838 W. Webster: Take a tour of one of Lincoln Park's ornate townhomes
Published: Saturday, May 5, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 27, 2012 16:08
Have you ever found yourself taking the scenic route around Lincoln Park or aimlessly driving with your friends from the suburbs around town just to look at the ornate homes in the neighborhood? Whatever your answer may be, your secret is safe for now, but for those willing to admit their existing fascination and curiosity for the area, 838 West Webster is one of the most prominent and architecturally sound residences the DePaul neighborhood has to offer.
Located close to the Lincoln Park Zoo, downtown Chicago and the lakefront, this home is part of the Art Institute of Chicago’s permanent collection and is currently off the market for purchase. The home was built in 2003 by Avram Lothan and has been occupied since by the architect himself and his family. His mission was to transform typical single-family city living by using a modern and tactical approach. The contract broker Robert Anderson refers to the house as Lothan’s brainchild.
Upon entering the home and arriving at the large double-height living room, you are immediately entranced with the efficient use of space. The ceiling is engulfed in a tapestry of wood, making for a unique acoustic resonance.
Being the largest area in the house, the family tends to spend most of their time here together. Quite shockingly, compared to most homes, there remains no television in the living room. The use of common areas in the home encourages family bonding and progressive working relationships.
A grand piano, a large glass coffee table, and an extended wraparound couch are three items that take up the most space. The minimalistic approach serves the creator's artistic vision to boot. The living room isn’t some untouched antique museum, but rather a room that a family can actively utilize.
At the top of the wood and glass panel encased stairs, the concealed bookcase shelves the maximum amount of the family’s books. This allows more wall space downstairs and upstairs for the artwork they prefer to showcase instead, while still providing a way to organize and store their favorite reads. Conveniently located near the bedrooms, the bookcase is low to the ground and has an opaque back, parallel to the second story of the living room allowing for a warm glow near sunset.
Despite the lengthiness, the house is modest enough in size (under 5,000 square feet) to be designed around a courtyard. Because of the continuous windows, the natural light that pours in by day is such that artificial lighting is used infrequently. The courtyard houses several small gardens and plants during the spring and summer months, almost serving as a more modern and private version of the suburban back porch. Every room in the house has access to the courtyard via terrace or deck. Lothan even mentioned that “When the weather is nice, the house doubles in size.”
The Lotham couple began their housing experience in a Wrigleyville landmark. But after the equation began to incorporate children and the need for more space, they decided that it was time to build the dream house they’d been talking about. “Never again will I live in a landmark house,” said Lothan. Even when owning a landmark home, you have little say on exterior and interior alterations made. This rule is enforced to preserve and maintain the similarity of the historic houses in the neighborhood.
Lotham declare the new house to be, “a good neighbor but an individual one” much like the family themselves. Although you can find houses that look similar to theirs (outside of cities), it is has an atypical and far from bourgeois mission and design.
Because of Lothan’s interest in sustainable living, the unique architecture of the house was attributed to being mindful of that goal. The home was made to improve the quality of life and reduce the cost of living. Having no west windows provides for maximum sunlight reducing the amount of electrically manufactured light. The family does minimal driving if any per week and subscribes to public transportation more often. Lothan believes that these are the choices that make for a more quality lifestyle. Public space, relationships, sustainability, minimalism, quality, and individualism appear to be the motivations for the house turned home. Lothan’s belief stands, “the home should reflect the lives of the people living inside.”