The home of a 19th-century carpenter who crafted the woodwork in Marshall Field's Walnut Room on State Street and display cases in the Field Museum will be open Saturday, Oct. 5, as part of a tour on behalf of Oak Park's Pleasant Home.
The big surprise in another of the seven Oak Park houses open for the benefit is the adult party room in the rear coach house.
"Pleasant Homes -- A Tour of Oak Park Historic Interiors"What: Tour features seven private Oak Park houses in the neighborhood of Pleasant Home, an 1897 house designed by George W. Maher and open to the public.
When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 5
Where: Pleasant Home, 217 Home Ave., Oak Park
Tickets: $35 in advance; $40 at the door. Visit pleasanthome.org or call (708) 383-2654
Benefits: Pleasant Home, which is included on the tour and is known for its stained-glass windows and woodwork
And that brings to mind how much has changed since these homes were built more than a century ago. After all, that carriage house has a second floor because the homeowners needed someplace to store the hay for the horses kept for transportation.
Carpenter Abraham Edmunds also created the woodwork in nearby Pleasant Home, designed by Prairie-style architect George W. Maher in 1897 -- the only Maher home open to the public.
In 1890 carpenter Edmunds turned an 1853 house -- now one of the oldest in Oak Park -- into a showcase for his craftsmanship, and the current owners' appreciation of the results allow tour participants to see the work that won Edmunds the prestigious contracts.
"I'm something of a preservationist," said Laura Thompson, who lives in the house with her husband, Michael, and their children. "I like to keep what we can, keep things that are old. This house has been a fun project."
Edmunds carved spindles for the home's curving staircase in four different, very delicate designs. Wide fireplace mantels in the living room, dining room and library feature curved fronts and carved bead designs in quarter-sawn oak, white sycamore and white birch. And the doors into each of these rooms shows one type of wood on one side, another on the reverse to match the rooms they face.
The dining room owes much of its charm to a large, curving bay window. The tiles on the fireplace here are turquoise, matching the walls, which Laura says was their original color. Edmund's built-in china cabinet manages to turn a corner squarely with part backing up to each wall.
Part of Laura Thompson's collection of unmatched chairs surrounds the dining table.
"I love chairs, if you haven't noticed," she said. "I have them everywhere. "
She inherited some, purchased others at garage sales and, to the embarrassment of her children, even carried home a few she found on dog-walking excursions.
This room also demonstrates some of the work the Thompsons -- only the fourth owners of the Colonial Revival-style home -- had done on the house before they moved in 2000. The dining room's only fixture was a fluorescent shop light, a stark contrast to the antique and reproduction chandeliers and sconces throughout the home now. And while the wallpaper was "ugly," it was also several layers deep, Laura said.
A year ago, with the help of designer Marti Cusick of Nest Oak Park, the Thompsons constructed an addition with a family room and a sunroom decorated with Laura's great-grandmother's wicker furniture.
And they remodeled the kitchen.
Even the new kitchen does not look new. It's 1940s style because Laura noticed she always liked "before" photos in magazines better than the "after" ones. She also thinks it fits the home better.
"I wanted it to feel like it belonged here," said Laura. "The (back) stairway is new, but we made it look like it could have been here."
The flat cabinet doors are birch, the countertops honed, not shiny, black granite and the light fixtures hanging over the island date from 1937. Some people who visited their grandma may recognize the square glass Sears light over the sink.
"Everybody was really excited," Cusick said. "None of us had done anything like this before."
Cara and Jens Bogehegn purchased their 1890s Victorian house not far from the Thompsons six years ago from a developer who rehabbed it according to their desires.
"We wanted the charm of an old house, but this is modern and up-to-date with our influences," Cara said.
They also recently enlarged the kitchen, adding family eating and gathering areas and a mud room, not to mention a stunning work area with cherry cabinets, granite countertops and Viking appliances.
Remaining from the original floor plan are bay windows that bring considerable light to the dining room and kitchen.
The Bogehegns added a fireplace in the living room but kept the front windows, including the original glass, a requirement for the tax benefits available in historic districts. The front porch was long gone, so the contractor rebuilt it along the lines of the second-floor balcony.
The home's staircase is also original, and Jens says mixed woods -- oak for the carved pieces and poplar for painted parts -- were often used in Victorian times.
The trip to the second floor of what is now a detached garage is definitely worthwhile. The Bogehegns turned the former hayloft into an adult entertainment area complete with poker table and a leather couch that opens so the area can double as a guest suite.
They covered the vaulted ceiling with wood from an old Wisconsin barn to allow for insulation while keeping the authentic appearance.
Many features in the room are old, and the new things are made to look old and rustic, such as a coffee table with heavy wood and metal that looks like an old industrial cart.
The bar is trimmed with reclaimed metal strips, and the family even plucked one of the accessories -- a small carved primitive wooden figure -- from the Chicago River while kayaking.
Jens loves the classic movie camera, which ties into his business manufacturing filmmaking accessories, and Cara trimmed the burlap curtains with rope from Home Depot.
Today's technology is hidden here. For example visitors will see a speaker behind a milk crate. And one part of a wooden box the Bogehegns found in the old carriage house covers a storage spot. A previous owner reused the shipping crate, too. He made it into a feed holder for those horses.