A Two-Story Addition Turned a Bachelor Pad Into a Comfortable Home For Two

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By Emma Janzen / Published by Dwell
A pair of newly-weds in Chicago added a spacious extension for cohabiting.

When construction was completed in 2003, Bruce Doblin's house in Chicago was the ideal big city bachelor pad. Designed by Valerio Dewalt Train Associates, the early 20th-century factory-turned-residence boasted all the trappings of posh urban living, including large exposed beams, polished concrete floors, a flat galvanized steel façade with large hangar doors, and an interior courtyard. The project was so well received it won an AIA Chicago Building Honor Award in 2004.

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The new two-story addition is clad in the same metal decking as the original one-story home. Principal Joe Valerio says this kind of decking is usually crafted using ribs of equal width to create a highly articulated surface. To avoid that look, he used ribs that alternate between very narrow and broad widths, to create a façade that “has a monolithic quality.”

Everything changed, however, when Bruce got married a few years ago. Suddenly, the bachelor pad needed an expansion to create a comfortable space for his partner, Lisa Wainwright. The newly-weds laid out two primary criteria for the new addition: the original house must remain unchanged, and the new space should provide fresh insights into the city surroundings and the couple’s relationship. The firm chose to add a vertical two-story addition to the existing horizontal structure, housing a bath, dressing room, kitchen, private sleeping room, and study. The final scheme represents elements of both Bruce and Lisa's personalities, existing together in perfect visual harmony.

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The original structure was designed as a safe haven for Bruce; a place with a distinct sense of peace and quiet, communicated via the aggressively sheltered exterior perimeter and zen-like inner courtyard space. In many ways, the new addition adds a new narrative—Lisa’s desire to embrace the bustle of the city and integrate it into the home. The protruding windows allow the house to physically and visually reach out to the city beyond.

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Remnants of the original factory were maintained in the initial plan as well, namely the surrounding walls made of Chicago common brick, a blond brick with hints of pink that Valerio calls a “rather noble material.” In order to tie the addition to the original building, the firm sourced a new crop of this material for the vertical extension, so the it would look as though it was always part of the plan.

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Inside the addition, brick masonry was left exposed to connect the interior to the exterior scheme. White oak was used for the flooring and millwork to create a warm and natural atmosphere that contrasts with the predominantly manmade materials used in the original house.

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The upstairs study and reading room is Lisa’s sanctuary and showcases her her aesthetic preferences: soft materials, natural light, and windows that take in views of the city.

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The master bathroom strikes a balance between the desires of both parties. Warm wood cabinets and floors mingle with the darker glass and stone setup in the shower area. “Although this was very much Lisa’s addition, there was an understanding between the two that Bruce had to be part of it,” Valerio says.

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