Well manored

950 Bluff St., Glencoe

CBI Custom Homes sweats the details for $3.9 million Tudor in Glencoe

by Dan Schuyler

When you cast an eye over design-build firm CBI Custom Homes’ stunning period-specific houses, you’re reminded of the quotation from 19th century Chicago architect Daniel Burnham displayed on the company’s Web site, CBICustomHomes.com: “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.”

For more than 17 years, CBI has lived by those words, taking pains to source the materials necessary to create architecturally pure residences that pay homage to a range of styles, including French Provincial, Colonial Revival, Prairie and Craftsman.

The company’s latest offering is 950 Bluff St. in Glencoe, a brick, stone and stucco English Country Tudor, listed at $3.89 million.

“Nine-fifty Bluff embodies the great respect we have for our craft,” says company president Brett Marlowe. “The big difference between our company and other luxury homebuilders is that we confine ourselves strictly to period-specific homes.”

When Marlowe says “period-specific,” he means it. The CBI staff brings more than a century of combined experience to each new project, and if questions surface about the nuances of a certain period or style, they do the research.

In the case of 950 Bluff Street, Marlowe began researching many of the older Tudor and Colonial reproductions in Glencoe, building a picture of what he wanted to create.

“We wanted the house to look like it had been there a long time, so we used materials that have that effect, things like leaded glass, handmade brick, low-relief plaster and lots of others,” Marlowe says. “We started by reshaping the 80-foot-by-171-foot lot, creating some soft transitions and giving it more focus on Bluff Street.”

The idea was to create an interior environment that was light and bright, taking full advantage of the eastern and western exposures, the developer says.

“In the mornings you want the cheerful sunrise to shine through, and in the evenings you like to feel the fading away of daylight,” Marlowe says.

In many ways, that bright and cheery first floor is the heart of the home. It includes a living room with a fireplace, a dining room and a library, which has a fireplace of its own. The kitchen, designed by DeGiulio, comes with Viking, Sub-Zero and Bosch appliances. Other living spaces include a hearth room, a breakfast room with a fireplace, a mudroom, two powder rooms and a butler’s pantry.

The future owner of the house will have even more opportunities to appreciate the home’s distinct, finely honed façade. CBI configured the upstairs living space to provide views of the home’s exterior, Marlowe says.

“By that I mean that you can look out the upstairs windows and see the copper gutters, the slate roofs and the transitional areas,” he says. “You actually get to appreciate the exterior architecture from inside the house.”

The second floor includes a master bedroom with his-and-hers-closets and bathrooms; two other bedrooms with full baths; and two bedrooms that share a “Jack-and-Jill” bath (a bathroom shared by two children’s rooms).

The basement is finished in an “English pub” motif, which includes a stone wall and tall windows that are below and above grade. Naturally, the quaint basement features a bar and a wine room, but it’s also equipped with modern conveniences such as an office, a media room, a full bath, a laundry and storage. The home also includes both a 2.5-car attached garage and a two-car detached garage.

The home is a far cry from the starter house that CBI’s principals built when they first went into business, using a credit card to purchase a vacant lot at a tax sale. Since that time, Jim Marlowe and sons, Brett and Todd, have worked their way up the ladder from starter homes to high-end residences in tony North Shore towns such as Lake Forest, Winnetka and Glencoe. The trio have concentrated on building period-specific homes “on spec,” that is, without buyers in place before construction starts.

They also build custom homes for clients, who sometimes have clear ideas about the type of home they want and sometimes have nothing more than a vague wish list.

During the last few years CBI has brought design and architectural expertise in-house, enabling the company to guide buyers toward cabinets, fixtures, tiles, flooring and other finishes that don’t conflict with the homes’ authenticity. This has been key for a builder that uses handmade brick and plaster and whatever other materials are needed to ensure the integrity of its designs.

CBI is best known for its North Shore homes, but the company recently opened an office in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, where it is building a house on the shores of Lake Michigan. The company also is active in Chicago and currently is building a multimillion-dollar home at 1709 N. Burling St. in Lincoln Park.

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