written by:
photos by:
August 31, 2009
Originally published in Made in the USA
as
Brick by Brick

Born as a horse stable, the Brick Weave House in Chicago is all about transportation and transparency. A clever renovation has made it the most compelling architecture on the block and home to a pair of urbanite gearheads and their bevy of cars and motorcycles.

Hernandez and Surratt relax in the living room, which is enlivened by the house’s internal topography. A short flight of steps divides the interconnected areas and offers a place to sit. Above is a loft that can be converted to a bedroom.
Hernandez and Surratt relax in the living room, which is enlivened by the house’s internal topography. A short flight of steps divides the interconnected areas and offers a place to sit. Above is a loft that can be converted to a bedroom.
Photo by 
1 / 9
Tereasa Surratt and Jack, a friend’s German shepherd mix, hang out in the kitchen, where appliances are hidden behind aluminum-and-frosted-glass wardrobes from Ikea.
Tereasa Surratt and Jack, a friend’s German shepherd mix, hang out in the kitchen, where appliances are hidden behind aluminum-and-frosted-glass wardrobes from Ikea.
Photo by 
2 / 9
In the light-flooded living room, Hernandez does a little work on a 1976 Italian-made Harley-Davidson SXT125.
In the light-flooded living room, Hernandez does a little work on a 1976 Italian-made Harley-Davidson SXT125.
Photo by 
3 / 9
When open, the garage enables the owners to work on their vehicles while visiting with neighbors who do the same.
When open, the garage enables the owners to work on their vehicles while visiting with neighbors who do the same.
Photo by 
4 / 9
David Hernandez and Jack enjoy the house’s walled garden.
David Hernandez and Jack enjoy the house’s walled garden.
Photo by 
5 / 9
The master bathroom, with its frosted glass walls and chair (rescued from the trash pile and rehabbed), is large and elegant enough to serve as a gathering place for parties.
A onetime horse stable in Chicago underwent a modern renovation by Studio Gang Architects. The master bathroom, with its frosted glass walls and chair (rescued from the trash pile and rehabbed), is large and elegant enough to serve as a gathering place for parties. Read the entire article here.
Photo by 
6 / 9
In the master bedroom, the couple enjoy the ample natural light that filters through the brick screen.
In the master bedroom, the couple enjoy the ample natural light that filters through the brick screen.
Photo by 
7 / 9
At the edge of the dining room, with its eclectic collection of fixtures and furnishings, orange velvet curtains playfully frame an opening to the skylight garage. It serves as a kind of sculpture gallery for motorcycles and cars, including one of Surratt
At the edge of the dining room, with its eclectic collection of fixtures and furnishings, orange velvet curtains playfully frame an opening to the skylight garage. It serves as a kind of sculpture gallery for motorcycles and cars, including one of Surratt's favorites, a yellow 1968 Camaro Rally Sport.
Photo by 
8 / 9
Once a horse stable, this Chicago house first got a superficial makeover from Oprah (we wonder whether Stedman likes modern) before architect Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang was called in for a more substantial renovation and a dazzlingly porous brick screen.
Once a horse stable, this Chicago house first got a superficial makeover from Oprah (we wonder whether Stedman likes modern) before architect Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang was called in for a more substantial renovation and a dazzlingly porous brick screen.
Photo by 
9 / 9
Hernandez and Surratt relax in the living room, which is enlivened by the house’s internal topography. A short flight of steps divides the interconnected areas and offers a place to sit. Above is a loft that can be converted to a bedroom.
Hernandez and Surratt relax in the living room, which is enlivened by the house’s internal topography. A short flight of steps divides the interconnected areas and offers a place to sit. Above is a loft that can be converted to a bedroom.
Project 
The Brick Weave House

You know you’re not in Kansas anymore when the owners of a provocatively revamped horse stable in Chicago stroll you around their quirky neighborhood. Take that yellow house across the street—legend has it that the owner’s father won it in a card game. The rest of the block is a crazy quilt of turn-of-the-century worker’s cottages, bastardized Italianate three-flats, and clumsily composed yuppie townhouses known (not affectionately) as “Polish contractor specials.”

Now this crazy quilt has a new patch: the Brick Weave House, so named by its architect, Jeanne Gang of Studio Gang Architects. Designed for advertising executives David Hernandez and Tereasa Surratt,  the house is in gentrifying West Town, about two miles northwest of the muscular skyline of Chicago’s Loop. The house’s name comes from its most distinctive feature, a tall, two-sided, technically adventurous brick screen that shelters a walled garden and gives the owners the privacy they crave while letting honeycomb patterns of natural light pour inside. At night, the brick screen becomes a dazzling light box.

Tereasa Surratt and Jack, a friend’s German shepherd mix, hang out in the kitchen, where appliances are hidden behind aluminum-and-frosted-glass wardrobes from Ikea.
Tereasa Surratt and Jack, a friend’s German shepherd mix, hang out in the kitchen, where appliances are hidden behind aluminum-and-frosted-glass wardrobes from Ikea.
The house’s interior is, in its own way, equally unconventional. There is no kitchen island, no flat-screen TV, no basement, no attic. What really sets the house apart, though, is the playful theatricality with which Gang spotlights Hernandez and Surratt’s collection of cars and motorcycles. They’re displayed like sculptures, on view from the dining room through a curtain-framed opening that leads directly into the garage. The detail is emblematic of how Gang embraced her clients’ individuality, making art out of idiosyncrasy.

In the 1880s the house was a wood-frame stable; over the years it grew haphazardly, slowly encrusting with brick additions, a lean-to structure, and some god-awful postwar siding. “During construction, we found large mammal bones—we assumed they were horses’, not humans’,” says Hernandez, 42, managing director and executive creative director of the Chicago office of Tribal DDB Worldwide. He bought the property in 1999, attracted by its convenient, close-in location; its extrawide lot (40 feet as opposed to the 25-foot Chicago standard); and the high-ceilinged stable space, a perfect spot to store cars and “wrench on projects.” Yet the place was so ugly that when Surratt drove Hernandez home on one of their first dates, he had her drop him off a block away so she wouldn’t see it.

Phase one of its transformation occurred in 2003 with a made-for-TV makeover by Nate Berkus, Oprah Winfrey’s interior designer, who redid the back of the house as a sexy bachelor pad. Berkus punched a big window in the back wall, splashed the floor with orange paint, and threw in Barcelona chairs and other hip furniture—enough, in other words, to look good on TV. Yet Hernandez wanted more. He pondered a restoration that would celebrate the weathered barn doors and other historic details.

But excavation revealed that too much of the original structure was gone to make authentic the rehab he had sketched on tracing paper. “It was too Disneyland,” he says. “It was a facade for something that was false.”

Instead, he and Surratt, 37, a creative director at Ogilvy Chicago, opted for a complete remake. On the recommendation of a friend, they hired Gang, who had won plaudits for innovative civic designs and will soon complete an 82-story mixed-use Chicago skyscraper, believed to be the tallest building designed by a woman. Her decision to redo the stable—her first completed house—inverted the usual order of architects working their way up from houses to larger commissions. But she was attracted by the prospect of collaborating with two visual types who were passionate about design and promised not to get in her way. “Our carrot is that we’ll be the best clients you ever have,” Surratt recalls telling her. “Now here’s the $5 budget.” Actually, it was $140 a square foot, which comes out to about $450,000 for what is now a 3,200-square-foot house.

Gang’s first big move subtracted an 800-square-foot chunk of the house’s front, making room for the brick screen and walled garden. The screen, which consists of Norman brick with custom-made hardware in the joints, is supported by steel columns and beams that extend outward from the roof as well as horizontal trusses embedded in mortar. It is the latest in Gang’s experiments with materials, making what is usually heavy and solid seem light, almost porous. Though the result may not convince those who insist that a house’s windows and doors should suggest a human face, it is not anti-urban. “It’s not a wall; people come and stare through,” Gang says. The house is more social than it seems on account of its street-facing garage, which lets the couple visit with neighbors who park their cars on the street or slide up their own garage doors and tinker with their cars.

Call it “gearhead urbanism.”In the tradition of Frank Lloyd Wright, the route to the front door is adventurous, forcing you to make a couple of turns and pass through the walled garden’s soaring space. Once inside, you quickly grasp how Gang met and exceeded her clients’ brief: flowing spaces suitable for big parties, integrated storage that compensates for the absence of an attic or basement, a small kitchen, and upstairs rooms that can convert to bedrooms.

To accomplish all this, Gang reversed the previous floor plan, converting the high-ceilinged stable to two floors of living space while placing the new garage on the house’s flanks, where before there had been living space. The key is that the vehicle storage and the house are integrated, not separated. From the sleekly furnished dining room, you peer straight into the garage through an opening accented by orange velvet curtains. You’ll see a yellow 1968 Camaro Rally Sport or a mauve and black 1966 Dodge Monaco 500. “One of my first boyfriends had this car—same color,” Gang says of the Dodge. The concrete floor in the dining room has tire tracks from Surratt’s Ducati Monster Dark 750 motorcycle, which is occasionally invited in.

In the light-flooded living room, Hernandez does a little work on a 1976 Italian-made Harley-Davidson SXT125.
In the light-flooded living room, Hernandez does a little work on a 1976 Italian-made Harley-Davidson SXT125.
Gang lined the west side of the house’s first floor with inexpensive Ikea aluminum-and-frosted-glass wardrobes, even tucking a fridge and other kitchen appliances behind them. The narrow, low-ceilinged galley kitchen, which has no upper-level cabinets (they would have been claustrophobic, the clients say) sets up for a classic architectural game of “compress and release.” Pass through it and you enter a living room that extends the full width of the house, with 20-foot ceilings and no big TV; a projector displays video on the wall instead. Wood stairs cascade down from the second floor. Concrete steps separate the living room from an adjoining library. These details create a strong sense of internal topography. There’s more spatial excitement upstairs in the master bedroom, where floor-to-ceiling glass offers views out onto the walled garden. Despite its tight lot the place feels expansive and serene. Even as her clients gave her free aesthetic reign, Gang gave them something in return: a house whose architecture is at once assertive and responsive.

When open, the garage enables the owners to work on their vehicles while visiting with neighbors who do the same.
When open, the garage enables the owners to work on their vehicles while visiting with neighbors who do the same.
It accommodates all aspects of their lifestyle, from their cars to their choices about deemphasizing what is celebrated in other homes to their collections of furniture and other items purchased from flea markets and yard sales. It works in part because Surratt and Hernandez display all their things so well, but also because Gang didn’t insist on total visual control. This is a livable modernism, one that accepts—and makes a virtue of—the quirks of its clients rather than ruthlessly editing them out.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

45 dva 2270 persp1 cmyk 0
The prospect of retirement doesn’t just signal the end of a career; it offers the chance to recalibrate and re-prioritize in life.
July 25, 2016
18
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
angular
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016