Each house has a story — a beginning, middle and end that embrace the experiences, hopes and realities of its present homeowner. Bright-eyed newlyweds cross the threshold with dreams of setting down roots and raising children. As the years pass, rooms and hallways take on a life of their own as the owners come to view their home through the lens of memory. A step into the family room or a glimpse into the backyard teleports them to the past: children’s laughter plays like a soundtrack to a reel of birthday parties, holidays and moments-long-gone. These enduring qualities are what make a house a “home.” For Susan Flynn and her late husband, Kevin, a stately brick and limestone traditional in the heart of Chicago’s historic East Lincoln Park was such a place.
The beginning of their story came in 1996, after they had just married. The residence had been built just four years prior — the realization of local Chicago architect Howard Holtzman. Their romantic aspirations of staying in the city and starting a family could be realized right here, they envisioned, on this very tree-shaded street near restaurants, theaters and the zoo. They were particularly enamored with the property’s unique C-shaped orientation centered around a courtyard, which they regarded as a “protected space” where their future children could play safely within its embrace.
“When you walk into the house off the street, you’re not aware of what’s going to occur,” remembers the matriarch. “We could see that the courtyard would provide us with an indoor/outdoor space in the city. It was the perfect solution for us.”
The courtyard became the heart of the home over the next two decades, as children were born, pets were adopted and the couple’s beloved art collection expanded. They could host artists and friends in the space one evening, and the next afternoon, their kids turned it into a playground with their friends.
“As our family grew, we worked with the courtyard differently,” says Flynn. “We added a lawn when the kids were small. They spent a lot of time there. As the kids got older, we turned it into an outside version of a living room, with comfortable furniture and a beautiful fountain. It becomes an outdoor dining space in the summer time. It’s a very alive space.”
The Flynns always sought to balance their refined tastes with the needs of their growing family. In 2001, they purchased an adjacent lot and undertook a remodel that expanded the property to a triple-wide lot with 10,600 square feet of living space.
“The home is firmly rooted in classic European style, yet it also remains firmly in the present with a contemporary floor plan and state-of-the-art systems,” notes Karen Peterson, a sales associate with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Chicago. “This home was designed with a growing family in mind. It has rooms and spaces that are elegant and intimate, while others are more casual, just waiting to be filled with the laughter and joy of family and friends.”
Examples abound throughout the property. Architectural details — like Brazilian cherrywood floors, 14-foot ceilings and intricate millwork — provide an ideal backdrop for art. Natural light flows into virtually every room. Each room has been carefully planned with a purpose in mind: a DiGiulio kitchen, family room, private library, an office, a two-story, sky-lit dining room, a living room with French doors opening to a terrace. (The library is Flynn’s favorite room in the house, because it doesn’t have a TV: “It’s such a cozy space for reading, sitting, relaxing or having a Christmas cocktail with friends,” she says.)
An Italian-inspired loggia with a fireplace and retractable shutters is yet another entertaining space, which the Flynns have used for intimate indoor/outdoor gatherings or as a dance floor for larger parties. A master suite is a haven, with a sitting room, walk-in closet and landscaped sky deck revealing city views. On the third level, there are five bedrooms, a study area and four baths. The lower level offers more delights, with an arts and crafts studio, fitness center, arcade, massage room, spa bath, home theater and billiard room.
Hope still beats within its walls. As one family prepares to leave it and another one, yet to be known, seeks to set down new roots, a new story will unfold within its surrounds. This is the enduring essence of “home.”
By Alyson Pitarre
This article originally appeared in the winter 2017 issue of Homes & Estates.
1939 North Howe Street
Chicago, IL 60614
Represented by: Karen Peterson, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, Chicago. 312-440-7573; Karenv.Peterson@cbexchange.com