Developer Bob Ranquist builds another dream home for his family
PLAYING THE ANGLES: A light-filled family home in a former warehouse in Bucktown makes the most of its surprising footprint
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“The triangular shape throws you off,” says architect Mark Peters. “It’s a whole different building inside than when you’re looking at it from the outside.” The living room receives natural light through floor-to-ceiling windows set into the street-side façade. Photo Gallery »
Bob Ranquist is like a chef who can’t stop tweaking an already perfect recipe. This is the sixth extraordinary house in 12 years the award-winning 43-year-old developer has created for his family. “Our houses have been a way for Bob to flex his architectural muscle,” explains his wife, Karen, with a smile and a shrug. So every couple of years she breaks camp and moves their two young sons, belongings, and multiple Weimaraners into yet another of Bob’s “test labs.”
But even the indomitable Karen admits Bob’s scheme to rehab a triangular 8,600-square-foot warehouse in Bucktown required blind faith. “There’s a picture of me standing in front of the building before renovation with this horrified look on my face,” she confesses.
She needn’t have worried. A connoisseur of residential urban design, Bob asked one of architecture’s big guns—Dave Miller, of Seattle’s acclaimed Miller Hull—to brainstorm solutions with Chicago architect Mark Peters, of Studio Dwell. The plan they devised is a celebration of the 90-year-old building’s industrial quirks in a very modern setting. Rugged wooden beams and original brick walls warm a loftlike interior splayed around a light-flooded atrium that lets visitors take in three levels of family living at a glance.
“The space was far more than Bob and Karen needed, and it was dark inside,” explains Miller. “Cutting a three-story hole and connecting it up to a new master suite and deck at the top of the house seemed a natural.”
A glass-and-timber staircase in the atrium ties the floors together. At the rear of the house, a glistening 32-foot-high wall of windows includes doors that slide away, completely opening up the first floor to a secluded backyard garden. Running alongside the property is an elevated stretch of defunct rail line that community groups hope to turn into the three-mile Bloomingdale Trail, similar to New York’s popular High Line.
Karen is thrilled with the results, noting that the Arclinea kitchen, with its restaurant-quality Traulsen refrigerator and freestanding Wolf range, is her favorite hangout. “Not that I cook,” she says with a laugh. “But I can enjoy the whole house from here.”
Bob’s passion for great design carried through to the decision to furnish the place relatively sparely so that architecture, not sofas, would stand out. No one seems to miss the extra furnishings. In fact, the open-air garden tucked into the house’s triangular prow is such a pleasing bit of architectural virtuosity that two family friends recently got married there, to mad applause from the living room.
Note to Bob: This could be one tough act to follow.
1. The master bedroom suite encompasses the entire fourth floor. Placing the Boffi bathtub in the bedroom was inspired by rooms at Soho House in New York. 2. Light fixtures in the boys’ rooms plug into a power box using guitar jacks. 3. An enormous deck off the master bedroom enjoys a spectacular view. 4. The pine stairway was stained to blend with the original beams and posts. 5. The courtyard inside the narrowest point of the triangle is open to the sky. 6. Bob calls the outdoor wood-burning sauna created out of a recycled shipping container “lumberjack chic.”
Photography: Bob Coscarelli
Styling: Diane Ewing