River Forest Grand Lady Gets a Facelift

A young couple expecting their second child purchase a beautiful old frame house in River Forest. The previous owner had added a large addition on the back—a great open space—which they had used for dining and a family room. Unfortunately, the kitchen wasn’t included in this renovation, so it remained in a small room on the north side of the original structure, shut off from the large and sunny addition. The addition was joined to the existing structure with a small double door opening so lacked flow and really felt like a different space altogether.

Enter the ambitious new owners, a commercial designer and a real estate developer. With fresh eyes and good design sense they re-imagined the space. What if the kitchen moved into the new addition? Would there be room for an island and lots of windows?  And a fireplace in the family room area? The old kitchen could become a multi-functional office or first floor guest room and the living room was big enough to serve as both a seating area and the dining room.  

Work began on the exciting aspects—all of the openings on the first floor were enlarged so the space flowed together as one—and the mundane—upgrading plumbing and wiring. Elements were re-purposed whenever possible, for instance windows from the addition were re-used in the original space.  The homeowners melded their clean, modern style with the vintage features of the house, preserving the hardwood floors and tall windows and open front porch.  But the new eye-catching lighting, white color scheme and open space transformed the house into a beautiful and functional home.  

Altogether a great example of the magic that can happen when a homeowner has a vision and a contractor listens!

Front entryway:

The original entry, photo below, had no closet, some dated open shelving, and an awkward double door that scraped on a raised lump in the floor. First order of business—structural work in the basement to lower the raised portion of the floor by 1 1/2″ and make the floor level. 

The photo below shows a brand new functional front door with glass sidelights. The owner re-designed the storage options, eliminating the built-ins and adding a large, deep closet opposite the front door. This area is now bright, welcoming and filled with great storage.


Family room addition:

The photo below shows this great space, built within the last 20 years, offered so much space but wasn’t well utilized. One end was used for dining, but on the opposite side of the house from the kitchen. The other side was used as a family room but without a well defined focal point.  The opening from the original house to this addition was a small double door—probably the original back door.

You’ll note in the photo below, the first change we did was the wall between the original structure and the addition was opened up as wide as possible, over 8′ wide.  Secondly, the kitchen was moved from its cramped north side location into the addition allowing for an island.  Thirdly, the homeowner added a fireplace with built ins as a focal point for a cozy and sunny family room area.  


Original living and dining room:

The photo below was  long and narrow and the previous homeowner used it for two different seating areas, a bit awkward. By opening up the wall between the original house and the addition, everything became one cohesive home.  

The photo below shows that the dining was moved into the closest part of the original space—a perfect dimension for dining. The front area was used for a charming seating area that included a piano. The original tall windows and new white color scheme make this a pleasant, light-filled enjoyable and functional space. 


Original family room became the kitchen:

The photo below shows the original family room that was at the back of the house and had a wall of windows but no focal point.

The photo below shows how transformed this space is and has a bright and well designed kitchen. The kitchen has tons of storage and countertop space. With a double oven, a separate stovetop and plenty of prep space, this kitchen is ideal for cooking. With the open floor plan the kitchen will surely be a destination for guests when entertaining.


First floor office:

The office is right off the dining room and has french doors for privacy, this cozy room was the original very small kitchen.


The basement transformation:

The photo above shows the previous basement function was for watching TV and little else.

The photo above shows how this transformation to the basement is the perfect playroom for growing children. The graphic on the wall was designed by the homeowner and adds playfulness to the room.


The bedroom transformations:

The photo below shows the primary bedroom. The bedrooms were all good-sized rooms. But with fresh paint, refinished floors and added wallpaper in the kid’s rooms, the transformations are spot on with the style of the new owners.

The airplane wallpaper is a both an excellent choice and extremely durable for this little boy’s room.

The photo above was one of the original kid’s bedrooms, it  was transformed into a nursery. The nursery, photo below, is bright and cheery and the gingham wallpaper adds a nice touch without being too bold.

What was once an upstairs office is now a guest room.