It’s no secret the North Shore is dotted with iconic homes and estates. While the market is tight right now with inventories are at historic lows, we decided to have a look at what distinguishes some North Shore homes from others, keeping in mind that every home is unique to the purchaser.
Noah Levy of the Noah and Janet Group and Engel and Volkërs Chicago North Shore, says the region offers something for everyone, regardless of taste or living priorities.
“People are drawn to the North Shore not just for the homes. There are all sorts of homes—new, vintage—and people are attracted to it because of Lake Michigan,” Levy says. “What is nice about the North Shore is that unlike other areas it’s not cookie cutter.”
While Levy points out that many of the historical homes on the North Shore have been torn down, some buyers are keeping vintage homes and updating them to make the homes their own.
“We sold a house this past fall, the new owners updated the kitchen, and the previous owner’s nephew brought over all the pictures of the original house,” Levy says. “When they built the house it was farmland, just east of the Chicago Botanic Gardens. Some homes have a real history.”
Some buyers of vintage homes are keenly interested in learning more about the history of their original property and the owners. Levy and her partner in the Noah and Janet Group, Janet Karabas, listed a home in Glencoe last year and showed pictures of the original house during showings. It swiftly went under contract.
As far as unique features, Levy had a client who bought a new construction home that had to have a heated driveway. Another client didn’t necessarily want to be on the lake, but wanted a lake view which, she says, wasn’t the easiest thing to find.
“The lifestyle, education, and recreation of the North Shore is very attractive and hard to beat,” says Karabas, “Wonderful access to Lake Michigan shoreline, beautiful beaches, and swimming and boating just a short walk away from your home.”
Levy and Karabas are listing 555 Cherry Street in Winnetka. The home, a mid-century modern that has been fully updated, is the oldest home on the block in one of first neighborhoods on the North Shore to be incorporated.
Buyers looking for a year-round swim workout might want to have a look at 4200 Walters Avenue in Northbrook, listed by Connie Dornan of @properties in Glenview. In addition to an indoor pool, the 5-bedroom, 7-bath (with 2 half-baths) home features a home theater, billiard room, wine cellar, and a spa with both wet and dry saunas.
When the current owners of 272 North Sheridan in Lake Forest first bought the property, they lived in an existing log cabin on the property while they built their custom home adjacent to the cabin. The fully finished cabin features 2 beds, 1 bathroom, and laundry. The cabin can serve as anything from a man cave to a guest house and is perfect for a staycation.
Everybody who sees it can see that it’s spectacular inside. It’s like having a vacation home steps from your house,” says Annie Royster Lenzke with the Dawn McKenna Group and Coldwell Banker Realty. “It’s a fully functioning residence that overlooks a ravine. It’s like getting two homes for the price of one.”
If buyers are looking for a separate living space for family or guests, they’ll want to pay a visit to 55 East Onwentsia Road in Lake Forest. Listed by Jean Anderson and Donna Mancuso of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, the French Manor home is set on three acres (a rarity in Lake Forest) and features a full guest apartment with separate entrance.
“You actually need to go outside to be able to get in the apartment and it’s a full apartment that somebody can live in,” Mancuso says. “There’s a bedroom, living room, and space for guests.”
The home features many other unique touches, including a well-appointed library with classic wood paneling and an arch with windows overlooking the grounds.
When Bret and Carolyn Withey bought their home in Winnetka from listing broker Paige Dooley of the Paige Dooley Team and Compass, they decided to manage their three kids’ energy by building the “Withey Sportsbarn.” The above-ground gym features a full-sized basketball and volleyball court, and a golf simulator, and doors open up to the property grounds. The property also has an outdoor pool and ice rink.
“Sometimes I think half of the kids in Winnetka are over here,” Bret Withey says. “It’s probably because they are.”
While many North Shore homes feature wine cellars and fridges. 111 Woodley in Winnetka takes wine collecting to a new level. Under contract by Jena Radnay of @ properties in Winnetka, the home includes a wine cellar with electronic equipment to scan labels and keep a database of the inventory along with detailed descriptions of each bottle.
Homes designed by well-known architects have always been in high demand on the North Shore. Louise Eichelberger of @properties in Winnetka sold a Northbrook home last year designed by notable architect Tony Grunsfeld. Grunsfeld was a leader among modernist designers of residential homes on the North Shore. Three other Grunsfeld designed homes have sold in Glencoe in the past few years.
“The house in Northbrook is stunning, classic contemporary built in 1992,” Eichelberger says. “Grunsfeld homes have a timeless quality. They’re beautiful when they’re built, will be beautiful in 50 years, and in 100 years.”
Some buyers want a quiet country environment with easy access to the amenities a downtown has to offer, and in Green Oaks/ Libertyville, Joanna Koperski with @properties in Lake Forest has listed 14945 Creekside Path. The property is located in a charming subdivision in the country, yet close to the vibrant Libertyville center of town and its top restaurants.
For families with four-legged children, a mudroom and stone dog shower—to wash the Michigan sand off of his or her paws after a walk on the beach—is just one of many original features, large and small, that can be found at 2480 Sheridan Road in Highland Park. Listed by Kelly Rynes of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, the home features a wraparound front porch with spectacular views of the lake, and access to 13-acre Moraine Park. The home, which was built in 1892, has had more than $5 million in upgrades since 2007.
A glassed breakfast room that overlooks a patio and garden is one many distinguishable features of 1134 Wade Street in Highland Park, sold for asking price by @properties broker Cory Albiani last October. The classic English Tudor also has two entrances, one from Wade Street and the other from Beech Street.
Single floor living is increasingly desirable on the North Shore and 663 Dundee Road in Glencoe has it with a twist. Listed by Stacy Burgoon of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, the home is unique with its open layout, vaulted ceilings, and first floor primary bedroom. It includes a thoughtful addition of a second-floor guest suite. The home recently went under contract with multiple offers.
While many buyers might have specific demands in a home, and many owners customize their homes based on their own needs and tastes, community remains integral to home-buying decisions.
“People are looking for a sense of community and somewhere they can connect with other people, whether that be in a condo development or a neighborhood,” says Carley Jones with Engel & Volkërs Chicago. “They also want to be on the same streets as friends and family, a sense of being able to just walk out the door and have people right there who are your community.”