Historic Kenwood Remodel

BBA Architects on Feb 15, 2022

This 9,000 SF plus basement home was designed and built for one of the top Lasalle Street financiers in the heyday of Chicago’s golden age. The architect was Howard Van Doren Shaw, a prolific and renowned architect of the time, who is well remembered today for many of his innovative yet traditional home designs. This home, built in 1913 in Chicago, was built during Shaw’s most prolific period, concurrent with other homes in Chicago and Lake Forest. Enhancing the original architecture, was the landscape collaboration with Jens Jensen. 

To re-make this home for current and future generations, BBA has undertaken a complete overhaul, including a fully developed recreational basement, rear addition, and re-developed coach house. This has included a complete excavation and re-structuring below the building, which was originally constructed largely of concrete, steel, and clay tile in lieu of more conventional wood framing.  BBA has worked closely with Goldberg General Contractors to carefully dismantle, repair, and re-assemble various assemblies, including the entire brick envelope, slate roof, and chimneys. BBA is collaborating with Culliton Quinn Landscape Architects on the outside, which will feature outdoor living spaces in lieu of Jensen’s purely picturesque design. Jensen’s tulip garden and courtyard fountain, will be restored to the 1913 design.

BBA designed the exterior addition, utilizing masonry details derived from the original structure, and from studying other Shaw homes from the same period. Although most of the interior will be 100% new, the formal rooms on the main floor, and stair hall, are all being restored to the original Shaw design, including the limestone walls of the main hall, and  his signature decorative plaster ceilings over the stair.  The balance of the new work will be respectful of the original design, but will incorporate a fully contemporary finish and furnishing package, in collaboration with Bruce Fox Interiors. 

Summer 2022

Work is poised to begin to restore a Historic Kenwood home designed by famed Chicago architect, Howard Doren van Shaw. BBA Architects, in collaboration with Culliton Quinn Landscape Architecture, Goldberg General Contracting, and Allison Henry Interiors, will embark on an exterior restoration, interior renovation, and rear addition project. The home has a great deal of original work intact, but most surfaces are in need of repair or full replacement after 110 years of use. The formal areas of the home will be restored to their original beauty, while the balance of the home will be fully renovated in the spirit of the original. The updated plan will feature all modern amenities and complete replacement of services. As exterior work begins, BBA is working through the final interior architectural elements.

The process of reimagining a historic property like this has a long ramp-up period in the design phase, as BBA collaborates with various consultants, and navigates a multi-faceted approval, scope, and budgeting process.

From a technical standpoint, the original home was exceptionally innovative for its time. The floors are constructed of site-cast concrete, and the walls are all made of structural clay tile masonry. This largely fireproof structure utilized the best practices for its time which creates both advantages and unique challenges for remodeling. The process of working through these solutions, however, is very satisfying.

Of particular note is the proposed re-creation of the long-missing, original glass and iron entry canopy. BBA will detail this from the original design, as well as mimic a surviving example of an exceptionally similar design from a Shaw home located in Glencoe. 

The original landscape design was produced by world-renowned landscape architect Jens Jensen. The plan was dense with notations of Elm trees, Forsythias, as Persian Lilacs.  Almost nothing remains of his original vision. Some of the original choices, however, will guide the future, including the restoration of the frontcourt, fountain, and tulip garden. The new landscape will have a formalized front yard but contain more interactive outdoor spaces than an early 20th-century home would have had.

See more of this project.