For more than a century, legendary architects and dreamers have fallen in love with the North Shore coast of Chicago and the splendor of lakefront living. But rarely does there come an opportunity to build something new and fresh and bold—a truly modern estate that reinvents the meaning of luxury.
Architect Kent DeReus and A. Perry Homes had such a chance when a Winnetka family of five contracted them to design and build a custom home on the shores of Lake Michigan.
“We were lucky to have such a stunning site to work with, which in many ways, clarified the focus of our design process,” explains DeReus. “Our goal was to maximize the views of the water from every room on every level. This singular focus informed the entire layout and flow of the house and—while extremely simple—frequently challenged us to be creative in our design solutions.”
On May 5, those participating in the annual Designer Kitchens of the North Shore Kitchen Tour, hosted by the Junior League of Evanston-North Shore, will get to see exactly what DeReus and his colleagues have created.
One of five houses on the tour, this four-level, six-bedroom and eight-bathroom home is open and airy and elegant, yet comfortable enough for an active family. Nearly every box on this family’s wish list was checked. From an indoor pool to a half-basketball court to stunning lakefront views on every level, this truly is a 21st century equivalent to all the great estates of the last century.
“The family we designed this home for wanted a property on the lakefront that had space to comfortably accommodate their frequent entertaining without compromising the spaces needed for daily, more family-oriented living,” says DeReus. “The homeowners wanted a classic exterior look, but also wanted something that would comfortably accept a bit of eclecticism—leaning toward more transitional styles in the interior decor.”
The starting point for this project was the site itself, a rare plot of steep lakefront property that descends from a tree-covered hillside down to the beach.
“We carefully positioned the house at the high point of the site, which not only maximized the elevated views from the third-floor attic, but allowed us to create a walk-out lower level that has unobstructed views of the water as well,” DeReus explains.
Every level has something special and unique, from a grand master bath with sweeping lakefront views to a lower-level pub that opens level to the backyard.
“The homeowners needed a wine cellar to accommodate their wine collection and creating an adjacent pub seemed a natural extension of that during the design process,” says DeReus. “The wine cellar is in one of the few spots of the lower level that does not have a water view, which provided ideal conditions for wine storage. The pub, on the other hand, is positioned so that it has prominent views of the water while also providing direct-access to an exterior covered area that is on-grade with the backyard of the home. The wine cellar is accessed from the pub through a small stone stair, tucked into a stone archway, creating an authentic, old-world feel.”
That “old-world feel” in this modern classic environment continues upstairs to a two-story library straight out of a fairy tale. The first floor of the library is traditional in function, with bookcases lining the wall with comfortable seating areas. A sense of dramatic elegance is added with a spiral staircase to a second floor, where a catwalk accesses additional bookcases.
“The library was on the homeowners’ ‘something I’ve always wanted’ wish list, and we were excited to bring it to life,” says DeReus. “Hidden from view on the second-floor is an open study space that contains desks and storage that students in the family use as a homework area. While hidden, it is easily accessible from the second floor bedrooms.”
Once again, form follows function. Similar design rules were applied in the kitchen, a free-flowing cook’s dream that opens to two adjacent rooms that maximize the views to the shore from every angle.
Walking through the home, it might be hard for tour-goers to agree on a favorite room. Just when you think the pub and library have blown you away, there awaits yet another spectacle with a turreted master suite bathroom unlike any other.
“The layout of the master suite extended through an area of the second floor that included a circular seating area of the great room below. It became clear that using the circular seating area as the basis for a two-story turret element was exactly what we were looking for,” says DeReus.
“Once that was decided, placing the master bath tub area under these dramatic windows with sweeping views of the water was obviously the best solution. The remainder of the bathroom was designed from there.”
Outside, smart modern design continues with a suite of outdoor living spaces that function as rooms of their own.
A main large, open-air terrace serves as an outdoor “great room” with multiple seating areas, varying degrees of sun/shade, and an adjacent outdoor kitchen for convenience. Secondary outdoor areas on the same level include a balcony area stretching across the remainder of the first floor and, on the opposite end of the house, a more intimate seating area connected to the formal sun room.
The lower-level offers direct walkout access to a covered veranda space as well as a large covered seating area. Other features include a grotto area built into the hillside—with an outdoor fireplace as well as an outdoor spa with dramatic views from its position at the very edge of the bluff.
“These spaces are used consistently throughout three seasons, provided the weather remains pleasant,” adds DeReus. “Due to the potential intensity of inclement weather on the lakefront, we avoided efforts to extend the spring and fall seasons through heated outdoor areas. Instead, we focused on providing recreation and activity spaces that were not seasonally limited, such as the indoor pool and sport court.”
The family could not be more pleased with the result and look forward to sharing this creation on the May home tour. Currently in its 7th year, the Kitchen Tour raises significant revenue to fund important programs of the Junior League of Evanston-North Shore.
For more information, call 847-441-0995, or visit jle-ns.org.