Amidst the hustle and bustle of busy Chicago streets stands a new townhouse with a modern and yet reclaimed aesthetic. Thanks to impressive thinking and insight from moss Design, Cortez Street House stands high, providing new clients a place to both run their shop and live comfortably with their family, each in healthy balance.
The building that the house sits in now was originally a slightly out-of-place two story masonry building nestled amongst more traditional looking family homes. Because it was already a structure that possessed its own shop space on the ground floor, it made the perfect site for this collaborating team for two reasons; first, because this is the kind of “odd” building that these architects specializing in giving a new lease on life to, and second because the new owners actually run a store and needed a new retail space of their own as well.
Most likely a butcher shop originally, the ground floor already boasted several features before renovation that designers decided to keep because they could prove useful for the new clients. These features included a large cooler that is now used for its intended purpose but also as a de facto divider between retail and living spaces. To maximize the large space afforded to the ground floor around the building, designers chose to add a cantilevered extension at the back where they established a beautiful master bedroom and bathroom. Sure, it’s on the same floor as the store, but creative layouts and space management help maintain a good work-life balance even so.
On its upper floor, the house features a second bedroom, a second bathroom, and a private outdoor deck. Extending all the way up from the ground floor, large windows provide lovely natural light. At the same time, the edges of the newly built extension serve more than one purpose. Firstly, they provide shade on days that might otherwise get a little too hot. Beyond that, they actually collect rain water for use in the garden!
If you think the rain collection edges are awesome, wait until you read what else these designers added. In order to make the house even more green and sustainable, the team actually built a Corten siding and VaproShield drainage system within the siding of the house’s exterior walls, allowing even more water collection and protecting the house from potentially damaging moisture build-up.
Besides enabling fantastic run-off and water collection, this kind of siding also bears a natural rust colour that complements the Chicago Common style brick of the main building fantastically. The aesthetic is at once stylishly weathered looking and more traditionally expired despite being brand new. The two materials in combination make the outside a focal point of natural looking materials and warm hues on the otherwise slightly industrial looking street.
As we mentioned, the new owners put the original retail space on the ground floor to great immediate use as their very own corner store. This hearkens back to a historical tradition in Chicago itself where corner stores were essential to neighbourhoods and owners did, in fact, live behind and above their stores. Now, locals appreciate a slightly modernized version of that tradition that has an authentic feel thanks to the way designers kept several original features in place in their renovation.
Photos by Carmen Troesser