A Stone French Manor In Lake Forest

February 11, 2011 | 40 comments

Before a recent trip to Chicago I had seen an estate listing in Architectural Digest for a house in Lake Forest, Illinois that I was intrigued by. It stood out to me because it was white and English in style, both of which I have an affinity for. Having never been to (or even heard of) Lake Forrest, I did a little research and discovered that Lake Forest would be full of the classic architecture that I love. So, when I got to Chicago I made it a point to visit Lake Forest, a short trip north of the city.

With some creative Googling I was able to find the house (sans address) I had seen in Architectural Digest. The house was interesting, but it looked better in print than it looked in person. All was not lost though. I discovered the house featured here while touring the general area. And what a house it is!

The house is mostly hidden from the street, but I was able to catch enough of a glimpse driving by that I knew I had to stop and check it out. I thoroughly enjoy poking around construction sites, especially those of houses with architectural interest and integrity. While the house is quite large, no detail was overlooked and nothing felt out of scale as things often do with big houses. This house is built with only the finest materials: stone, limestone, slate, copper and steel windows.

I've arranged the photos in this post in clockwise sequence so you can do the same walking tour that I did.

Getting started, you can see above that the front entrance had not been constructed yet. I'm imagining a limestone door surround must have been on the plan. Anything else wouldn't be right.

As we head to the left, the detail you immediately notice is how extensively limestone was used as an accent to the fieldstone facade. The window surrounds, the quoins, the X-motif in the railing and if you look closely, the horizontal banding. Given this blog's moniker, I'm sure it comes as no surprise how much I like all of the limestone.

The portion of the structure with the hipped roof in the middle of the photo is a 2 car garage with an entrance on the other side. The structure on the left in the distance is an additional 3 car detached garage as you'll see in the next photo.

Moving along you get a good glimpse of the detached garage. The single bay on the left of this picture is constructed as a small turret. I enjoyed the diminutive dormers and the polish they added to what is typically a utilitarian structure. No expense was being spared at this house.

I'm not sure what the structure in the middle of this picture is. It's detached from the garage and the main house. Perhaps it's an office or chapel of sorts. If you click this photo to enlarge it, you can get a good glimpse at the beautiful slate roof. You can also see the interesting scale of the structure. The roofline comes down quite low. I find the scale to be intriguing. Almost like it's a playhouse for children and scaled down more to a smaller person.

Jumping back to the slate roof, if you pay close attention, you'll notice the clean joints where the opposing sides come together. Typically there is a top cap used at the joint, but here the joints come together to form a sharp edge. I especially like that clean look and the effect it has on a roof's appearance. I have been told it's more expensive to construct that way.

Here you can see that the main house's furthest most wing mirrors the scale of the structure we just looked at. I'm tall and could probably easily hop up on the roof at it's lowest point here. Looking at the small windows that are very close to the ground, I wonder if they are purely decorative or are low to perhaps let light into a stairwell leading to a basement. I didn't really think of that when I was at the house so I didn't investigate. Plus the house was locked so I couldn't venture inside.

As we turn the corner, the rear facade begins to reveal itself. The back of the house was given as much or more attention to detail as the front. Notice that the limestone accents weren't reserved for just the front of the house as they so often are to save money.

A better view of the back of the house begins to show my personal favorite detail: the decorative limestone window surrounds. Enlarge the photo by clicking on it to see the intricate detail of the surround in the center of this picture.

Here you can see the rest of the rear facade. The 3 windows behind the scaffolding are steel, another personal favorite.

A close up picture reveals the contemporary look of the steel windows. Look carefully and you'll see the beautiful detailing of the limestone surrounding the steel windows and doors. Perfection.

As we start to make our way back around to the front of the house, you can see the interesting window surround detail was applied on the side of the house too. I don't recall what the area on the inside of the large wall was. It was still under construction obviously, but I'm thinking some sort of patio now.

I just had to show a close up of one of the limestone window surrounds. I was so mesmerized by them. I especially like that the surrounds are flush with the fieldstone facade. Nice and clean, a tailored appearance.

This photo also affords a good view of the horizontal banding. I was quite enamored with that too. I like the way it breaks up a large facade and makes things feel not so overwhelming.

I also couldn't help but include this photo of a large swath of pachysandra (another favorite) that is presumably original to the property. I'm glad the team building the house recognized the beauty of the existing landscape and preserved it instead of just clearing everything away and starting over out of convenience.

I'll conclude the walking tour with a view from the house into the backyard. As you can see, it's quite a large lot - 3 acres or more I'd guess. I can envision a beautiful pool going in with lush landscaping surrounding it. Amazing.

I'll have to schedule another trip to Chicago just so I can see how the house came out. I'm especially curious about the front door and surround. I have a penchant for limestone door surrounds and have to think that something very tasteful was selected to compliment the rest of the house.

I hope you enjoyed the tour. I've had this house in mind for a post for some time, but am just now getting time to put it together. Despite my lack of posts lately I've really had architecture and design on the brain alot. My excitement for houses never seems to wane.

UPDATE: See the 5th comment down by Anonymous for some history on the house. It turns out that this isn't a completely new build and the original house had pedigree.

** Don't forget that you can click the photos to enlarge them. Most of the photos I include in my posts are much larger in size than they are displayed in the post.