You can find countless stories online about mid-century modern “time capsule” houses, and 9 times out of 10, the term has been used inappropriately, often showcasing an older home that has original bathrooms, but a new kitchen and a bunch of new decor.
So let me clarify just a bit: The home at 100 Old Oak in North Barrington’s Oaksbury subdivision has had exactly one owner: The Hagenbring family. The house was Vern and Trudy Hagenbring’s “dream house”, and with a few exceptions, exists today as it did then.
“I was in 8th grade when we moved into the house,” says Starr Hagenbring, one of Vern & Trudy’s three daughters. “That was December of 1968. The front doors didn’t have the hardware on them yet, the family room was definitely not finished. My parents wanted to be in before Christmas. There were all the handmade, artist things being brought in, and they dribbled in slowly over the next year.”
Starr and her sisters, who are selling their parents’ dream home, grew up before that in Arlington Heights, where their family owned and ran the iconic Hagenbrings Fabrics and Children’s Wear store, now home to the Metropolis Performing Arts Center and Mago, as well as several other businesses. The store was a fixture in the Arlington Heights downtown area for 75 years before the Hagenbrings sold the building.
“Finding a modern or contemporary home that my parents liked was a sort of ‘treasure hunt’ for them,” continues Starr. “They looked all over for years and what they found was either too common, too ‘boxy modern’, too cold, had too many neighbors, too much land and so on. They finally found this piece of land that they just loved. It’s triangular, wooded, close enough to drive to the store every day, had good schools. All the stuff they wanted. Even at a very young age, I remember thinking ‘Now they have to decide on what to build…I could be in college by then!
“I remember they’d drive all over looking for buildings they liked. Then they’d track down who was responsible for designing it! That’s how they found this young guy Roland Schapanski. He was young, but not fresh out of school.”
What Schapanski designed for the Hagenbrings is quite unique in its appearance, at once offering both the low-pitched roofs and interesting geometry of many modern homes of the period, but also this very high-pitched A-frame volume reminiscent of a ski lodge.
“The first plans for the bedroom wing had all these trapezoid angles,” says Starr. “And it was bigger. Way bigger. There were at least 6 changes in the blueprints that I saw. It took at least 6 to get the roof to look the way it does now. The last thing to change was the brick wall between the living room and dining room that faces the road. An earlier version of the plans had this sort of accordion wall, alternating between window, brick, window, brick, window, brick. The windows would’ve been some type of textured glass that was all the rage then. I remember we had all these pretty samples of glass hanging around the house. My guess is Mom connected with Grace Schurect around that time and they got along great. I can remember them talking about the Barn at the same time.”
[Author’s note: Grace Schurect was the wife of Fred Schurect, an architect of note in Barrington. The “Barn” that Starr mentions is the Barn of Barrington, which Fred designed around an actual old barn. The Barn was a restaurant and banquet hall. In fact, my wife and I got married there shortly before they closed the restaurant. Sadly, as we speak, The Barn is being demolished to make way for a car dealership.]
“Grace knew this stained glass dude, and said the stained glass would be perfect by the front doors. The accordion thing was just too complicated, and the brick was really beautiful. So…accordion out, brick and stained glass in.”
Talking to Starr, it’s easy to tell how much she loves the texture of the brick in the house. The tones are great, and the texture really does lend such a beautiful element to every part of the house it touches.
“The brick was a BIG deal. After lots of driving around, every building they looked at that they liked the brick on, they realized that the brick was recycled, and had been previously used in other buildings,” says Starr. “So, there was one guy in Chicagoland that did this, on the south side I think. You could pick out your buildings that the brick had been on before, and they got the brick for you from that part of their collection. The brick in our house came from three different buildings. And then there’s the raked mortar. My parents LOVED the texture from the set back rake. The contractor and mason didn’t want to do it. It was a lot more time consuming to rake it that deep.”
One of the great things about the house is that the brick is used extensively, so that just about every room in the house includes some or has a view of it. The materials that the Hagenbrings chose, they embraced fully. In addition to the beautiful brick featured throughout, there are exposed wood walls, large windows, carved wooden doors and other details, plus all manner of interesting details and light fixtures.
“The chandelier in the foyer came from an old mansion in Chicago,” says Starr, “as did the cut glass windows in the family room. The Anvil Club in West Dundee served as an inspiration for many of the antique details. The dinette fixture had a previous life as a French street lamp. And the house has a lot of storage. Closets, more closets, secret closets. You name it! My Mom was a fanatic about storage and closets!”
The Hagenbrings were also crazy about heat. The house’s primary heating system is via baseboards – very quiet, comfortable and clean, and Vern was insistent that many spaces have their own thermostats for fine-tuning the temperature throughout the house – and at some point, some maintenance needed to be done on the system. When the service provider went to talk to Vern to tell him the heat would have to be off for a while, he offered to bring in some space heaters, knowing that Vern and Trudy didn’t like to be cold. “Why would you do that?” asked Vern. “Just turn on the other furnace.” Their love of heat was so great, they had designed in a completely redundant electric forced-air heating system, still in the house today, that serves the kitchen, dining room and living room areas. Some areas, such as the kitchen, lower level rec room, and the bathrooms, also have under-floor radiant heat, as well, but the primary heat system was so effective, that they rarely used the under-floor heat except in the kitchen. As Starr and her sisters describe it, this is just the way Vern was. He wanted to be warm, and he made sure his dream house would let him be comfortable.
“I believe they wanted a home with all the beautiful trim and aesthetics before they wanted a huge home,” Starr says. “They really wanted to relax, look out the window, and enjoy the beauty of everything, more than they were interested in size for size’s sake. My parents both had strong individual artistic senses. They both appreciated fine work. The house is full of both – things of artistry and things that are very well made. The bones of this house are amazing. And my parents had many artistic friends and were hot on Spanish decor, which led to the beautiful plaster walls. I remember coming into the house the day they did the work on them. I was in love! I think that’s the prettiest feature in the house, for me. That and how the kitchen, eating table and porch embrace the outside.”
The house plays out as a “hillside split level”. Upon walking in, you can go up to the master bedroom suite or down to more bedrooms and the laundry and, ultimately, to the lower walkout rec room and a fourth bedroom. On the other side of the entry foyer, you can go into the sunken living room / dining room area and continue on to the kitchen and dinette, which leads to the enclosed porch on the back of that side of the house overlooking the nearly 3 acres of rolling landscape and mature trees.
The Master Suite, at the top of the house, has more of an open feel to it, thanks to the high, planked ceiling and the fact that the bathroom is technically being outside the bedroom. With the Master Suite being the only thing on that level, it’s private when needed, but offers the flexibility of somebody using the bathroom if needed, without disturbing anybody in the bedroom itself. And going back to Trudy’s love of closets and storage, the Master Suite includes a walk-in closet that is itself about half the size of the bedroom.
The lower level is accessible both from the open-riser stairway in the foyer, or by a second, spiral staircase in the kitchen area. The lower level houses the fourth bedroom, a third full bath, a bar area, some utility and storage spaces, and the huge recreation room / family room, with its own brick & stone fireplace, original cork ceiling and large glass and sliders that lead to the back yard.
Everywhere you look in the house, there’s something interesting to see. Some texture or angle or detail or piece of decor that surprises and delights. And yet there’s still one more big surprise. Vern loved old cars. He collected and restored them. So while, from the street, the house appears to have a modest 2-car garage, underneath the house, further down still from the walkout lower level, is another garage. This one, complete with a mechanics lift, and still home to several of Vern’s cars, holds 4-6 vehicles, depending on their size. A large overhead door allows entrance and egress from the back of the garage. Vern would simply drive the cars on the grass up to to the front of the house and out onto the street.
“He drove them all the time! He loved driving them!” says Kristi, the Hagenbrings youngest daughter. “He had so much fun driving them around.”
Vern, who was often referred to as “Santa” thanks to his extensive, elaborate and often homemade Christmas decorations, was seemingly quite the character. “He knew what he liked and what he wanted,” says Starr. “My Dad would drive out to the house almost every day while it was being built. The guy who built the house happened to be the guy who was the best man at my parents’ wedding. They weren’t as close at this point, but they were still friends. But when my Dad would go out to the house to check on things, if he saw something he didn’t like, he’d rip it out so that it could be re-done the right way. This happened numerous times. They’d laugh about it when they were older, but my Dad just wanted what he wanted. Even with the roof. We were on track to have a kind of nondescript black roof, but just like with the deep rake in the mortar for the brick, my parents really loved the look of the cedar shakes, so they decided to bite the bullet and go with what they loved, even though it was much more expensive. I think that love and passion really shows in every aspect of their home.”
The Hagenbrings home has never before been on the market. If you’d enjoy living in a home that was truly loved by its single owner, and you’ve been searching for a modern home with endless character on a gorgeous lot with room to roam, call me at 312.907.4085 or send an e-mail to me at firstname.lastname@example.org