This low-income housing project was designed in consultation with its potential residents, and the project is that much stronger because of it, says architect Jeff Bone, AIA, principal at Chicago-based Landon Bone Baker Architects. Turns out their needs were not so special after all, but what all of us want in our housing: healthy, bright, and cheerful surroundings.

The client, Heartland Housing, had a simple request: design high-quality housing with support services and social areas for 62 people. “They left the aesthetics and layout up to us,” Bone says.

The firm gutted the entire 1920s building, taking care to leave its strong architectural character intact, and concentrated on providing residents with natural light and sightlines to the outdoors. Floor-to-ceiling storefront openings on the ground floor accomplish those tasks in the common areas, while large existing windows flood each 15-by-9½-foot unit with abundant daylight. A ground-floor greenhouse located adjacent to public spaces on the west side of the lobby provides a peaceful relaxation area.

Because the budget was tight, the architects “tried to manipulate the design with simple materials like ceramic tile and details like chair rails that double as places for pictures,” says Bone. The firm—which has a furniture division—designed and built tables, chairs, and other pieces to add even more architectural cheer.


Landon Bone Baker Architects, Chicago


Heartland Housing, Chicago

general contractor:

Humboldt Construction Co., Chicago

landscape architect:

McKay Landscape Architects, Chicago

project size:

20,700 square feet

site size:

0.28 acre

number of units:


construction cost:

$177 per square foot