From the freestanding art gallery of a Lake Forest manor house to beloved family home, this Gothic-revival has been truly revived. Purchased by Los Angeles transplants Tom and Connie Duckworth at the start of the 1990s, they instantly fell in love with the property and its idyllic surroundings.
“When we first saw Lake Forest, it looked like a Hollywood set come to life. We knew immediately it was where we wanted to live,” recalls Connie. Tom right away saw the potential in the lakeside property, a piece of what had formerly been a grand estate.
The couple spent nearly a decade painstakingly designing and building a new house around the portion of the historical structure from 1928 that remained. Spearheaded by Tom’s passion for architecture, the result is a seamless blending of the old and new, authenticity the key ingredient.
In the process, they tracked down the original brick maker and brought in stone carvers to match the beautiful stone detailing of the great room and limestone fireplace. Staying true to the period, the Duckworths sourced the light fixtures, much of the furniture, and the woodworking and paneling from England. “It was a labor of love to create a modern family home that respects the traditional craftsmanship of the design,” Connie explains.
The lakeside setting was another driving force behind the renovation, a feat of engineering accomplished in connecting the living quarters to the property’s 400 feet of beach by way of a 60-foot bluff. “We terraced the whole bluff all the way down to the lake, connecting the house and its large terrace to the water through patios and walkways. It’s the home’s most outstanding feature,” Connie says. “It creates uninterrupted movement from inside to outside—flexible space for entertaining family and friends.”
This entertaining space also includes another unique feature, the large 3-bay boathouse on the lake. While there is plenty of room for jet skis and kayaks below, the terrace that sits on top of the boathouse is spectacular for parties, and guests can easily travel between the main house to this beach locale.
Lest you think elegant parties for grownups are the only source for diversion, the basement and its dedicated spaces for crafting, games, and movies offers fun for all ages—with views of the lake, to boot. “In California, where we lived, kids can go outside and play, but here you need lots of space to entertain indoors. In this house you can do all kinds of things inside to keep children occupied all winter long,” she says, adding, “The way the floor plan circulates and the space is utilized, no room goes unused. Integrating spaces where lots of activities can flow was a priority for us.”
And Connie herself has been a model of integration: career and family, work with philanthropy, and the personal with the public. After 20 years with Goldman, Sachs, & Co., where she served as managing director and partner, notably the first female sales and trading partner in the firm’s history, she has turned her considerable talents to the world of philanthropy.
After the fall of the Taliban, Connie traveled to Afghanistan for the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council as part of a presidential mission to ensure Afghan women had a proverbial place at the table as the country reestablished itself. In 2004, she founded ARZU, Inc. and serves pro bono as the organization’s chairman and CEO. ARZU, which translates to “hope” in Dari, the Afghan dialect of Farsi, has been her personal passion for almost 16 years. “It’s been a deep grassroots effort,” she explains. “We’re the tortoise, not the hare—we move slowly and carefully.”
The organization, which employs local Afghan women as rug weavers and provides access to education and healthcare, is seen as a part of the fabric of the village—all employees are local, and its weavers are seen as leaders in household and community. “The ability to earn a living is almost a human right. What it does for these women to pull themselves out of poverty and support their households is amazing,” says Connie, a recipient of the UNICEF Chicago Humanitarian Award in 2012.
ARZU just recently merged with UK nonprofit Turquoise Mountain Foundation, founded by Prince Charles to help preserve authentic Afghan craft and architecture. “Both missions are preserving local traditional craft and both have been early innovators in this arena.”
ARZU rugs are available for purchase at Minasian Rug Company in Evanston or can be shipped across the country and the globe through the organization’s website. And for over a decade now, they could be seen decorating the floors of the Duckworth’s Lake Forest home.
The 6-bedroom home is now on the market, as the Duckworths step into their next chapter, listed at $12 million through Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices KoenigRubloff. “After we moved in, we had our oldest son. We raised all of our 4 children here. It’s been an ideal home—always full of kids,” she laughs. It is now ready for a new family to enjoy all it has to offer.
“It’s a house that’s been full of fun and people and love,” says Connie. And, certainly, a house full of history.
For more information, visit berkshirehathawayhs.com or contact Ann Lyon at [email protected], 847-828-9991. To learn more about ARZU, visit arzustudiohope.org.