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Zen Vibes Atop Contemporaine + A Secret Balcony

In the spirit of Outdoors Week, we made a house call to one of the most unique homes on the market in Chicago: That zenned-out penthouse atop Contemporaine in River North. The place is unique for several reasons. First, it has nearly as much outdoor space as it does indoor living space. That might seem impractical in a city where mother nature keeps us trapped indoors most of the year, but if the place serves as a second home (as it does for the current owner), that's less of an issue. And, as we've written before, those terraces are pretty spectacular. After buying the unit back in 2004, the owner brought in Portland, OR-based Japanese garden specialist Hoichi Kurisu to oversee the landscaping on the two large terraces. The pines and other plantings have grown into the space nicely, breaking it up into what almost feels like separate rooms, and shading the space from the sun.

Inside, we found another surprise: A Batman-style secret balcony! We were a little surprised when listing agent Debra Dobbs started moving the trousers aside in one of the closets, but she soon revealed a secret door that leads out to one of those tiny little balconies that line the building's northern elevation. Why hide the door behind the pants closet? For one, it's probably a pretty excellent hide & seek hiding spot (among many in this place). It also probably serves as a decent getaway spot when you tire of your house guests. The real answer might be the most boring of all: Maybe it just seemed like a good place to hang some slacks.

Over on the eastern side of the unit, there's another large terrace that's connected to a long, narrow walkway that hugs the northern elevation. Some work was being done on the second terrace when we visited last weekend, so our photographer, Tim Hiatt, wasn't able to get out there. But with another little pond and seating area, it looks pretty inviting.

The zen vibes of the Japanese garden terraces permeate throughout the main living space of the unit. When we exited the elevator to enter the home, Dobbs hit the switch for the smart home system, which instantly gets the indoor fountains going, as well as an aroma therapy system that fills the place with scents that'll smell familiar to spa regulars. The place is done up with lots of bamboo and various shades of brown and beige. The master bath has a big window looks out onto the waterfall of the main terrace — a space that Dobbs says a future owner could potentially build out to expand the living space.

So, can we test-drive it for a weekend? Sure, says Dobbs, if you make a down payment. That brings us to the price: $3.4 million.
· Listing: 201 W. Grand Ave. PH2 [Koenig & Strey]


516 N. Wells, Chicago, Il