kitchenette open so the bathroom could be accessed by guests and the kitchenette could double as a wet bar for entertaining. And with the prospect of empty nesting in the future, the heating and cooling were zoned to allow the second-floor wings to be shut down when the children are away. The upper level is also set up with a second master suite for a future homeowner to have an in-law arrangement or to give guests a private enclave. This flexible plan anticipates the scenario of a family house that can be handed down through the generations.

Columns: HB&G Doors: Marvin, Premdor, Wood Harbor Garage door: Raynor House wrap: Tyvek Insulation: Owens Corning Lighting: Halo, Juno Paint: Benjamin Moore Roofing: GAF Windows: Marvin.


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