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By Mark Wilson | Photo: Steve Hall, Hedrich Blessing | April 18, 2016
Proving that you can have it all, this stunning indoor-outdoor retreat by von Weise Associates may look like a showpiece, but it is designed for the casual family lifestyle that makes it home.
“We have five kids, and they’re all busy, running around, playing sports. During summers, we’d try to get up to Lake Geneva, but we could only get up there, like, twice a summer,” Jennifer O’Scannlain laments. “So basically, we said, ‘We’re going to build a place where we can relax and stay. And that’s going to be our house.’”
That vision for a getaway for everyday became a 13,000-square-foot home in Ravenswood—a modernist retreat grounded in a functional, domestic sensibility. It’s a place where marble meets mudrooms, and the clicking tracks of barn doors double as alarm systems during co-ed sleepovers. Yet it all just casually works because this house was designed to entertain adults as well as accommodate adolescents.
To balance these two worlds, Chicago architect Chip von Weise designed a space that transitions from public to private. While the home appears to be a relatively traditional two-story rendered in stucco, zinc and limestone that blends in with the street, once through the front door, the space reveals itself as a modular, contemporary design, consisting of three pavilions connected by two glass staircases, all wrapped around a seclusive terrace with low-maintenance evergreen plantings warmed by southern exposure. In the winter months when its pool is closed, the terrace still features a hot tub, a fire pit and a heated open-air lounge that’s decorated by O’Scannlain and her sister with plush, distressed wood furnishings that make you feel like you’re watching a Bears playoff game on the patio of an Aman resort.
Walking through the first floor, the entry pavilion is for hosting guests, with a bar area and formal office just off the front door. It’s where Sean O’Scannlain, who runs the largest fish distributor in the Midwest, may be welcoming clients visiting from out of town. Into the second pavilion, a large kitchen featuring statuary marble and glowing glass-fronted Ernestomeda cabinets serves as a transitional public-private space. Its doors open completely to the terrace in the summer months for seamless indoor-outdoor entertaining—a spectacle so distracting that you won’t notice the oversize mudroom, complete with full-size lockers, tucked casually through the opposite wall. The third pavilion features a cozy family room, warmed by one of the six fireplaces found on the main floor.
Family space continues upstairs, where the children have their own dorm-like common area complete with a built-in sofa and television, and into the basement, where a well-used indoor court has been built for hockey, lacrosse and basketball, and there’s a billiard room that serves as the perfect teen sleepover retreat.
“The kids bring friends over. I wanted that; to get to know my kids’ friends,” Jennifer says. “Unless you have a place they will come, you don’t get to meet a lot of them.”
Despite the opulent indoor amenities, being inside the home’s main living areas feels like being outside. Even in the depth of a gray Chicago winter, the liberal use of glass walls lights the rooms adequately during the day. And by wrapping exterior materials, including zinc panels, stucco and limestone, into the skeleton of the glass stairwells, von Weise has successfully created the illusion that the outside never ends and the inside never starts.
“We had our first snow one evening with friends in from out of town, when all of a sudden, those really, really big white flakes—the really huge, slow ones — came in,” Jennifer says. “It’s so pretty to walk through here when there’s any type of major weather: when it’s really raining or really snowing, or it’s just really bright on a summer day. It’s a happy house. You just feel good walking around.”
Despite the bright, modernist feel, the space doesn’t feel like a museum designed solely to be photographed. “You look at these minimal, beautifully curated spaces, and everything’s too perfect, in a way,” von Weise says. “They’re beautiful! I’ve done a couple of those. But we work really hard to design modern spaces that are warm and comfortable, and invite people to use them casually.” And from the lacrosse nets lying in various stages of disassembly to a pingpong net gone missing in the previous weekend’s Turnabout sleepover, the O’Scannlains’ house proves it really is a functional family home. And that may be its most impressive accomplishment.
Chip von Weise, von Weise Associates
LG Construction + Development
Brooke Kelly Design Studio
Kettelkamp & Kettelkamp Landscape Architecture
New Style Cabinets
Plasterwork & Painting
Better Home Ideas
Stone floor on first floor, honed marble in master bath, opera glass in kids’ bathroom
Windsor, Loewen and NanaWall windows and doors
Francois & Co.
Custom pewter bar top
New Style Cabinets
Custom master bed and nightstands, kids’ beds
Zirlin Interiors Inc.
Custom window coverings