Open House: Cheryl’s House (the Original Eco-Smart Home)


Last week I wrote about touring the updated Museum of Science and Industry Smart Home, so I thought you might be interested in seeing the first “green” home (at least that’s my angle for this post).  Built in 1909, the person who constructed Cheryl’s Rogers Park Victorian salvaged the woodwork from the 1893 Columbia World Exposition British Victoria House.  Please sit back and enjoy Cheryl’s story.

“The house picked me,” Cheryl explains about her decision to buy a large fixer-upper in an urban neighborhood rather than a new suburban house like the ones she had previously owned.  Despite her interest in restoration, the farmer’s daughter turned nuclear engineer turned bank financier, has always embraced reinvention in her own life and wanted to experience city living after years living in the suburbs of South Carolina and Detroit.

Perhaps Cheryl’s right, perhaps the house did choose her.  Or perhaps that feeling is a religion of sorts, a narrative that helps Cheryl make sense of the sacrifices she’s made to restore the home to its original grandeur.  Despite working long hours at her new job and adjusting to a new city, Cheryl painted every wall and ceiling, designed stained glass windows, tiled the fireplace surround and using a toothbrush, painstakingly cleaned every inch of the reclaimed woodwork (friends and family gauged her progress by the movement of the ladder that remained in the living room for months).

Continued . . .


While she maintained or restored most of the original details, Cheryl worked with an architect to expand the kitchen and create a family room by incorporating an enclosed back porch and small back bedroom.  Taking a page from the original builder’s manual, Cheryl reclaimed the porch’s bead board ceiling and used it to build the banquette in the kitchen’s new seating area; the result is bright, spacious and functional.

Disproving the myth that left-brained numbers people aren’t creative, Cheryl rattled off several interesting tips and showed me a number of creative  and whimsical touches, including:

  • Using an antique door as a chandelier medallion in the office
  • Using a sari (purchased on nearby Devon Avenue) to disguise an unattractive painted bead board ceiling
  • Transforming an antique cabinet into a bath vanity
  • Creating a stairway art installation with ceramic leaves she made during Lill Street art classes

Cheryl thought by this point she’d be ready to relax and enjoy her home, that she’d found the place she’d spend the rest of her life.  And things might have worked out that way if she hadn’t met Mike, an architect and all-around great guy who also owns a home  . . . in the suburbs.  Things between Cheryl and Mike are going good, really good, and Cheryl seems open to possibilities that would have been unthinkable a few years ago.  A house is just a house, after all, but home is where the heart is.

Click here to read past Open House stories.










Made during Lill Street art classes






Cheryl reimagined an antique dresser as a bathroom vanity


An Indian sari disguises an unattractive painted bead board ceiling



Cheryl and Mike

Thanks to former Open House star Maribeth for introducing me to Cheryl!


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8 Responses to “Open House: Cheryl’s House (the Original Eco-Smart Home)”

  1. That woodwork is to die for! A lovely, comfortable home!

  2. Okay, now I have to win the lottery in case this house goes up for sale… I LOVE IT!!!

  3. Hey Tate,
    Wonderful job with the photos and write-up on Cheryl’s house.

    Thanks for another great Rogers Park/ West Ridge entry.
    We love you in our ‘hood!
    West Ridge Bungalow Neighbors co-chair

  4. What a terrific house! I can’t believe she did all the woodwork in such a painstaking method – it’s truly beautiful.

  5. Thanks Jo! I love you guys too. Why haven’t you emailed me yet?

  6. Wowee! This is the second Open House on your site in which I think I could be truly comfortable. Talk about “the rewards of perseverance”! Her eclectic furniture really works in this space, and the blues and greens of her colour palette really liven up the woodwork. Such windows, too. 21st-century homes would benefit greatly from the inclusion of such details. I’d rather have a 1500 sq-ft home with these design features than a 4,000 sq-ft beige box with no interior details to speak of.

  7. Carol, I agree it’s fab. Which is the first home in which you could be comfortable? I know you adore mine, so I’m curious about the third.

  8. I love it …. except for the kitchen. I do not feel like that kitchen belongs with the rest of the home. The kitchen itself is lovely, if it were in another home. Maybe she should add some crown molding to the kitchen walls and change the color.

    The living room, entrance, dinning room are rediculous.