Chicago has often been described as a city of neighborhoods, and one of the most desirable neighborhoods is Lincoln Park, just over 2 miles north of the Loop. The neighborhood's proximity to the lake is certainly desirable, but so is the old, low-scale building stock, made up of residential and other building types. The Mid-North Residence, as Vinci | Hamp Architects call it, is the transformation of a 19th-century commercial building into a large house oriented around a courtyard. Let's take a tour of the house, from the outside in.
Houzz at a Glance Who lives here: A family of 5 Location: Chicago Size: 9,100 square feet of living space That's interesting: The repurposed building was once a barn (circa 1875), later used as a dairy distribution center and then art studios and galleries.
The brick exterior exudes Chicago: It is solid and has some decoration but is not overly flashy. The reuse of the building and its new function are signaled by the new door and transom on the right.
Minus this elevation and a facade on the narrow alley around the corner, most of the existing exterior had to be taken down and rebuilt. From this the architects created a modern residence that has a dialogue with the historical aspects of the site.
The wood door and opaque sidelight don't reveal what lies behind the door, but the transom helps bring light into the entry space.
Upon opening the door, one is confronted with the courtyard, the heart of the residence.
At the back of the courtyard is what was the three-story barn — the one-story entry dates to 1900 and was a commercial space for the dairy center — and at left is a one-story volume, also part of the 1900 building. The taller volume is on the north side of the property, so this outdoor space receives plenty of sunlight.
The giraffe was purchased from sculptor John Kearney, the property's tenant from 1950 to 2007. The artist is known for the Tin Man in nearby Oz Park. I remember seeing his "steel bumper" sculptures in the area, even a giraffe peering over a fence, when I lived in Lincoln Park.
The ground-floor plan and north-south building section help with orientation as we go inside the house. The entry is at the left, as is south; north is to the right. An open living area comprises the area on the west, the top part of the plan. Atop the kitchen, dining room, garages and other spaces on the right are four bedrooms (second floor) and the master suite (third floor).
The ground floor has sliding glass walls connecting inside and outside, the stair core has plenty of glass facing south, and a series of terraces on the second and third floors face the courtyard as well.
The living room, which occupies the west side of the courtyard, is a simple, open space split into two zones by a large stone fireplace. Even though the space is simple, there are some things happening that are very smart: Clerestory windows face the alley on the west, bringing in light while maintaining privacy, and the ceiling along the walkway is lower than the adjacent ceiling, responding to the slope of the roof but also helping to further define the spaces.
Moving north along the walkway, one arrives at the stair that connects all three levels. The firm of John Vinci and Philip Hamp is well versed in stair design; the team actually inserted an old Mies van der Rohe stair in their design of the Arts Club of Chicago.
Beyond the stair and family room is the kitchen, a large space with two islands and a large table toward the courtyard.
As mentioned, most of the spaces are oriented toward the courtyard, such as the eating area in the kitchen. Very nice.
On the second floor, the stairs bring one to a large terrace that also overlooks the courtyard. And on the third floor are more terraces, one serving the master suite. Cutouts in the roof help bring even more light to the rooms set back.
As in the living room and kitchen, the finishes in the upstairs rooms are quite minimal. Yet as this children's room hints at, the spaces are a canvas for the family's things. The way the wood trim is carried through to the bunk bed railing and ladder is a nice touch.