How This Chicago Triplex Townhouse Made The Most Of Its Narrow Lot

A new ground-up construction in Chicago emerges onto the architecture scene.

photography by MICHAEL VAHRENWALD


With only a 25-foot lot, a Chicago couple wanted to create a special, architectural statement-making home for their family. And Alex Gil, principal of New York City-based architecture firm Spacecutter, masterminded the construction of the new 5,300-square-foot residence just outside downtown Chicago for the family of four. 

​"We at Spacecutter are inspired by the works of artists like Michael Heizer, James Turrell, Philip Glass, David Lynch, and Richard Serra,” says Gil. “The design of this Chicago house is a perfect reflection of this in its aim for impactful design through a clean palette and thoughtful material choices.”

photography by MICHAEL VAHRENWALD


​The front and rear of the house are almost mirror images of each other. The front features a 7-foot-wide dramatic entrance portal from the street with a colorful front garden, and the back is a gateway to the large rear yard, which is 15-feet wide.

“These two green spaces are tied together through the black brick envelope of the house, which presents itself as a strong and protective wall along the side of the alleyway,” says Gil. “This continuous wrapper is emphasized by projecting fin of richlite, a highly durable and versatile eco-friendly paper-based fiber composite that extends equally to the exterior and interior of the house to provide shading.”

photography by MICHAEL VAHRENWALD


Getting plenty of natural light while also providing enough privacy from the street was the main driver of the building’s design. The architect had to reassure the client that the interior would have a spacious, bright feel—and achieved that with the addition of the long strip of glass that runs from the facade, along the alley to the back.

“The contiguous travelling window spanning three sides is visually impressive from the exterior, but also greatly shapes the feel of the interior without requiring much artificial light during the day,” says Gil.

Upon entering the townhouse, the space opens upwards with light wells along the front and back. Reaching from the first to the second floor, these double-height openings bring light to each end of the residence and give a sense of weightlessness to the house.

photography by MICHAEL VAHRENWALD


​The full basement contains a media room, guest bedroom, and recreation room for the two girls. The first floor of the house consists of rooms for entertaining including a piano room in front, which leads past the central Yves Klein blue stairwell that runs as a spine through the entire height of the house, connecting the basement to the full rooftop terrace.

The family room is anchored by black built-in bookshelves and a fireplace, and is illuminated by a large wall of windows and sliding glass doors that lead to the backyard. “We wanted the flow through the house to be easy and flexible, so in addition to the central stair, we added a direct route from the living room up to the kitchen since it’s the real heart of the house,” says Gil. The open plan of the second floor features a large kitchen framed by formal and family dining rooms.

photography by MICHAEL VAHRENWALD


​The house is cohesively monochromatic throughout in shades of black, white, and creams with a red oak floor. Aside from the blue staircase, there’s another pop of color in the kids’ bathroom, which features a tile wall in Spring Green Matte from Daltile

photography by MICHAEL VAHRENWALD


The ​13-foot-long dining room table is from ​Molteni, and Ligne Roset is used extensively throughout the home—a dining room buffet table, an orange pumpkin armchair in the master bedroom​ with a black Barcelona ottoman and sofas. These new pieces are mixed with beautiful midcentury pieces—a long-loved collection of the owners including a Jens Risom desk and file cabinet system​, a Danish teak kitchen dining table and chair set, and a master bedroom set of the same genre.

The result is a design that’s almost as impressive as the architecture.

See more home tours:
How a Historic Landmark Transformed Into a Family-Friendly Loft
An Outdated Ranch-Style Home Gets A Modern Makeover
Tour the Vintage-Filled Home of the ‘Twin Peaks’ Costume Designer


Published on July 11, 2017 - 6:00am EDT

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