The 'modern farmhouse' all the rage in River Forest

New construction features traditional style, high-end finishes

July 3rd, 2017 12:09 PM

554 Lathrop Ave. in Rivers Forest | Courtesy of VHT STUDIOS

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By Lacey Sikora

Contributing Reporter

Architectural styles come and go, and in historic towns like Oak Park and River Forest, it can be easy to pinpoint the era a street was developed by the design of the homes. 

From the Italianate and Victorian styles in the late 1800s to the Prairie style of the early 1900s to the Colonials and Tudors that abounded in the 1920s and 1930s, certain parts of town speak of a certain parts of our unique architectural history.

In River Forest, where new construction is rife these days, it is not uncommon to see a smaller or older home razed to make way for a newer, larger home. With its large lots and fewer restrictions on teardowns, River Forest is experiencing a mini-building boom. 

A handful of new construction homes in the village share a similar look that might be used 100 years from now to pinpoint our particular era.

The "modern farmhouse" style might have its roots in popular home design shows such as HGTV's "Fixer Upper," in which an enterprising and photogenic young family from Waco, Texas combine vintage and modern style in their makeovers of homes. 

Several new River Forest homes offer their own unique spins on the style. With stone porches, peaked dormers and white, bright interiors featuring high ceilings and open floor plans, the homes are attracting plenty of attention and garnering quick sales.

554 Lathrop Ave.

On Lathrop Avenue, a four-bedroom and 4.5 bathroom new build is being marketed by Gloor Realty for $1,350,000. Clad with grey shingles and white siding, the house features a welcoming open front porch with a stone foundation.

The house has all the bells and whistles meant to attract today's homebuyers, from a mudroom at the rear with five storage lockers for children, to a bright kitchen that opens to a family room. 

On the second level, a spacious master suite includes his-and-hers walk-in closets as well as a large bathroom. Two other bedrooms share a Jack-and-Jill bathroom, and the fourth bedroom is also a suite with its own private bathroom.

The basement features something that old houses just can't deliver: 9.5-foot ceilings, which allow for an entire level of comfortable living space. A full bathroom, workout room, family room with fireplace, wet bar area and room for a pool table or ping pong make this a family hub.

Rich Gloor, managing broker of Oak Park's Gloor Realty, who partnered with O'Malley Builders on the project, says that one of the hallmarks of the builders is their finish work. 

The first-floor family room has coffered ceilings, while wainscoting lines the wall of the stairwell. Details such as intricate wood trim and herringbone-patterned tile on the fireplace raise the house above standard-issue basic construction.

River Forest ripe for new homes

Gloor says that three builders arrived in River Forest at the same time with the same idea of building new construction, large homes. 

"River Forest was kind of being overlooked when you consider the amount of new construction in La Grange, Western Springs and Elmhurst," Gloor said.

The house at 554 Lathrop Ave. represents the kind of lot and home that makes new construction appealing from a business perspective. According to Gloor, this particular lot was once home to a smaller bungalow with an attached garage that, over time, had suffered water damage. 

Gloor says that the success of building new and selling at the right price is a combination of factors unique to River Forest. 

"River Forest has bigger lots and higher price points than Oak Park," he said. "Land is more expensive here, but you can spend $400,000 on a teardown and sell it for over $1 million, because there are neighboring homes at that price point. No one wants to by the proverbial nicest house on the block. These new houses fit into what's surrounding them."

A modern 'farmhouse'

With plenty of interest in the Lathrop house, Gloor and O'Malley are working together on a second, similar home now under construction in the 800 block of Forest Avenue in River Forest. Two other homes with similar aesthetics recently sold in the village.

In August 2015, 228 Gale Ave. sold for $375,000. The existing home was torn down and replaced with a five-bedroom, 5.5-bath home built by West Development. 

The stone porch foundation, peaked dormers and white and gray color palette are similar to the Lathrop Avenue home. At 3,940 square feet, the Gale Avenue house was marketed for $1,375,000 and is pending contract as of press time.

In November 2015, another teardown house was sold at 619 Jackson Ave. in River Forest for $475,000. The new home constructed on the lot, like other new construction, features a stone foundation and a white, grey and black color palette with prominent dormered windows. Measuring roughly 4,600 square feet, this six-bedroom, 5.5-bathroom house sold for $1,785,000 in March.

The appeal of houses like these appears to represent a certain segment of the buying market. Gloor notes that they might appeal to some buyers already in the area who are looking to move up to a bigger house.

 "Some locals are going for the 'homerun' house, and they want new," Gloor said. "Not everyone grew up with or wants an older house."

Primarily though, he sees these houses appealing to young families moving to the suburbs from the city.

"People are ready to move to the suburbs and want plenty of room and don't want to do any work on the house, or we see people skipping the starter house and buying big for their first home," Gloor said. "We're seeing a lot of that now."