A Great Example of a “Home with Potential”


128 Palm Drive in Barrington

In the past I’ve mentioned a few times that occasionally when I’m sending listings to buyers looking for an MCM home, that I’ll send them listings for what I call “Homes with Potential.” These are homes that maybe weren’t specifically MCM when they were built, but have many of the hallmarks of such homes.

My new listing at 128 Palm Drive in Barrington is exactly this type of house. Although it was designed with certain details that are more traditional, the home would lend itself well to a remodel in an MCM style. 

First, the house was built in 1961. It was designed by – or the plans were drawn by – a “consulting engineer” named T.J. Westerberg of Palatine. In some ways, it’s a pretty classic mid-century split level with sub-basement design: A main level with a kitchen, living room and dining area; An upper level with 3 bedrooms; A lower level with a family room and powder room; A sub-basement (below the main level) that is unfinished and has the mechanicals and laundry.

In other ways, however, the home differs from many of the split level homes built at the time. It originally featured a screened in porch on the east side of the house, off of the kitchen and dining area. This was enclosed to be a part of the house about 10 years after the house was built. On the upper level, the home actually features two full baths, including an en-suite in the Primary bedroom. This wasn’t always the case in 3-bedroom splits as many of them only had a single full bath upstairs that was shared by all bedrooms.

But probably the biggest way that this home differs from many “vanilla” split level homes built in the early ’60s is that the designer created an interior on the main level that’s more modern than traditional, and one that uses many of the same beautiful, natural materials often found in classic MCM homes of the time.

The grand living room / dining room

The living room / dining room is one large, open space, with soaring ceilings that vault into the roofline. Large, covered beams span from front to back overhead, while underfoot in the foyer is a gorgeous slate entry floor. The Chicago Common brick fireplace at one end of the living room includes a wood storage nook, and benefits from a sloped chimney that matches the ceiling pitch at the top. Rich wood paneling in this space is of varying widths, giving it a more casual and rustic feel.

This comfortable space also features large windows overlooking the expansive property and the private pond. 

All of this will no doubt fuel the imagination towards ways in which the house – which has never really been updated since it was completed – could be remodeled in such a way as to enhance the modern elements of the home throughout.

The home was commissioned by Dan & Lorraine Johnson. Dan worked in a family business that manufactured leather goods, and Lorraine was a stay at home Mom.

“My family lived on the south side of Chicago until I was almost 4 years old,” says Laura Stevens, the Johnsons’ daughter, who is selling the home as part of her late parents’ estate. “Our apartment had a fire and we were sort of homeless for a little while, so we moved in with my grandmother in Palatine,” continues Laura. “After a year or so, my parents started looking for land in the area. I’m not sure how they picked the builder or the architect who designed the home, but the builder lived on the next street over.”

The home still has it's original kitchen

Next to the living / dining room, along the front of the house, is the kitchen. Still with its original cabinetry, cooktop and vinyl floors, the kitchen is a galley style, but is larger than many kitchens of the day. In fact, it even features a 2nd sink at one end of the long run of cabinets that look out the front to the driveway.

The sunroom at the east end of the house

Beyond the kitchen and dining areas, at the east end of the house, is that sun room that was originally a screened-in porch and was subsequently enclosed in the early ’70s. When enclosed, the space was enhanced with hardwood flooring and two banks of built-in cabinets along the east and south walls under the windows, for lots of extra storage. The room is also paneled with varying-width wood planks in similar fashion to the grand living / dining room.

The Primary bedroom's en-suite bathroom

Upstairs are the three bedrooms, starting with the Primary Suite that features two double closets and an en-suite bathroom. The bathroom still has its original tile and has a double-sink vanity and a walk-in shower.

Bedrooms 2 and 3 each have windows on two sides, and the 2nd full bathroom on this level, which has a single sink vanity as well as a tub / shower combo, also has a window facing east, so there no rooms without natural light.

The large family room with fireplace, brick floors, and sliders to a patio

Head down to the lower level and you’ll find an expansive family room with a 2nd brick fireplace, large windows, built-ins, and sliders that open to a patio in the back yard.

“When the house was first built, the family room downstairs was unfinished,” says Laura. “My friend and I roller skated and did gymnastics down there. Later, some men from my Dad’s factory helped him put down the brick floor in that room.”

Dan also built out an office in the lower level, and there’s a powder room here as well, with a couple of closets for extra storage.

In fact, storage isn’t an issue at all in the home, thanks in large part to the unfinished sub-basement, where the laundry and mechanicals are, as well as a built-out workshop room.

The 2-car garage sits a bit further up the driveway from the house, and is quite large for a 2-car garage. There’s plenty of storage space there, too, as well as enough room for two cars to be parked and open their doors to get in and out.

A view of the property's naturally rolling landscape

And then we come to the property itself…a beautiful 2+-acre lot with a naturally rolling landscape and a private pond.

“When the house was first built, that part of the yard was just a marshy area. My father had it dug out to create the pond.”

The lot features numerous mature trees and many varieties of plants, including both native and non-native varieties. The house is surrounded by nature in the form of trees, shrubs, flowers, grasses and of course the pond.

The private pond at 128 Palm Drive

“I’ve always loved the pond,” says Laura. “It’s a natural draw for so much wildlife, including deer, fox and all manner of birds like Blue Jays, Indigo Buntings, ducks, gees and herons. The pond also has fish, frogs and turtles.”

All of this brings me back to my point about this being a great “home with potential” for people who love MCM homes: It’s got the natural surroundings many MCM architects sought out, it has a large, open primary living space with high ceilings and large windows, and it’s already got some beautiful, natural materials.

It’s a fantastic opportunity for somebody with vision to take advantage of the wonderful location and solid construction to bring their vision to reality and make their mid-century dream home!

You can see the official listing of 128 Palm Drive here.

Click on an image below to see it full size…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *