April 7, 2021
In Suburban Chicago, Ardmore House Celebrates Contrasts
For their own home, local architects Alison Von Glinow and Lap Chi Kwong put a twist on the traditional gable-roofed house.
The Ardmore House was designed inside-out and upside-down: The husband-and-wife team behind Kwong Von Glinow began with the interiors, inverted the typical location of public and private spaces, and replaced the central hallway with a multifunctional curved wall. Lap Chi Kwong, Alison Von Glinow and their two toddlers moved into the airy gabled home last August in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis when “home” took on new significance
Despite its traditional roof shape, Ardmore stands out among the gabled single family houses and traditional Chicago brick three-flat apartment buildings. Its volume is an almost Platonic purity of form—simple, emblematic, legible—that was initially used as a placeholder while the team predicated the overall architecture on the design of the interiors. The home exhibits a number of inversions and contrasts—brick / wood, curved / angled, slatted / solid—that clarify and balance the ideas behind the design, emphasizing the studio’s what-you-see-is-what-you-get approach and practical but elegantly unorthodox ways to cultivate well-being.
Outside, they broke up the monolithic exterior by applying monotone fields of medium grey and black. “Color comes into play only through reflection of the surrounding environment,” says coprincipal Alison Von Glinow. “This is both a disappearing act and about highlighting the context.” Bright interiors feature gypsum walls painted white and unpainted white oak window frames and structural elements, including triangular trusses and the exposed Chicago balloon frame structure.
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The design flips traditional elements on their heads, generating inversions that draw in light and air and connect the interiors to each other and the outside. Instead of emphasizing views of the adjacent street, the house’s “uncensored openness,” as Von Glinow puts it, happens on the western facade, looking onto an alleyway—street lamps, balconies, garages and pedestrian traffic—through 56 linear feet of windows. “Light was one of the biggest drivers of the design,” she says. The team located public space upstairs instead of down in order to prioritize light in second-floor social and workspaces while placing bedrooms on the first floor, where there is more privacy.
Usually, hallways are about access and circulation. Here, rooms are ranged along a large curving wall—narrowest at both ends where entrances take up less space and widest (at 6 feet) in the well-glazed double-height interior courtyard, which also provides entrances at front and rear, stair access to the upstairs and basement, and the walls of three bedrooms. This crescent transforms the hallway, and the home, into both journey and destination. “People’s daily patterns and lifestyles have evolved over the last 10 years and, dramatically, over the last year,” Von Glinow says. “But now, working from home is our norm. Our homes have to be our everything.”
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