Designing and building one’s dream home is an undertaking that can be as frustrating as it is rewarding. In the case of Chicago-based architect Thomas Roszak’s personal residence in suburban Northfield, Illinois, the challenges and rewards were even higher due to the designer’s choice to construct a modular, five-bedroom family home clad entirely in glass.
Consisting of twelve see-through cubes stacked two high, Roszak’s home was completed in 2002. Before then, he and his wife were already living in the Chicago suburb but had dreams of building a house on one of the larger, tree-lined lots just off of Sunset Ridge Road. The one-acre property on Northfield’s Rolling Ridge Road provided the perfect blank slate the family was seeking as well as relative seclusion thanks to its 60 to 80-foot deciduous trees.
According to Mr. Roszak, approaching the project also forced him to embrace certain philosophies along the way. The choice of glass as the primary facade meant that all views worked two-ways. He had to carefully consider the site’s landscaping and not only how it looked from every room of the house, but also how the inside of the house appeared from its surroundings.
While “transparency” is an obvious theme to explore when building a glass house, this project takes things a step further by essentially displaying the home’s more utilitarian hardware—such as structural and environmental components—in a prominent but also beautiful way. “There’s an honesty in how it’s built, nothing is hidden,” the architect explained to us.
Though Roszak’s eponymous architecture firm is perhaps best known for designing multi-family developments such as Chicago’s JeffJack Apartments and Linea, the glassy single-family undertaking allowed the designer to experiment with materials and gain experience that ultimately informed his later work on taller, more commercial projects.
“When you look at the details of concrete, details of the steel, the curtain wall, stairs, and HVAC system, you can see that this house is constructed in a way that is not too different from a commercial high-rise building.”
With that being said, the end result here is far less cold and institutional than what one would expect. Despite the aforementioned high levels of transparency, a number of spaces are still imitate, private, and very practical. While there are plenty of other all-glass homes out there, Roszak describes his residence as a working house for a real family and not just “some single guy with an art collection.”
Nationally recognized by the American Institute of Architects in 2008 and more recently featured in a CNN piece on architect-built homes, Tom Roszak’s Northfield creation proves that you can live—and raise a family—in an ultra-modern house in the suburbs. Part labor of love, part architectural test lab, the property hit the market yesterday seeking $3,095,000.