art and science intertwined

art and science intertwined

A residence designed for a couple with varied interests. This home is a modern stand-out in a neighborhood of traditional style bordering a small, private lake. Conceived to support their eclectic interests and informal gatherings. Some evenings, there is a brass quintet rehearsing, while others there is a quiet dinner party. The couple’s intellectual thirsts are supported by a personal office, a private study, and a library, containing forty-thousand volumes. A small potting room integrated and hidden within the core of the home satisfies container gardening pursuits.

Carefully positioned for the natural views and sloping topography, the home gracefully blends the indoors and out. Custom glass walls blur this line as well. The couple’s passion for Japanese style leads to the application of a Genkahn or lowered entry-level. This signals the transition between inside and out. The hard floor surface is where guests are invited to remove their shoes and ascend a single, graceful step into the home. Accessibility is a growing concern. So, to resolve this conflict of steps, we created visually contrasting ramps or bridges to make the transitions.

Japanese influenced design elements are a strong theme. Details like a Genkan, a lowered entry area, identify transitions to the exterior. “Art and Science Intertwined” has a clean and uncluttered living experience. Distinctive and durable surfaces ensure longevity. Design team of Ross Architecture and Mark Eric Benner – Architects collaborated in the home’s creation. This home was designed for a private client in Burr Ridge, Illinois.

home features

  • Sustainable reclaimed brick
  • Poplar bark siding
  • Roof mounted solar PV array & solar heat
  • Oversize sliding glass doors
  • Custom casework throughout
  • Elevator
  • Integrated exterior patio and landscape
  • Exterior lighting

First Floor

  • Foyer
  • Kitchen
  • Dining Room
  • Music Room
  • Office
  • Study
  • Family Workshop
  • Garden & Potting Room
  • Powder Room 1
  • Powder Room 2
  • 3 Car Garage

Second Floor

  • Master Bedroom
  • Master Bathroom
  • Master Closet
  • Bedroom Suite 2
  • Bedroom Suite 3
  • Reading Library
  • Laundry


  • Book Storage (10,000 volumes)
  • Craft Room
  • Recreation Area
  • Mechanical Room
  • Bathroom


Sustainability is of paramount importance for our homeowner. We employed a broad range of materials, techniques, and systems in response. These contribute to the comfort and efficiencies that our client desires. We begin with conservation in an effort to minimize the energy demand. Meanwhile, it is important to maintain comfort and light levels. Spray foam insulation provides a high-value air-sealed barrier and high insulation values. As a result, we ensure comfort and efficiency. LED light fixtures use a fraction of the energy that traditional bulbs consume. They are even more efficient than compact fluorescents. The addition of a lighting control system enables scenes. Conservation is achieved through occupancy sensors.

active solar

One of the exciting features that many think of when considering sustainability is active renewable energy. As always, the first thing is to consider conservation to minimize energy demand. We then turn attention to active systems. We embraced both solar heat and electricity (photo-voltaics or PV) systems. Shading of the modules is a concern with the woodland site conditions. Shading from the architectural forms were also a source of concern.

testing the concept

To understand shading conditions an animation was prepared. Peak solar radiation hours were considered. The animation was then used to visualize the shading on the module layout. We made adjustments to the layout with the lessons learned from the animation. This resulted in an optimized layout. Micro-inverters installed on each module further reduce loss due to shading. These efforts combine to achieve maximized performance for the entire array.


Many contemporary homes are an exercise in a strict purity of form. ‘Art and Science Intertwined’ enjoys rich textures, colors and patterns. This home could certainly have stood alone on its form. Texture and contrast further enhance the appearance. Natural materials provide an expression of warmth and refined character. When blended with clean lines and other more contemporary materials we find another layer of contrast. Some of the more unique materials include:


These materials require a level of advanced planning due to their unique character. Few can be found “off the shelf.” We visited a number of Chicago reclaimed brick yards seeking a very particular and apparently popular variety of brick. It took some time to locate the “right bricks” to be harvested.

The poplar bark siding is produced in limited runs and is also harvested only seasonally. Therefore advanced planning was key. Consequently the order was placed a full year in advance.

Arcadia windows are custom built after the openings were framed. This ensures a custom fit. They also require significant lead time for production. These sliding glass walls are one of the strongest design influences.

Custom casework is featured in nearly every room. In the Kitchen there are cabinets with glass doors and backs so they could be mounted over windows. Bookcases were integrated with barn-doors to adjacent rooms. This highly integrated design required a sophisticated millwork contractor.

Virtual Reality Architecture

Every project enjoys the benefits of Virtual Reality Architecture experience. This 3D presentation enables my clients and the rest of the design team to gain understanding and share their insights. This results in a project without unpleasant surprises and helps to ensure that projects are completed on-time and on-budget.

This BIMx presentation (Graphisoft) is downloaded to a smart device for the best experience, but it may also be viewed directly on a website.

Click below to give BIMx a try with a sample project.