There aren’t many neighborhoods in the Chicago suburbs that you could point to as having a lot of mid-century modern homes, but one of the few is Plum Grove Estates in Palatine.
Carefully planned, engineered and landscaped from the start, Plum Grove Estates was honored with an Award of Merit in Neighborhood Development by the National Association of Home Builders. Thanks to the work of experts such as Carl Gardner & Associates (land planners), Edward Fletcher (engineering) and Harold Klopp (landscape architect), PGE offers a unique neighborhood environment in which the streets wind and curve among the gently sloping hills – ideally suited for a neighborhood with slow traffic speeds and offering a beautiful place to ride bikes, take pets for a walk, or simply enjoy the streams, pond and canopy of mature trees.
Rick and Jon and I had looked at another house in PGE before we saw 309 Elmwood Court. They already loved the neighborhood and the fact that it’s so convenient to highways (both 53/290 and 90), shopping, restaurants and parks. But 309 Elmwood Court spoke to them immediately, because of the home’s layout, space and potential.
“PGE is an amazing community,” says Jon. “Whenever we pull into the neighborhood, it feels like a sense of calm comes over us. The lots are very large, and we pride ourselves on maintaining a park-like setting with no fences – other than pool fences.”
As you wind your way through the neighborhood to Elmwood Court, you’ll notice things that aren’t very common in a typical subdivision, even in the suburbs. Small islands with trees or beautiful plantings split the two sides of a street here and there. Intersections are a little bit softer, almost casual in their nature, as opposed to the rigid, grid-like formality of most planned communities.
309 Elmwood Court sits at the end of a small cul-de-sac off of Elmwood Lane, and immediately offers hints about its mid-century roots, as you’ll notice the beautiful driftstone boulders that grace the front of the home. But the house is also deceptive, offering much more space than looks possible from the street.
“We love the MCM aesthetic of the house, and did right away,” says Rick, an Interior Designer. “The house has some key features of modern homes from the 1960s, such as the roofline and the stone on the front elevation. What we really loved once we stepped inside, though, was the size of the house.”
“We love to entertain,” adds Jon, “and this house offered many public spaces, as well as ample private bedroom spaces.”
As we walked through the house initially, they were commenting on features that they wanted to accentuate or take advantage of with the remodeling they were planning to do if they were lucky enough to get the house. The original layout had a sunken living room at the front of the house, with the kitchen and dining room at the back, sort of closed off more than you might expect in a house of this era and style. And everything was very dated.
What really sets this house apart, though, is that it has five bedrooms and two family rooms: The first on the main level, which was added by a previous owner, and the second in the lower part of the split, with its own stone fireplace and sliders out to a stone patio.
The question for them became how to take advantage of the space the house offered but bring it into the modern era, referencing the modern aspects of the home’s architecture, without being intentionally “retro”.
“Rick, being an interior designer, had the vision for the house immediately,” adds Jon. “The only thing that really changed from when we started to the project to when we finished it was the budget. As we started choosing finishes for spaces like the kitchen and bathrooms, we knew we had to up the game. Nothing in any of those spaces is ‘off the shelf’ type of product.”
The biggest change they made was in terms of which spaces are used for what. They decided to move the kitchen to the front of the house to take advantage of the large windows in that space, and to make the house more welcoming to visitors while entertaining.
The resulting space is truly spectacular. Custom walnut cabinetry is complimented by dark, matte cabinets along the back wall of the kitchen, topped with quartz counters and accented by gorgeous, textured tiles on the backsplash.
A vast island with counter seating for up to six people echoes the materials and surfaces of the back wall lower cabinets, with textured porcelain tiles under foot.
As somebody who loves to cook, Jon has enjoyed the Bertazzoni double oven range with its six burners and griddle. A pot filler faucet mounted on the wall above the range is a nice touch and bit of convenience.
But perhaps the most beautiful aspect of the kitchen are the book-matched walnut cabinets that they chose for the back wall uppers, and to surround the full-size Frigidaire Professional fridge / freezer on the pantry wall. Walnut is, of course, one of the most common wood species to be associated with MCM furniture and detailing, and works beautifully in this modern gourmet kitchen. Throughout the kitchen, sleek, modern metal pulls adorn the cabinets to keep the lines clean and simple.
“The kitchen is easily our favorite space in the house,” says Jon. “It’s spacious and a dream to cook in while interacting with guests.”
With the kitchen moved to the front of the house, that left the previous kitchen and dining room to be converted to a new combination living room / dining room for a more open, easy-flowing layout. Keeping the dining room portion straight ahead of the front entry and foyer reinforced the welcoming nature of the home that was important to Jon & Rick.
Most of the main level features matte-stained wood floors for a decidedly modern look. At the far end of the living room, a dry bar features the complimentary cabinets to those in the kitchen, and features a beverage cooler and is plumbed for a professional ice maker or coffee equipment.
Take a step down into the family room. This is the space that was added by a previous owner, but Rick & Jon have completely reimagined it as part of the whole-house remodel, with exposed beams accentuating the ceiling height, and a beautiful new fireplace surround enclosing a gas fireplace, with floating mantels on either side.
“This is another one of our favorite spaces,” says Rick. “We use the fireplace almost every evening in the Fall and Winter.”
The back wall of the family room features large windows, making this space as bright as the others in the home. Opposite the primary window wall, Rick designed another built-in with ample storage for media or other items, and echoed the same cabinetry inside the powder room at the far end of the space.
Upstairs, owners’ Primary Suite is an oasis, with sliders to a private balcony overlooking the back yard. Dual walk-in closets offer plenty of clothes storage, and a beautiful en-suite bath has dual sinks set in a custom vanity, an oversized, extra deep soaking tub, and a huge walk-in shower.
“The bath in our bedroom is another favorite spot in the home,” says Jon. “The tub is incredibly deep, and the water pressure in the shower is amazing!”
Three more bedrooms on the upper level of the split offer rooms for kids, guests or home offices, and share an equally beautiful full bathroom with MCM-appropriate elongated hex tiles and another custom vanity with built-in linen storage.
For the lower level, Rick designed a wet bar / lounge / gaming area leading to the lower family room. Here again you’ll find custom cabinets topped with quartz in the wet bar area. The lower family room features an original stone fireplace painted in a color that coordinates with the rest of the home, and a floating media cabinet . Sliders lead to a classic aggregate patio surrounded by a decorative low brick retaining wall and steps leading to an upper patio accessible from the living room.
At the other end of the lower level you’ll find the 5th bedroom, which Rick uses as his office, and right next to the bedroom is the home’s third full bath, redone in a manner consistent with the rest of the home, and featuring a walk-in shower. With the bedroom and bathroom right next to each other, this part of the home would also make for an excellent guest area or in-law arrangement.
Outside, the shape of the lot, being at the end of the cul-de-sac, and the way the home is sited on the lot, makes for a spacious yard that’s also private. “We do enjoy the privacy of the back yard,” says Rick. “The angle that the house is situated allows for complete privacy when foliage is on the trees and bushes.”
In addition to the multi-level patio spaces, Rick & Jon have also enjoyed a framed-out garden bed in the back yard.
To see more of this beautiful home, take a look through the gallery below.
UPDATE: This house sold on April 30th, 2021