SOLD! A Stunning Hexagon-Based Hilltop Home by Tivadar Balogh
Last year, many people became familiar with the name Tivadar Balogh when his former personal residence in Plymouth, Michigan caused a stir online. Its massive cubic form sits in a forest, like a monolith placed by aliens. Or Balogh’s builder of choice.
By contrast, the home he designed for Marshall Field, Jr (not THAT Marshall Field, Jr.) in Kildeer is much more Usonian in nature: Set into a hilltop, its hexagon “hub” contains four levels of livable spaces, yet seems to barely rise up above the sprawling, single-story wing that adjoins it, when viewed from the front.
Balogh, who initially enrolled in the aeronautical engineering program at the University of Michigan, was inspired to study architecture after seeing a photo of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater.
While the details of Balogh’s home design for the Fields didn’t take things to Wrightian extremes, you can clearly see Balogh’s appreciation for Wright’s complementary and nested geometry. Original plans for the house, which the current owners have copies of, show numerous built-ins and consistent details, some of which still remain today.
“My father and ‘Uncle Tiv,’ as we used to call him, were friends,” says Jeff Field, who grew up in the house that “Uncle Tiv” designed for Jeff’s parents. “I think they met in college. We only lived there for a few years, but I knew, even as a kid, that the house was special. My parents were so proud of that house.”
And for good reason. Sited on a beautiful 1.3 acre lot on the crest of a hill, with the main window lines facing north and south, the home is beautifully laid out, and built with passive solar in mind. Generous overhangs and large windows worked together to keep the house comfortable in all seasons, with an in-floor radiant heat system in most of the house keeping things warm in colder months.
Between 1966 and today, the home has undergone a number of changes: A more open main level floor plan, the addition of air conditioning at some point, and an expansion of the garage, which is now capable of holding six cars (and is heated).
All of these features were appealing to George, the home’s current owner, when he was looking for a home in the area.
“I mainly live and work in New York,” says George, who’s a music industry executive, “but my kids are in the Chicago area. I’d been traveling back and forth to see them, and had been renting for years. I was tired of renting and I really wanted to buy a place that was mine. I wanted a family-friendly neighborhood with a house that had privacy for everybody, while still having fun communal spaces. Once we discovered the Kildeer and Long Grove areas, with all of their nature, and the larger lots, that kind of space became more important in our search.”
“At midnight one night, the listing for this house popped up,” says Michelle, George’s wife, “and I said to George ‘You’ve got to see this!’ We’re both MCM fans, so I knew he would freak out. I scrambled to get us into the house the next day. Once George saw it in person, I knew we had found his house.”
The most striking aspect of the home is the hexagon “tower”. When looking at the plans, you can see that Balogh designed the house around a 4-foot triangular module. In instances where he needed more space for some aspect of a particular area, he could just “borrow” adjacent triangles until he got the space divided up the way he wanted it. It’s a very clever way to design a house with interesting geometry that creates drama within the spaces, while still making sure those spaces are usable and practical.
You enter the house under a covered walkway with an open section at the end furthest from the front door – according to the sketch on the front of the plans, that open section was originally designed to have a tree growing through it, planted in a triangular cutout in the front walkway.
The foyer is a sort of “open hexagon,” with a powder room on the left (which still has its original built-in shelf and cabinetry) and a coat closet on the right. Ahead of you, you’re treated to the grandeur of the vast, open family room and dining room: These spaces used to be closed off from each other, but have since been opened up.
“When we first entered the house, we were instantly mesmerized by the hexagon partition of it,” says Michelle. “All of the interesting angles, and that you could see the amazing views of the property from almost every room.”
In the center of the hexagon, soaring from floor to ceiling is a massive chimney constructed of Chicago Common brick. At the top, Balogh designed in a pair of triangular windows that are mostly hidden from view, but provide natural light to the top of the chimney stack, which would otherwise be a potentially dark area. It’s a wonderful detail that you may not notice at first, but will likely appreciate every time you see it afterward.
Off to the right of the foyer are sets of stairs leading down to the living room and up to the owners’ Primary Suite. The stairs in the house are all set at angle, further echoing the home’s unique geometry.
Upstairs, the Primary Suite has a wall of closets and private en-suite bathroom. The bedroom features a fireplace (again, in the central chimney stack) and built-in bookshelves along a portion of a half wall that overlooks the spaces below on one side.
From the dining room and part of the living room below the Primary Suite, you can see that the other side of that half wall is clad in vertical grain Douglas fir panels, offering a rich warmth to those surfaces.
In the living room below is where you’ll find the third fireplace, positioned opposite the family room’s fireplace half a level above. Here, the fireplace hearth is also Chicago Common brick, set on the floor (the other two fireplaces have raised, floating hearths). At one end of the living room is a wall of glass incorporating a door out onto a deck with bench seat railing. At the other end of the living room is the wet bar, concealed behind a swing-out plywood door, offering the ability to “hide” the bar when not in use.
Through the bar, another set of stairs leads to the basement, which George and Michelle finished after purchasing the home, and which George uses as his office while in Illinois.
“It’s such a relaxing space,” says George. “There’s a huge window on the north wall looking out into the yard and the trees. It’s such a calming influence. And there’s a door next to the big window so that I can step outside to take in all of the natural life surrounding the house.”
Back upstairs in the dining room, you’ll find an original built-in where the dining room meets the central chimney stack, and a balcony outside the opposite wall, accessible by a door in another wall of glass.
Going from the dining room toward the kitchen, a door leads into the original screened porch, with a large deck beyond. Here, too, the deck features bench seat railings in classic MCM style.
Balogh’s design cleverly “funnels” the family room space into the kitchen. Where there is a breakfast bar now, originally a hexagonal table hosted five tulip-style chairs, beyond which the kitchen runs toward the far end of the bedroom wing of the house. A full bank of windows above the counters on the outside wall makes the kitchen a bright and happy space.
Beyond that, the laundry room – which has another exterior access door and houses another pantry closet – also connects back to the bedroom hallway.
Here, the first two bedrooms are identical, with large, multi-section windows giving the rooms wonderful natural light and gorgeous views out to the back yard.
Finally, it’s clear that Balogh chose to “go out with a bang”, as the last bedroom in this part of the house delights with a prow-like triangular extension out the end of the wing, echoing the geometry used in the rest of the home. large windows in the two wall sections that make up the triangle, plus a series of large glass panels and another door give this bedroom so much light and such a special feel.
Heading back down the hallway toward the entry foyer, you’ll eventually come to the full bath that serves these three bedrooms, and the door into the garage.
Originally a two-car, side load garage, a previous owner extended it almost all the way down the length of the bedroom wing, resulting in a 6-car tandem garage with a 2×3 layout, plus a bit of workshop space at the back of the garage, which was part of the original design. Perfect for anybody with a car collection (or even a low boat), it also means that people with only a car or two have an immense amount of storage here.
And since the garage is heated (and passively cooled by the Unico A/C system components that cool the bedroom wing), anything in the garage can be climate controlled, too.
The more you look around the house, and the more you notice details here and there, the more obvious it is that this is a very special home, and that Balogh was indeed a talented architect. For Michelle, it was obvious right away.
“I examined every corner of this very interesting home, and I found the architectural drawings in a hallway closet. I was highly intrigued,” Michelle recalls. “We hadn’t heard of Tivadar Balogh, so I quickly started researching him, his work and the house itself. The passive solar aspects of it were also very fascinating to me. Spending time in the house, it’s so impressive how well it works. It’s a very comfortable house.”
And one that looks great, too. The combination of the Chicago Common brick, cedar and all the glass, plus the large overhangs are all hallmarks of beautiful design that some may almost come to expect in a well-designed MCM home, but Balogh’s specific combination of materials and the massing of the structure is particularly adept, and makes for a home that’s as beautiful as it is practical and comfortable.
“I think some people have this idea that modern homes are cold and sterile feeling,” says George, “but this house is very cozy. And that fact has been a real pleasant surprise. The combination of the three fireplaces, the in-floor radiant heat, and the palette of materials that Balogh used with the brick, cedar and fir, makes it extra warm and romantic.”
Michelle agrees. “I would say that the whole hexagon area is our favorite. There’s something magical about it.”
Outside, the home offers as many enticing spaces as the indoors, with the lines between the two deftly blurred, thanks to Balogh’s design. The large deck, the screen porch, the dining balcony and the living room deck all reinforce and take part in the geometry of the overall plan, with hexagons and triangles forming the basis of all the shapes.
In classic modernist fashion, the large deck has a hole in it with a large tree growing through it. And that’s just the beginning. The yard is populated by many beautiful, mature trees that provide shade in hotter months and beautiful, dappled light everywhere.
“My kids have really loved spending time in this house,” says George. “My boys, William and Jude, are outdoor enthusiasts and bikers and have really enjoyed all the outdoor space, and they loved the views of the woods from their rooms, and hanging out and relaxing in the family room by the TV. Those woodland scenes made Zoom classes much more relaxing during remote school. They loved having the big garage for building projects and working out.”
The house is set quite far back from the cul-de-sac, and yet behind the house and the decks there’s still plenty of space to play, relax or enjoy nature, including stepping down the sloping hillside toward the gentle stream at the bottom of the hill.
“We just had a lovely barbecue celebration of my daughter Mattie’s engagement, her birthday and my son’s birthday,” adds George. “The decks and the yard were amazing for hosting their friends. They finished the evening by toasting s’mores in the fire pit by the stream.”
“Yeah, we love the decks, the babbling stream, the firepit and all the natural life that we can hear and see,” adds Michelle.
As soon as George and Michelle got into the house, they started planning to re-modernize the home, which had undergone some changes over the years from previous owners. As a designer, Michelle took the reins.
“We started off with kind of boring ‘systems’ things,” says Michelle. “The house was in great shape, but we wanted to make sure everything was working optimally, so we did stuff like having the chimney cleaned and inspected, replacing all the filters for the reverse osmosis system, servicing the boiler and replacing the water softener.”
Michelle then began on a full conversion of the walkout basement area to a fantastic finished space that became George’s office mentioned earlier.
She also updated the hardware in the kitchen and bathrooms, selecting some beautiful pieces that fit perfectly with the home’s geometric theme. In various places she swapped out light fixtures for new ones that are more appropriate, given the home’s design and architectural intent.
Fresh interior paint was next on the list before Michelle and George turned their attention to the outside.
“The trees are so beautiful on this property,” says George, “but there were a few dead ones here and there and some that really needed to be trimmed back, which we took care of. I also had the EPDM roof re-coated so that it would be good for years to come, and we repaired the roof on the shed as well.”
Most recently, George and Michelle had the entire exterior and all the decks repainted.
“There’s so much more we would love to do to the home,” says Michelle. “But then George got the news that he’s needed full time in New York for work. It’s a little heartbreaking, to be honest.”
George agrees, of course. “We’ll miss the uniqueness of this amazing house and this incredibly beautiful property that it sits on,” adds George. “You really feel like you live in an exceptional and special place.”
NOTE: This home has since sold.
To view more photos, click any image in the gallery below.
Leave a Reply