Back in March we put together a blog post on a unique house in Arizona by architect Paul Schweikher and his partner Winston Elting. Ever since, I had been longing to visit Schweikher's own home in Schaumburg, Illinois, a north west suburb of Chicago, which has been incredibly well-preserved by the second owners. Fortunately for us, it is now run by the City of Schaumburg as a house museum.
Architect's homes are always a microcosm of ideas at work - some tried and true, some undergoing the testing phase and some hinted at - and the Schweikher house doesn't disappoint. It is hard to believe the first phase was completed in 1938, as the design seems so fresh.
Like most great mid-century modern architecture, the house doesn't give all its secrets away at once. Instead, the visitor is teased with hints that lead you under and past a carport, along a long board and batten wall around the perimeter of a lush courtyard with a magnificent tree - providing a wonderful contrast to the linearity of the structures surrounding it. This entry sequence also introduces you to the main materials of the home - brick floors and redwood. The weathered wood is a range of beautiful dark browns and grays and it invites you to run your hands along it, following the battens to the front door.
Inside, the massive fireplace is such a powerful statement with its row upon row of bricks laid on end, it is a Schweikher trademark before it became one. The masterful move in my opinion is at the very end of the fireplace: Where the corner of the brick heavy room dissolves into a sliver of glass. This provides much needed release and helps give the fireplace a floating effect. We even included this fireplace in our list of favorite fireplaces in January of this year.
This main living room is a true cave like space, warmed by afternoon sun from the west pouring in through the floor to ceiling glass that fronts onto a lovely courtyard. In addition to the imposing fireplace, Schweikher ran radiant heat not only under the brick floor but also up behind the built in seating.
In contrast to the cave by the fireplace, the formal dining area is light filled and enjoys views onto the Eastern garden. Flanked by one of many simple but stunning pieces of built in rough-sawn redwood cabinetry, the space is warm, practical and inviting.
More beautiful wood is found throughout the house including these magnificent closets in the solar bedroom wing.
This bedroom looks out on to a southern courtyard, and the Japanese influence from Schweikher's trip to Japan a year before is front and center.
The drafting studio and bedroom wing were added about 10 years later and though they borrow from the language of the existing structure, they have their own dialect. The cantilevered bedroom in particular stands proud, announcing itself as a later development.
One of the strongest elements I enjoyed experiencing in the house were the constant contrasts of space compressing and expanding; of light sheltered and exposed creating spaces for socializing and others for being alone. I'm sure everyone could find the perfect place for themselves somewhere in the house no matter what frame of mind they were in. I think this moody character of the houses says something about Schweikher himself and how he drew a firm line between the work section of the house and the private family section.
A telling anecdote told by Sarah, the docent, was of a former draftsman who had worked for Schweikher at the studio. He visited the second owners many years later and asked if he might possibly see inside the house - having never been permitted by Schweikher himself...
Interested in visiting the Schweikher House yourself? You're in luck. This treasure of a home is open to the public for one-hour docent-led tours on Fridays 11am & 1pm for $25 per person. The Schweikher House in Schaumburg, Illinois, is easily accessible if you're in Chicago, making for a great day trip.
Private/group tours are also available to suit your schedule for $35 per person. These require a reservation and are made possible by calling Todd Wenger at (847) 923-3866 during regular business hours. Head to the Schweikher House Website for more details on directions, parking and scheduling tours.