The house is old, built originally in the 1890s. Almost everything about it, however, has been changed. Very little of the original house is in tact. Originally the house was a frame, and in the 1990s it was painted purple. It was also small. There were three small houses all in a row, and this house was the smallest of the three. The house, when purchased in 1998, was under 1500 square feet — that’s less than 750 square feet per floor. The ceilings were low and there were three small bedrooms on the second floor. There was no third floor to speak of, but simply an unfinished attic. During construction, the second floor and everything above it was removed, so everything beyond the dining room is also an addition. The location of the stairs has also changed. Originally the stairs were right by the front door.
Now, the house is over 6000 square feet. The rebuild started in 1998 and my daughter, Claire, and I moved into the house in 2000. It was our single family home for the first several years of ownership. Today we live in the basement apartment, and it feels good using the majority of the home in a more ethical context. Something clicked along the way, and having 6000 square feet for two was felt like a bit too much conspicuous consumption!
Back to building Harvey House (which is the name on the last couple rounds of blueprints). In addition to the architect, the team included structural engineers, historians, and interior designers. I already owned the majority of the furniture that is in the common area of the house, so the interior design team worked to fit the existing furniture into the design. The historians insured that the exterior architectural elements fit in with the historical district of Oak Park, and also that the house maintained both interest and architectural integrity on the interior. or example, the historians researched the grid pattern of the windows in the family room. Pella Windows, a company based in Iowa, was commissioned to provide the windows with a grid pattern that prevented the house from looking super modern. When you see a bit of warping on the family room cabinet doors, it is by design. This is the way the doors would have been originally and we wanted the house to feel older like the other houses in the neighborhood. We researched door patterns, staircases, trim profiles, stained glass windows, and art glass patterns. We imported antique glass from Europe for many of the windows. The house has many advantages from the new construction. The flooring is all new, and we were able to use radiant heat in the family room. All the mechanicals in the house are new. Hopefully, you will find the house to be the best of both old and new, because so much work went into ensuring the house would fit in well with its historical surroundings.
Harvey House underwent a second extensive remodel about six years ago to provide each guest suite with a fireplace and individual private baths. (Oh, if only I had known it would be a B&B when I originally built it!) The first few years that we were open as a B&B, we had shared bathrooms. Even in Europe, I don’t like to share bathrooms, so I figured it was worth another round of remodeling. You will find that there is an emphasis on detail and that the materials used to be of outstanding quality.
From it’s original state to the current one, Harvey House has gone under many transformations that makes it the bed and breakfast it is today.