What happens when a couple of interior designers buy an unremarkable post-war home that hadnft been updated since its original owners moved in?
You get a remarkable eclectic dwelling that retains some of its traditional feel while marrying it to a contemporary and very personal aesthetic. Tony and Cathy Nie’s house on Olmsted Road in Riverside is just one of six residences – along with the village’s historic Arcade Building – on the 2012 Frederick Law Olmsted Society Housewalk, scheduled for Sunday, May 20 from noon to 5 p.m.
This year’s walk – HOMEwork – is a departure for the Olmsted Society, which most often focuses on the village’s historic homes. This year, the homes on the tour represent various periods in Riverside’s history and include everything from a 19th-century coach house to a 1920s bungalow to a modern Cape Cod.
What they have in common is that all are owned by architects or interior designers who have transformed them into remarkable spaces using their design expertise and experience.
“It’s unique because architects and interior designers know how to use interior spaces well,” said Rachael Franceschina, co-chairwoman of the housewalk committee for the Olmsted Society. ‘From the outside, the homes arenft architecturally significant; it’s truly how they utilize all of the space within the houses.”
Franceschina’s home – a modest 1939 Cape Cod-style home on Selborne Road – is one of the houses on the tour. She’s an interior designer, while her husband, Luigi, is an architect.
The Cykner Residence, owned by the Nie family since 1998, is a perfect example of what this year’s housewalk is all about.
From the street, the house presented an unremarkable two-story faade of beige brick and white aluminum siding. But with three young children, the Nies were looking for a place with more room – more importantly, a home they could expand to custom-fit their family.
And while it took a five-year battle with the village to do it (but that’s another story), that’s just what they did, organically melding the old with the new and furnishing the home with an eclectic array of items that tell the family story.
The Nies added a 900-square-foot addition to the rear of the house, with more living space on three levels. On the second level, the family added a large tandem bedroom and a full bath. At the same time, they are added skylights to the master bedroom and second-floor hallway in the original home, opening up and brightening what before had been dark, constricted spaces.
On the main floor, the expansion allowed for the Nies to create a new kitchen and a great room with a cathedral ceiling. And on the lower level, they created a ‘game room” – as opposed to the woodsy, knotty pine-paneled rec room in the original basement.
The furnishings in the game room are a perfect example of the Niesf approach to design. Tony Nie refers to it as ‘green” because it involves the adaptive reuse of items the family has owned for years.
The room features an antique pine cupboard from the Nie family farm in Iowa, while the center of the room is dominated by a pair of early 20th-century high school biology tables, rescued by Cathy’s family.
Several other pieces of furniture and decorative items were once part of the ‘trend houses,” the model homes reproduced on the eighth floor of Marshall Field’s in downtown Chicago, where Tony Nie worked as a designer for 32 years.