Art of the dream home: Building team creates masterful design on 4.5 acres in Wheaton
Oak Park native Laura Christensen and her husband, Mark, built their dream home during the pandemic on a breathtaking parcel of wooded land adjacent to the Cantigny Golf Course in Wheaton. The Arts and Crafts-style masterpiece they created hearkens back to Laura's youthful experiences in Oak Park, the place where Frank Lloyd Wright and other outstanding architects experimented.
"We had lived in Wheaton for 30 years and wanted to build the house we had been designing in our minds for years -- and do it on a large parcel of property since I am a landscape architect and wanted room to plant and enjoy," Laura says.
The couple and their building team hit that mark and others.
"Also, since I grew up to appreciate great architecture as art, I understand that we are truly living in a piece of art," she says.
Before the house was built, Laura stumbled upon a "for sale by owner" sign on property bounded on two sides by the Cantigny Golf Course. Before long, the couple was able to purchased it and another lot next door, assembling 4.5 acres of premium property.
"We ended up with a Wisconsin escape home without having to leave town!" she recalls.
"I loved the clean lines, wonderful woodwork, big windows and other details inherent in a Craftsman home. I truly consider this type of home to be the quintessential 'homey, cozy home' and wanted to build one," Laura says.
Once they had the land, they moved forward to assemble a collaborative team of professionals to make it a reality and, fortunately, had ordered most of the materials they needed before COVID hit, making building supplies more scarce. Mike Sparks of Sparks Architects Inc. of Elmhurst designed the home, Brad Drendel of Brad Drendel Builders Inc. of Naperville was the builder and Joan Kaufman of Interior Planning and Design Inc. in Naperville did the interior design.
"The team built the Christensen home from the ground up, starting in September 2020 and it took about a year to complete," Kaufman says.
The incredible 4,200-square-foot home features a first-floor master suite; a breathtaking, cathedral-ceilinged family room with a stone fireplace flanked by window seats and topped by statement-making ceiling rafters; a lovely state-of-the-art kitchen featuring alder cabinets and gorgeous Versailles-patterned tile work; a light-filled three-season room from which to enjoy Laura's gardens; and much more, including a basement wine room.
Unique touches abound in the home, such as a kitchen countertop with a live edge top made from a huge, 120-year-old oak the homeowners were forced to cut down from the property; a custom wooden dining booth in the kitchen, made by City-Living Design in Chicago; custom art glass cabinet doors in the kitchen, designed by Kaufman and fabricated by Alpine Stained Glass in Plainfield; a striking blue agate backsplash over the range and blue Alaska granite countertops; Arts and Crafts-style mullioned windows throughout and a porcelain kitchen floor with tumbled edges, made to look like real stone.
"Lots of little mom-and-pop businesses in the Chicago area were part of the process and we liked that," Kaufman says.
The entire construction process was all about detail and nature because Laura, as a landscape designer, is heavily interested in health and wellness, Kaufman adds. Only nontoxic and no-VOC materials were chosen and all of the cabinets were left in a climate-controlled warehouse to "off-gas" for a month before being installed in the home. Tile was installed on the floor of the kitchen to better hold up to the Christensens dogs. William Morris nature designs appear on drapes, pillows and even on the stairway runner.
Even the bathrooms are striking with the master bath featuring a free-standing soaker tub and a roomy stall shower with a massive sheet of colorful quartzite as its back wall.
"The Christensens let our team design everything, from the big picture down to minutiae like the knobs on every cabinet door," says Kaufman. "We pooled our resources and knowledge to make this home special and the Christensens absolutely love it."
Laura Christensen concurred. "We are feeling like the home turned out even better than we envisioned. A group of us contributed our unique expertises and created a wonderful home," she says. "It is so peaceful here and we feel like we are living outside, even when we are inside our home."