Sunday, September 23, 2018

Gallery: Beverly Hills circa 1970 in Northbrook

before hits0606-01

White brick gates open onto a gold sphinx, giving the entrance to this Northbrook home's front-yard pool a theatrical flourish. It was devised in the 1960s and 1970s by Richard Himmel, a nationally renowned interior designer who designed homes, jets, hotels and other spaces, often for celebrities. With his wife, Elinor, and two kids, Himmel spent weekends here at the retreat he designed. The Himmels sold it in the early 1980s to Cathy and Ed Wormser, who ran a family-owned pajama manufacturing firm. They've kept most of his flourishes, including the gold sphinx. "It's like a wonderland," Cathy Wormser said. "It's sort of Beverly Hills, sort of French, sort of English, a little Disneyland." Thirty-five years after moving in, the Wormsers plan to downsize. They'll list the four-bedroom house for sale June 7, asking a little less than $1.4 million. It's represented by Honore Frumentino and Todd and Eve Trawinski of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices KoenigRubloff Real Estate Group.

PHOTO CREDIT: Larry Malvin Photography

before hits0606-02

The drama continues inside, where the walls are "porous," opening wherever possible to the outdoors. The backdrop of trees "is dramatic all the time" as the seasons rotate, Cathy Wormser said. The brick fireplace wall set into a bay of glass walls is a sharp modernist touch, and the oversized herringbone pattern in the floor suits the scale of the room, less than half of which is visible in this photo.

PHOTO CREDIT: Larry Malvin Photography

before hits0606-03

A gravel drive leads through the trees to the house, which is 4,800 square feet above ground and frames the pool on two sides. The blue water at top left in the photo is the North Branch of the Chicago River. Nearly all the space seen in this photo is part of the home's two acres. When the Wormsers bought the property–for a price that they wouldn't disclose and that is not in public records–it had three acres and a guest house, where the Himmels sometimes stayed after selling. The Wormsers later sold an acre to neighbors.

PHOTO CREDIT: Larry Malvin Photography

before hits0606-04

Inside the front gates is another pair of brick walls, guarded by Richard Himmel's own gold sphinx and other statuary. The pool is large enough for kids to swim in but is mostly for "lounging on the edges, Cathy Wormser said. It exudes a midcentury glamor befitting Himmel, who was not only an interior designer but the author of several trashy novels, including "The Shame," "Strange Desires," and "The Rich and the Damned."

PHOTO CREDIT: Larry Malvin Photography

before hits0606-05

The porous nature of the walls starts in the foyer, where the glass fills the curves of a pair of doors that look like a shagadelic takeoff on what a Parisian home might have rendered in wood a century ago.

PHOTO CREDIT: Larry Malvin Photography

before hits0606-06

Glass openings surround the library. The larger ones on the far wall open onto a Japanese garden. The skylight is surrounded with mirrors, to help the light bounce around the room. The Wormsers replaced original glossy white polyurethane floors, which were aging, with checkerboard carpeting.

PHOTO CREDIT: Larry Malvin Photography

before hits0606-07

The walls of the dining room have a textured faux finish. In the skylight hangs a chandelier, tucked up there by Himmel, whom the New York Times in 1971 described as often "irreverent" about antiques. The sliding doors at left open to the pool.

PHOTO CREDIT: Larry Malvin Photography

before hits0606-08

The black-and-silver kitchen is largely as Himmel designed it, but with updated appliances in stainless steel to match his original vision, which Cathy Wormser describes as "pinstriped." Mirrors above the door and refrigerators play off windows both above and between the cabinets to enhance the sense of lightness in what could have become a dark room. The black granite floor is a Himmel original, as are the light fixture and the table's leg. Himmel told the Wormsers that they were repurposed remnants of pieces by Gustave Eiffel, designer of the great Parisian tower.

PHOTO CREDIT: Larry Malvin Photography

before hits0606-09

The kitchen and breakfast room are in a pavilion that makes the house into an L embracing two sides of the pool.

PHOTO CREDIT: Larry Malvin Photography

before hits0606-10

The Wormsers' Japanese-influenced garden includes plants chosen for year-round texture as well as seasonal color, and a terrace that overlooks a koi pond. The tall evergreen trees at the back create a sense of seclusion, Cathy Wormser said.

PHOTO CREDIT: Larry Malvin Photography

before hits0606-11

An aerial view of the garden shows its layers of color and texture, along with a small stream (at upper left) and a rock walkway in the koi pond (at upper right). There is also a large lawn on the property where kids can play.

PHOTO CREDIT: Larry Malvin Photography

before hits0606-12

Cathy Wormser said the walled forecourt with a pool was what "grabbed" her when she first toured the house about 35 years ago. The Himmels were getting the home ready to sell–in their later years, they reportedly spent most of their time in Florida–and happened to meet the Wormsers, who were househunting. "Everything else we saw on the North Shore was all the same thing," Cathy Wormser said. This house "was special. It was artistic. Richard Himmel's personality was throughout it. We didn't want to change anything."

PHOTO CREDIT: Larry Malvin Photography


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