Set back from the property line and behind a slatted Cor-Ten fence, the Wood House offers privacy from the street and embraces the neighborhood’s industrial roots. A pre-weathered copper screen, fabricated by Chicago Copper and Iron, offsets the warm tone of the Norman brick exterior walls. Two colors of brick from Illinois Brick Co. were combined to create a tapestry effect.

Set back from the property line and behind a slatted Cor-Ten fence, the Wood House offers privacy from the street and embraces the neighborhood’s industrial roots. A pre-weathered copper screen, fabricated by Chicago Copper and Iron, offsets the warm tone of the Norman brick exterior walls. Two colors of brick from Illinois Brick Co. were combined to create a tapestry effect.

Credit: Christopher Barrett


In the client’s mind, it all began with a warehouse.

The high-powered businessman wanted to find a warehouse and convert it into a home. He wanted to keep the industrial building’s rough-hewn edges and materials—metals, wood, concrete, copper—expressed and exposed, while still making it welcoming. And he hired Brad Lynch of Brininstool + Lynch for the job.

But finding the right warehouse, or former industrial building, proved a tall order in Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood. More than 20 years of gentrification had claimed—by condo or demo—many of the suitable buildings that were once easily found there.

Behind the slatted Cor-Ten fence is a row of River Birch trees, uplit by fixtures from Bega, that provide additional privacy screening to the glazed first floor of the house.

Behind the slatted Cor-Ten fence is a row of River Birch trees, uplit by fixtures from Bega, that provide additional privacy screening to the glazed first floor of the house.

Credit: Christopher Barrett

 

Lynch had a solution: Rather than converting an old building—especially when no one knew if the right one would ever come along—why not design and build an entirely new and contemporary house, using the same mix of materials found in an industrial structure?

During dinner with his client, Lynch turned to the proverbial napkin sketch as a method of persuasion. (“I sketched it out on the back of a placemat covered in tomato sauce” Lynch says. “He says he’s still got it somewhere.”) And the client was sold. 

Upon entering the house, the first big space one encounters is a large living room with views out through a system of Hope’s steel windows. The fireplace surround is made of the same patinaed copper as the exterior screen. Mesabi Black tiles from Cold Springs Granite are used both inside and out. The red Kaare Klint Addition sofa from Rud Rasmussen sits on Kaswell Walnut end-grain block flooring.

Upon entering the house, the first big space one encounters is a large living room with views out through a system of Hope’s steel windows. The fireplace surround is made of the same patinaed copper as the exterior screen. Mesabi Black tiles from Cold Springs Granite are used both inside and out. The red Kaare Klint Addition sofa from Rud Rasmussen sits on Kaswell Walnut end-grain block flooring.

Credit: Christopher Barrett

In the final house, which was completed in August, behind a Cor-Ten steel fence on a Bucktown residential street, it’s all there: brick, weathered copper, steel. But the industrial package is bundled in a refined and sophisticated urban architecture where the materials, their texture, and their beauty are simultaneously subdued and boldly let loose. The materials aren’t just tacked-on; they help give the building form, character, and function.

The home is also sustainable; it’s efficiently heated and cooled with geothermal systems beneath the landscaped courtyard. Mechanical window shades shield and permit sunlight to passively heat and cool the home when needed.

 

The landscaped courtyard, with its planted berm and single Japanese Maple, fills the center of the site. The large Roman brick-clad end pier (at right) contains a stair; the wood-lined corridor (at left) connects the kitchen, dining room, and other living areas.

The landscaped courtyard, with its planted berm and single Japanese Maple, fills the center of the site. The large Roman brick-clad end pier (at right) contains a stair; the wood-lined corridor (at left) connects the kitchen, dining room, and other living areas.

Credit: Christopher Barrett

In the following Q&A, Lynch talks about the three-year journey to get the house built.

Lee Bey: The owner starts off wanting to live in an actual warehouse. How did you get him to the realization that a house is what he needed?
Brad Lynch: Ultimately, the things he was looking for are the materials and a courtyard effect. And both of those can be achieved in a house on available lots that would take up the same room as the type of warehouse he was looking for. In terms of the aesthetic and the spatial quality, we can really achieve more by doing a new house as opposed to trying to work within the configuration of a warehouse. You can configure the house around the courtyard. It is essentially creating privacy from the street, and having a way to get through a fence and a Cor-Ten door and work your way into the courtyard.

In the dining room, Pyrok’s Star Silent acoustical plaster ceiling system contrasts with the warm wood veneer wall panels from the Veneer Specialists.

In the dining room, Pyrok’s Star Silent acoustical plaster ceiling system contrasts with the warm wood veneer wall panels from the Veneer Specialists.

Credit: Christopher Barrett

 

How long did it take to convince him?
It didn’t happen right away. He wasn’t really sold on the idea because he wanted his home to be old and have that sense of brick. So I told him, when this is done, whatever he was dreaming about in this warehouse, I promised him he would have the same sense in the house.

I think he would agree—I know that he does—that he got that.

When you come into the living room, what do you see? The brick of the fireplace going out into the courtyard. When you’re in the kitchen, what do you see? You see across the courtyard to brick. So everything we talked about in terms of being encapsulated by this façade of beautiful brick is what he ended up getting.

In the ground-floor kitchen, appliances from Gaggenau and Sub-Zero are set into custom cabinets fabricated by Stay Straight Manufacturing, the same company that made the perforated wood-veneer acoustical ceiling panels. In the center island, a Mila sink is outfitted with a faucet from KWC.

In the ground-floor kitchen, appliances from Gaggenau and Sub-Zero are set into custom cabinets fabricated by Stay Straight Manufacturing, the same company that made the perforated wood-veneer acoustical ceiling panels. In the center island, a Mila sink is outfitted with a faucet from KWC.

Credit: Christopher Barrett


You were able to bring in all the materials that a warehouse would likely have.
And those materials also serve a functional purpose, in terms of the way you can organize them—with what works best for the space and the lot—and aesthetically they’re more balanced and together as a whole.

When you couldn’t find the desired warehouse in the neighborhood, you had to find a lot that was big enough. Were there houses here?
There were three very dilapidated structures set back at different depths; some were wood, mixed with brick. And they were all in very bad shape. A developer had bought them at the peak of the last real estate boom, and was selling them at the beginning of the recession. He had bought at least three lots to put two speculative houses on and obviously couldn’t do that because of where the market was. So there was an opportunity.

On the second floor, the master suite needs no curtains, as the perforated copper screen shields the street-facing windows.

On the second floor, the master suite needs no curtains, as the perforated copper screen shields the street-facing windows.

Credit: Christopher Barrett


Were there any complaints from the neighbors or officials about the building? Because even though it uses the same materials, it looks physically different than what’s around it?
No, if you really examine the neighborhood and the lots and houses that are there, most of them are nonconforming. Some of them are wider than others. Some of them are taller than others. Some are built of different materials.

If you were to have a panoramic view of the block it would be truly disparate in terms of the time these buildings were built, the materials that were used for them, what the aesthetics were, and the size of the lot. This obviously is a contemporary response, but actually uses traditional materials that are not in conflict with what’s in the surrounding area.

 

  • Master suite, with view toward bath.

    Credit: Christopher Barrett

    Master suite, with view toward bath.
  • Master suite, with view toward copper-screen-covered window.

    Credit: Christopher Barrett

    Master suite, with view toward copper-screen-covered window.

One of the first elements you see is the slatted fence, made out of Cor-Ten, which is a popular material in Chicago. How did you select it?
Well, the landscape architect really designed it, and both the owner and I got to give input in terms of where we went with it. And I think we all agreed that the look of Cor-Ten would be really inappropriate for the neighborhood; it seems like it just belongs as an urban-material element. We picked where those slats would be more open and more private based on where the owner wanted to see out. You get a sense of openness, but you can’t really see in. There’s a sense of anticipation.

How did the house’s street presence develop?
We really wanted the façade to be a composition, more than an idea of window placement. In the city, everybody has their blinds or drapes drawn. In this house the light goes through, they get the sense of light and sky, but the composition allows it without having to pull the shades.

In the third-floor studio, Second Shift drapery fabric from Knoll Textiles helps filter daylight. The roof deck beyond is lined with a green roof tray system from LiveRoof.

In the third-floor studio, Second Shift drapery fabric from Knoll Textiles helps filter daylight. The roof deck beyond is lined with a green roof tray system from LiveRoof.

Credit: Christopher Barrett

There’s the great copper element. There are other industrial metals you can use—aluminum, for example. But the copper is what we see. Why?
The client really wanted copper, and he wanted it pre-weathered. We didn’t want it to look like anything else, so we spent a lot of time studying this pattern, which is not sequential. The closer you get to it, the more interesting it becomes; it’s not just the openings, which are larger in certain areas than others, it’s the embossing of the material. It has some life to it.

What about the courtyard and this relationship between inside and outside?
It really began with these three lots, and then saying, well, I don’t need a house that covers the whole property. A lot of the square footage in this house is not about habitable space; it’s about how it works with the site.

In a northern climate like this, having the ability to experience the outdoors from your living space, no matter what time of year it is, is a luxury. It’s like having your own park. And so to emphasize that, rather than de-emphasize it, copper panels move in and out of the space, the granite is the floor for both the circulation outside as well as the circulation inside, and there is really no solid between. One works with the other.

  • The glazed front door and Cor-Ten gate are visible through the floating treads of the custom staircase that leads to the second level.

    Credit: Christopher Barrett

    The glazed front door and Cor-Ten gate are visible through the floating treads of the custom staircase that leads to the second level.
  • Inside the pier, looking down the staircase.

    Credit: Christopher Barrett

    Inside the pier, looking down the staircase.



Now that he’s there, is the client convinced?
It’s great. This is our fourth project with this client. But even so, it’s very difficult to sell something to a client that is not in their reality. If you can’t point to it and say this is what it’s going to be, this is what it feels like, and this is what it’s going to look like, they have a hard time imagining it—no matter how you model it. And so there is a trust factor.

At the rear of the site, a free-standing garage is outfitted with an outdoor dining area, which is shielded by a slatted canopy. Black granite pavers create continuity between the exterior landscape and the interior, where the same material continues in the hallways.

At the rear of the site, a free-standing garage is outfitted with an outdoor dining area, which is shielded by a slatted canopy. Black granite pavers create continuity between the exterior landscape and the interior, where the same material continues in the hallways.

Credit: Christopher Barrett



Project Credits 

Designer Brininstool + Lynch, Chicago—Brad Lynch (lead designer); David Brininstool (managing principal); Dan Martus (project manager); Dena Wangberg (project architect); Joice Krysak, Eirik Agustsson, Hillary Hyson (project team) 
Mechanical Engineer AA Service Co. 
Structural Engineer Goodfriend Magruder Structure 
Electrical Engineer Dexter Electric Co. 
Civil Engineer Moshe Calamaro & Associates 
General Contractor Goldberg General Contracting 
Landscape Architect Coen + Partners 
Size 7,900 square feet (not including garage) 
Cost Withheld 


Materials and Sources 

Appliances Gaggenau (kitchen appliances) gaggenau.com; Sub-Zero (refrigerator, freezer) subzero-wolf.com; Miele (washer, dryer) mieleusa.com
Bathroom Fixtures Geberit (in-wall tank system) geberitnorthamerica.com; Toto (wall mounted toilet) totousa.com; Vola (fittings) vola.com; KWC (fittings) kwc.us.com;  Hydrology Chicago (fitting supplier) hydrologychicago.com
Cabinets Stay Straight Manufacturing (custom) staystraight.com; Boffi (vanities) boffi.com
Ceilings Pyrok (Star Silent acoustical plaster system) starsilent.com; Stay Straight Manufacturing (custom wood veneer acoustical panels) staystraight.com
Countertops Cold Springs Granite (Mesabi Black granite) coldspringusa.com; Corian (Cameo White) dupont.com
Fabrics Knoll Textiles (Second Shift Dawn drapery) knolltextiles.com; Lutron (Mermet Basketweave  MS shade fabric in Charcoal/Grey) lutron.com
Flooring Cold Springs Granite (Mesabi Black granite,) coldspringusa.com; Kaswell (Walnut end grain block) kaswell.com
Furniture Rud Rasmussen (Kaare Klint Addition Sofa) rudrasmussen.com; Vitra (Jasper Morrison Place sofa and ottoman ) vitra.com; Luminaire (Avalon sofa) luminaire.com
Glass Assured Corp. assuredcorp.com
HVAC AA Service Co. aaserviceco.com
Insulation Dow (ThermaxCI; Styrofoam brand spray foam insulation RS Series) building.dow.com
Kitchen fixtures Mila (sink) mila-international.com; KWC (faucet) kwc.us.com
Lighting Control Systems Lutron Electronics Co. (RadioRA2) lutron.com
Lighting Bega (exterior) bega-us.com; Hunza (lanscape) hunza.co.nz; Zumtobel zumtobel.com; Con-Tech Lighting con-techlighting.com; Traxon Technologies traxontechnologies.com; Bega bega-us.com; Bartco Lighting bartcolighting.com; Prudential Lighting prulite.com; USAI Lighting usaillumination.com; all provided by KSA Lighting ksalighting.com
Masonry and Stone Illinois Brick Co. (Norman brick, Yankee Hill brick) illinoisbrick.com; Green Leaf Brick Co. (roman brick) greenleafbrick.com
Metal Chicago Copper and Iron chicagocopperandiron.net
Paints and Finishes Benjamin Moore benjaminmoore.com
Site and Landscape LiveRoof (tray system) liveroof.com
Wallcoverings Veneer Specialists (Custom wood veneer panels) veneerspecialists.com; Stay Straight Manufacturing (fabrication and installation) staystraight.com
Windows and Doors Hopes (steel windows and doors) hopeswindows.com; Assured Corp (installation) assuredcorp.com; Oldcastle BuildingEnvelope (aluminum windows) oldcastlebe.com; Loewen (aluminum-clad wood windows)  loewen.com; Stay Straight Manufacturing (custom wood doors) staystraight.com; FSB (hardware) fsb.de; Ives (hardware) ives.ingersollrand.com, CRL (hardware) crlaurence.com; LCN (hardware) w3.securitytechnologies.com; Chicago Brass (hardware provider) chicagobrass.com