Sunday May 19, 2013
Single-family homes are the most common, both in terms of housing and sales. By definition a single-family home is a detached home that is built on land that the homeowner actually owns. The home is not attached to another home and normally has a basement and its own garage, which may or may not be attached. The typical size of a single-family home in Chicago can be anywhere from 600 square feet to as much as 6,000 with one to two stories being the norm. Generally though a home of 8,000 square feet or more is considered a mansion by Chicago real estate standards.
Chicago and the surrounding suburbs have their fair share of mansions, with prices that can run well into the millions. Often these homes date back many years and have historical significance. Mansions are luxurious, with double digit bedrooms, library, rec rooms, fitness rooms, swimming pools and gourmet kitchens. Many also now have a home theater or advanced technology such as touch pad control for heating, cooling and security systems.
More recently, the term McMansion is used to describe a newer, albeit smaller mansion that usually measures between 3,000 and 5,000 square feet. These McMansions aren't technically large enough to called a true mansion, but are loaded with luxury details and features similar to a mansion.
There are also bungalows available in Chicago. These are another form of single-family homes and are usually just a single story but in some cases can be one and a half floors. This is a design where the second story isn't as large as the first story, thus the half story. Other typical design features of bungalows are low roofs with larger than normal overhanging eaves and fairly big porches.
A two-flat is a structure resembling a large two story house where there are actually two different living spaces. The lower floor houses one resident and the upper floor is for another resident. Two-flats normally have everything a single-family home does, such as more than one bedroom and bath, a kitchen, living room and usually a dining room. Three-flats are built on the same premise, with a three story structure that contains three different households on three different levels.
A townhome or rowhome is a house-like structure that is attached to other houses that are similar in design. Townhomes can be duplexes, meaning two attached, or triplexes, meaning three attached or be a whole complex of attached homes. Like a single-family home, you own the land it's built on and often have a small yard. If the complex is large you may share common amenities like a green space or park and sometimes a pool or recreation area. Association fees are usually collected to pay for grounds keeping, common insurance and snow removal.
Condominiums are the most common form of attached or multi-family homes in Chicago. The primary difference is that the land is jointly owned, and only the space that is exclusively inside your condo is yours. In a condo building there may be five units or several hundred, depending on the size of the tower. Most condo owners pay an association fee for the same things that a townhome owner does, although there are often more perks like a party room, fitness center, dog run or movie room at a condo high-rise. You are required to pay for any upkeep to your individual condo but the association fee takes care of any major work that may need to be done to the building itself. Many people prefer living in a condo because there is no yard to be mowed or snow shoveling to be done.
Another type of condo is a loft. Traditional or hard lofts are usually the product of a warehouse or factory conversion. Lofts are known for having high ceilings of sometimes 15 feet or more, large windows, exposed concrete and brick plus hardwood flooring throughout the unit. Soft lofts are actually new buildings constructed to look like lofts and have some of the same details.
Quite a few celebrities call Chicago home, even if only for part of the year. Michael Jordan owns a Highland Park estate with an over 25,000 square foot mansion, home theater in the basement, putting green, tennis court and of course a 29,000 square foot basketball court. The name of Jordan's home is Architectural Estates and he also owns a penthouse on 1100 North Lake Shore Drive in Chicago.
Since her talk show is filmed in Chicago, Oprah Winfrey naturally owns a Chicago home. Her duplex in Water Tower Place, which reportedly is really a combined four units, measures a spacious 15,000 square feet. She had purchased a second residence in Chicago, a 4,607 square foot, 10 room unit on the sixth floor of 199 East Lake Shore Drive in 2006. But she sold that home for around $6 million last year, deciding the Water Tower Place suite had more privacy. The unit she sold certainly had all the luxury details; a custom gourmet kitchen, pantry/wine room, library, solarium, home office, 10 foot ceilings and not only a master bedroom suite but a guest suit as well.
Chicago is also home to several fantastic examples of great architecture and historic buildings. Louis Sullivan and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe are a couple of the better known first architects of the city. The first true high-rise buildings were built in Chicago, with the iconic Sears Tower and John Hancock Center ingrained in history.
Frank Lloyd Wright first built his distinctive homes in Chicago, with the Prairie Style taking shape. Oak Park is where the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio is located on 951 Chicago Avenue, and Hyde Park has his Robie House on 5757 Woodlawn Avenue.
Other architectural must-see buildings include The Auditorium Theatre on 50 East Congress Parkway and the Auditorium Building on 430 S Michigan Avenue. The Cadillac-Palace Theater on 151 W Randolph Street was inspired by French design and The Glessner House Museum on 1800 South Prairie showcases the work of architect H.H. Richardson.
The tallest church spire in Chicago belongs to the Chicago Temple on 77 West Washington Street and the Holy Name Cathedral on 735 North State Street dates back to 1875 and was designed in the Gothic Revival style with all of the ornamentation.
Some skyscrapers of note are Marina City on 300 North State Street, The Wrigley Building on 410 North Michigan Avenue and The Rookery Building on 209 South LaSalle Street. Wright helped remodel the lobby of The Rookery, which is one of the oldest steel high-rise towers in existence.
And of course no visit to Chicago would be complete without stopping at Macy's, or Marshall Field's as it was known for years. The 111 North State Street retailer has a glass Tiffany dome and is best remembered for the elaborate holiday window displays.
As you can see, Chicago homes and architecture showcase some of the best examples of American ingenuity, design and craftsmanship, influenced by the cultural diversity of the city. There is something for everyone, because everyone has had a hand in building the city whether they realize it or not.