Uncommon Pueblo Revival in Chicago’s North Shore
Inspired by adobe homes found in arid Taos and Santa Fe, N.M., every detail of this custom-made 5,000-square-foot Lake Forest dwelling pays homage to American Indian design and ideas, including a "spirit hole" and turquoise hidden in a wall to keep bad juju at bay.
We have a hankering for design problems tagged "mission impossible," and this one has it in spades. You expect to see this style close to the Sangre de Cristo Mountains rather than on five acres in a Chicago ‘burb. It’s at once unlikely and riveting. The low-slung flat roof, earthen tones and shape ring familiar, after all. We’ve seen it in travels, on postcards, and as a backdrop in films ranging from the cult classic Easy Rider to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and the new The Lone Ranger — all filmed in New Mexico.
But a pueblo-style house in Illinois, while not as extreme as planting a palm tree on the North Pole, is trouble. The builders had a myriad of problems to crack on this Southwest-Midwest experiment, some of it chemistry, some cosmetic. The biting grimace of Chicago winters is mockingly inhospitable to adobe clay bricks — they’d disintegrate. With regard to the exterior landscaping, it’s critical to get the look right, and many plants and shrubs which complement this house style are not native. You need builders sympathetic to the challenge.
They figured it out. Completed in 1989, the 4-bedroom, 3.2-bath home on 105 Indian Ridge Road (it's actually Mettawa with a Lake Forest address) took seven years to build. Evanston-based architect James Economou’s firm handled design; local contractor Orren Pickell laid the foundation and framing; and Joel McHorse, a Taos Indian, and his crew built the special-order home by hand.
It's a revival style, but the designers played it by the book. The terra-cotta tile flooring is the real deal and adds a beautiful geometry with the cooling white. They incorporated corbels (carved, decorative pieces on ceilings and doorways), and windows are treated with "lintels," wooden pieces that you see covering the tops. Note the handcrafted pottery wall sconce on the left. There are many of these touches inside and out, including "kiva" fireplaces in the patio, living room and bedroom; and "bancos" (window benches) in the family room.
The landscaping crew of James Martin and Associates had to change the composition of this marshy terrain into meadows. How'd they do it? They created two ponds and channeled the water into them. One of the ornamental landscapers, Dave Duensing, saw an opportunity to use this new flow as a miniature waterfall that rests on the path to the house.
This entry to the courtyard has handcrafted gates surrounded by a landscape concept that weaves a Southwestern illusion. Garden designer Charlotte Peters of Evanston was tasked with finding plants that looked like they belonged in Santa Fe but would grow in Illinois. She selected aspens, sage (yes, sage can grow here), ornamental grasses, irises and wild geraniums.
And the spirit hole? It’s a crystal-glass window in the master bathroom. It's supposed to bring healing to the home. We couldn't say whether that's true or not, but having one in a space like this seems appropriate, no?