The rolling hills of Bucks County, Penn., feel a long way from suburban Chicago – unless you happen to be driving down Laurel Avenue in Lake Forest. CBI Custom Homes channeled the historic region in its latest project, a rambling six-bedroom mansion at 172 W. Laurel Ave. that evokes Bucks County’s stock of Quaker-inspired stone houses.
That influence is most obvious in the home’s central section, made from gray New England granite, according to Brett Marlowe, CBI president. The stone structure is flanked by white clapboard wings. Graduated slate roofs cover each section of the house, and its street-facing windows are framed with crown moldings.
“The big difference between our company and other luxury homebuilders is that we confine ourselves strictly to creating period-specific homes,” Marlowe says.
CBI’s homes pay homage to a variety of historic styles, including French Provincial, Colonial Revival, English Country Tudor, Prairie and Craftsman.
But Marlowe isn’t building museum exhibits. The house at 172 W. Laurel, like CBI’s potpourri of luxury homes sprinkled throughout the North Shore, incorporates cutting-edge technology, such as five heating and cooling zones controlled by separate furnaces and air conditioning units. To the right of the entrance is an elevator, which owners can ride if they don’t feel like climbing the walnut-railed front stairway or the rear stairway.
The interior is deeply traditional. Left of the front entrance is a library with a fireplace, wide-plank walnut flooring and walls paneled in knotty pine. The adjacent living room, which also has a fireplace, features Parquet de Versailles walnut flooring and large bay windows that face the back of the property. A formal dining room and a family room provide additional space to spread out.
The kitchen has a raft of luxurious appointments, including stone flooring, Miele and Wolf appliances, a cooking island and a breakfast nook. For larger breakfast gatherings, owners can move to the separate breakfast room, which has a fireplace and heated flooring.
There will be no fighting over bathroom time in this house. The second floor contains five bedrooms and five bathrooms, accessible from a 35-foot hall with wainscot paneling. The master bedroom has a fireplace, built-in cabinetry and a custom-built closet. The master bathroom has a freestanding rectangular tub, a shower and two vanities.
Each of the remaining bedrooms has its own private bathroom. Closet space is abundant; one closet is 200 square feet, making it suitable as a tandem bedroom.
The lower level is the place to relax: owners can unwind in the sauna, watch a movie in the entertainment room or shoot pool in the hickory-paneled billiard room that has a fireplace with a herringbone brick and terra cotta design. “The billiard room is gorgeous,” says Marlowe. “It’s as impressive as any library I’ve done in other homes.”
The lower level also features one bedroom, one bathroom, and a wine cellar with five sets of French doors segregating various types of wine. On the practical side, it has a laundry room and a “low-voltage” room, meant to receive the optimal amount of electrical current for running equipment such as computer servers.
Two garages fit a total of three cars.
“The Laurel Avenue Property is a perfect example of a home that is classic, classy, but not glitzy,” Marlowe says. “It’s a subtly elegant, crusty-money house, and it’s very family friendly. This is not a ‘look at me, see what I’ve got’ kind of home.”
Priced at $7,595,000 and ready for occupancy, the 11,000-square-foot residence sits on a 1.5-acre site in one of Lake Forest’s most exclusive enclaves, just west of Green Bay Road.
It’s par for the course for CBI, which has been in business almost 20 years, under the leadership of the Marlowes, Jim and his sons Todd and Brett. While the family’s homebuilding experience stretches back four generations, its period-specific home designs span centuries and continents.
At a glance
Address: 172 W. Laurel Ave.
Town: Lake Forest
Sales: by appointment