Carefully placed windows steep this crisp Chicago apartment in the texture of the city.
When architect Vladimir Radutny first saw this early 1900s, two-flat building in the Southport Corridor of Chicago, it wasn’t just worn out—there was hardly a straight plane in the place, and it suffered from a lack of natural light and a compressed scale.
"The floor plates were very compartmentalized, so any natural light that could come through between the property lines, or in between the buildings, was absorbed," says Radutny. "And the ceilings appeared to be extremely low, primarily because the spaces were so subdivided and chopped up."
Radutny and colleague Fanny Hothan worked with the DiCosola Group to convert the two-unit building into a single-family home. The team preserved the brick shell and the street-facing facade, capped the building with a third-story addition, and joined all the floors together with a light-filled staircase.
From the start, the clients—a developer and an arts professional—knew they wanted a minimalist interior, including floor-to-ceiling windows, no trim or casework, and precise detailing. The new plan emphasizes "openness and connectivity between not just rooms, but also between floors—and a sense of scale that’s a bit more grand," says Radutny.
The existing structure was not up to the streamlined design the clients sought. "There’s no way we could achieve such precision and accuracy within the existing conditions, due to the sagging 100-year-old floors and walls, and the interior framing needed to be almost perfect," says Radutny. Minimalist detailing is "not forgiving," adds Radutny. "You can't hide unevenness, or poor craftsmanship. It only gets amplified when it’s not executed well."
After: Entry Staircase
Every window was placed strategically, in order to bring in natural light and capture the city’s grit and texture while providing privacy. The home is located just 75 feet away from elevated train tracks—close enough to hear the next stop called—and the homeowners didn’t want the setting screened out.
"It’s constantly porous," says Radutny. "Corridors are always met with an aperture, so whenever you make a turn into a space or through a space, there’s always something that you can look out through—into something else that is beyond."
Before: Living Room
After: Living Room
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As one ascends to the second and third floors, the staircase takes on an atrium-like quality thanks to windows and a skylight. At the top floor, floor-to-ceiling windows put the train tracks at eye level, creating a moment of surprise and discovery.