Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Gallery: Out front in Oak Park

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Lush gardens surround this 19th-century home on Kenilworth Avenue in Oak Park. Set on a bit more than an acre, the house has porches on three sides to enjoy all the greenery. "To say this house was dilapidated when we bought it would be being kind," said Mary Beth Leonard, a retired doctor who bought it in 1994 with husband Tom Nielsen, also a physician. The two have worked on virtually every inch, including installing the lush plantings. Now planning to move to a condo in River North, they're listing the six-bedroom house today at $2.1 million. It's represented by Coldwell Banker agent Michael Kennelly. Click here to read more.

PHOTO CREDIT: Jorge Geras

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"This is my favorite room of the house," Leonard said on a recent evening, as a breeze drifted through the porch. "We can sit out here three seasons and watch the world go by." The front porch 50 feet long and 10 feet deep, has a companion on one side that's been converted to a working greenhouse and another out back that the couple added when expanding the home's kitchen.

PHOTO CREDIT: Jorge Geras

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A surprise in the basement: A bowling lane. The pins are hand-operated and there's a gravity-powered return rail for balls. The homeowners believe it was built into the house from the beginning, because the foundation wall curves outward around it. The lane was made by Brunswick and the pool table is by Sears, both longtime Chicago companies. The pool table stays with the house.

PHOTO CREDIT: Jorge Geras

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In rehabbing the house, "we tried to keep everything that was original but make it read a little more modern," Nielsen said. In the living room, that includes a fluted fireplace wall, pocket doors and the wood trim, stripped of paint to return its natural finish. A latter-day mantel was replaced with contemporary tile, and the ceiling dropped to allow for new indirect lighting.

PHOTO CREDIT: Jorge Geras

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The dining room's handsome wood trim and leaded glass windows are all original. So is the flooring, which the couple discovered after pulling up shag carpeting. The windows face south, over the home's broad side yard studded with mature trees. Banker Simpson Dunlop, the original owner, built next door to his brother, Joseph, and together the two houses' layouts preserved a large space between them.

PHOTO CREDIT: Jorge Geras

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A parlor or music room between the living and dining rooms is now a hang-out room, with an original tiled mantel and pocket doors. The couple kept the picture rails that run along near the top of most walls, for ease of hanging art and moving it around.

PHOTO CREDIT: Jorge Geras

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The '50s-inspired kitchen took its lead from the fieldstone fireplace, which had been added sometime in the mid-20th century. A Sputnik-style light fixture, black-and-white flooring and the jaunty shape of the kitchen island followed from there. The kitchen combines three smaller rooms that were original. It opens onto a large rear porch.

PHOTO CREDIT: Jorge Geras

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The library is another of the original formal rooms, with its mahogany mantel and bookcases intact. Leonard and Nielsen added crown molding to conceal indirect lighting.

PHOTO CREDIT: Jorge Geras

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One of four bedrooms on the second floor, the master, with this seating area, spans the front of the house and has an original tiled fireplace mantel.

PHOTO CREDIT: Jorge Geras

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The home's layered vintage is evident in the master bath, where an original clawfoot tub, filled from above by a modern ceiling faucet, and original wood cabinetry share the space with contemporary vanities and a gleaming walk-in shower. The adjacent master closet fills what used to be a child's bedroom.

PHOTO CREDIT: Jorge Geras

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Much of the 3,000-square-foot, two-story coach house is finished, but these old stables, partially below ground and originally used for horses, donkeys and pigs, are waiting for a new use. They're lined with old-growth wood, which could be repurposed.

PHOTO CREDIT: Jorge Geras

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The lot is 329 feet deep, with no alley behind it, and 133 feet wide. The couple have extensive perennial gardens and grow blueberries and other edible plants in a sunny corner. "It's been a haven for us, our retreat," Nielsen said. Click here to return to the story.

PHOTO CREDIT: Jorge Geras

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