In 1948, a 17-year-old Stevens decided to call upon Wright at Taliesin, his Wisconsin studio. He was seeking advice on good architecture schools. For some reason, Wright was impressed by the very young man and invited him to stay and study with him.
So Stevens literally learned at the feet of the master and when you gaze upon the Riverwoods home he designed 31 years ago, you know he learned his lessons well.
The home is "one with nature," thanks to a seamless flow between the interior and exterior using walls of glass that allow breathtaking views of the home's forest setting.
Wright's opinions on architecture and nature are well known. "A good building makes the landscape more beautiful than it was before the building was built," he was known to opine.
Stevens agrees and today, at the age of 80, he is still working toward this end. "All the best concepts come from nature," he proclaims on the website for his current project, Robie Springs outside of Boise, Idaho. "You abstract the lessons of nature. Nature did the work, I just copied it."
To enter the Riverwoods home, which is currently on the market for $1.49 million and listed by Tracy Wurster of Prudential Rubloff Properties, you climb a set of meandering aggregate steps to the front door and enter on the second floor.
The foyer opens onto a majestic two-story atrium featuring a pagoda-style roof with a large square skylight 39 feet above.
From the entryway, which gives the feeling of a rocky, cliffside perch, you meander down another set of aggregate steps, past a 29-foot rubber tree surrounded by boulders, to the main level of the living space that features a custom-designed kitchen, dining area, living room and upper and lower level dens with wood-burning Wisconsin River Rock fireplaces.
This casual, rustic home is designed as a series of three interconnecting pods with the center one being the largest at 1,600 square feet. And while there are no interior walls here, the rubber tree very effectively screens the living room and dens from the kitchen, dining room and entryway. There is no need for walls when you have a tree.
Incidentally, that tree is planted into the natural soil of the land. The home is built on a concrete slab designed with a hole in it to allow that tree to sink its roots deep into the ground and thrive, Cobrin said.
The home's second pod also features a pagoda-style roof and it houses the breathtaking master bedroom/bathroom suite on the upper floor and an office/exercise room with bath on the main floor. The home's wraparound balcony surrounds the master bedroom while the aggregate patio below it complements the office and allows for a place to sit outside, even during a rainstorm.
Those sleeping in the master bedroom literally enjoy sleeping amid the trees, birds and other wild creatures because there are floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors virtually all around them. But barely noticeable shades are available when privacy is preferred.
The third pod of the home houses two guest bedrooms that share a balcony and that pod's pagoda-style ceiling and skylight. The bed rooms are separated from one another and the bathroom they share by generous wall partitions. Below the bedrooms lies a two-car garage and a utility/laundry room.
Since Stevens designed the home more than three decades ago, the owner has added two more pods to the complex — a pagoda-shaped, electric-powered screened gazebo that sits beside the lovely backyard koi pond and patio; and a free-standing, two-car garage that allows for extra storage of vehicles. That second garage could easily be converted to a studio, guesthouse or exercise room, Cobrin said.
The entire complex is surrounded by patios made of aggregate stonelike material and that aggregate extends through portions of the main floor of the home, adding to the feeling of a seamless connection between inside and outside. Unlike many homes where the patio is constructed of concrete, brick or stone tile — and then the interior spaces are carpeted or made of wood or tile, this home features aggregate surfaces in both places.
The homeowner became acquainted with Stevens' work when she leased an office in one of several buildings he designed in Des Plaines. In fact, Stevens himself worked in the same building during the late 1970s. So she approached him about designing a home for her. The inquiries became serious when she purchased a lot within the heavily wooded Timbers subdivision in Riverwoods.
"I wanted a house that made you say 'wow' when you walked in the door, and I didn't want walls," said the owner, who asked not to be identified. "I wanted the home to fit into the forest and be all natural with a dramatic entryway."
The design Stevens came back with fit the bill, featuring a revolutionary double-story roof with curved support beams and a rubber tree planted in the atrium floor.
"The idea was to create something that was very unusual but which fit with the forest. We wanted an internal space with so much greenery that you really wouldn't know if you were inside or out," she said.
"Living in the house is like living in a vacation home every day," she said. "Every season has its own magic in that house."
|Room Count||10 rooms, 4 beds, 3.1 baths|
|Taxes||$22,121 for 2011|
778 Western Ave.
Lake Forest, Illinois 60045
HomeServices is owned by MidAmerican Energy Holding Company, a consolidated subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.