Windows on the world: Champaign house brings outdoors in

Homes: Windows on the world: Champaign house brings outdoors in

Windows on the world: Champaign house brings outdoors in

It’s the time of year in central Illinois when people can actually spend time outdoors.

Story: Christine Walsh

Photos: Rick Danzl

It’s the time of year in central Illinois when people can actually spend time outdoors. Backyards, patios, pools and other outside amenities become go-to places when the weather cooperates. But why not take it a step farther? Why not bring the outside in? Scott and Donna Anderson’s house near Champaign’s Lincolnshire Fields Country Club does just that, utilizing glass walls that marry indoors and outdoors.

Local architect Gene “G.T.” Hardwick designed the home, which was built in 1974. When the original owners’ family grew, Hardwick designed another home for them near the Champaign Country Club, and the Andersons bought the home in 1984. The Andersons lived there for about four years before moving to North Carolina. They ended up moving back to Champaign to be closer to Scott’s aging parents and high-school-aged daughter and waited until 2001 to be able to buy back the home, making them both the second and fifth owners. “When we moved back, a lot of the furniture knew where to go,” Donna said.

One of the home’s previous owners was a couple who were freelance photographers for National Geographic and who kept lizards. As an homage to them, the Andersons have a lizard sculpture by Sarasota, Fla., artist Scott Causey decorating a wall between the living room and dining room. “We love his work,” Scott said. On a table underneath it are acrylic sculptures by Yugoslavian-born artist Vasa Velizar Mihich.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s influence on Hardwick is evident in the way he blended nature with the interior, as in the living room where rocks and vegetation are on both sides of the large sliding glass doors and windows. In the living room is a palm tree that the Andersons have had since they moved back in. The nature theme even carries over into a half-bathroom, where a rock supports the vanity. Lots of light comes in through skylights above the living room and the circular staircase.

The Andersons were on the verge of getting engaged when Scott, who had fallen in love with the home at a party he attended there, first showed it to Donna. “I said, ‘Do you think you could live in a house like this?’” Scott recalled. “When they decided to sell, they called us, and we made the decision to buy the house together. I just think aesthetically we are really in tune with this house. Everywhere we look, there’s something we really like.”

The home has a number of unusual architectural features. “Most people don’t have a bubble window on the side of the house,” Scott said.

“It’s just a different house – not standard at all,” Donna said.

The Andersons have to have their windows professionally cleaned three times each year. “When you have walls and walls of windows, you don’t want the glass to be dirty,” Donna said.

Aside from the Maynard Lake subdivision southwest of the corner of Kirby Avenue and Duncan Road, the Andersons’ home was the first in Champaign to have a lake view. “The number one thing we like is the view of the lake,” Donna, a travel agent originally from the Chicago area, said.

Hardwick designed the house with many angled walls, giving impressive views from virtually any point in the home while affording the occupants privacy from neighbors. “People who have to work on it hate it because nothing is square,” Donna said. “It’s a wonderful party house because of how it flows. No matter where you’re sitting, you have a wonderful view, but it still feels very private.”

Every few years, the Andersons host a Christmas party. Their wide kitchen counters are ideal for serving buffet-style. “It works great,” Scott said. “I like throwing dinner parties.”

Concealed behind a door in the dining room is a large closet full of dinnerware and glassware on magenta-colored shelves with rope lights along the edges. Just outside of the sliding glass doors is a small pond that had been out of use when the Andersons repurchased the home and that they restored.

The architecture includes some built-in glass shelves on the back of the fireplace wall on one side and a small fireplace on the other side. There’s also a small fireplace built into the wall in the master bedroom.

The windows on the house’s sides are very narrow and have blinds on them, letting in natural light but giving additional privacy. “We like the house because of the architecture,” Scott said.

The large white walls also provide the opportunity for the Andersons to display their art collection. “We want the interest to be the art,” Scott, an attorney from Champaign, said.

Scott describes their decorating style as “mostly classic modern” with furniture like a ribbon chair and non-stop couch. “We use a lot of glass and steel,” he said.

“It’s a good house for a couple – it’s not a little children’s house,” Donna said. Scott agreed, noting that they have decorated with a lot of sharp-edged furniture. “We have some softness,” Donna said. “You don’t want to live in a place that’s totally stark and cold.”

Most of the home is decorated in aqua and blue tones. The family room, however, is decorated in black, yellow and red – the same colors as the giant stuffed Mickey Mouse who plays the piano in the adjacent living room. “This room (the living room) is very formal feeling, so having Mickey there takes the edge off,” Scott explained. “We’re Disney people,” Donna added.

The focal point of the living room is a massive fireplace in a 20-foot long rock wall that extends all the way from the crawlspace to the roof. “Santa can clearly get down,” Scott quipped.

In the center of the home is a circular staircase that has a lot of visual appeal but makes moving furniture a challenge. Almost every piece of furniture and new carpeting on the second floor had to come up over a balcony and go in through a window. To get a washer and dryer upstairs, a special scaffold had to be built. “It’s a real adventure getting stuff up and down,” Donna said.

Donna noted that while the house may not have as much of an open concept floor plan or be as large as some homes being built now, “It gives you a feeling of space and air.”

“We have it pretty minimalistic in decoration,” Scott said. “We don’t have a lot of books laying around on coffee tables. Most people wouldn’t see themselves living here but think it’s a wonderful place to have been.”

“This is a house that everybody likes but a lot of people couldn’t live in,” Donna said. “Men really like this house.”

In 2006, a house fire destroyed the attic and back of the garage. The Andersons decided that as long as they were rebuilding, they would make each of the bedrooms a bit deeper, essentially extending the back of the house and making it now about 3,300 square feet.

The Andersons have renovated various parts of the home. They replaced Corian countertops with white quartz in the kitchen.

Behind the house is a lake where the neighborhood residents enjoy swimming, fishing and boating. “It’s sort of like a vacation house in the city,” Donna said. “I sit in bed and just look out the windows. We do most of our living in our bedroom. Watching the water is just the best.”

“The family room is really good for that too,” Scott added. “You can sit in the Corona chair in the living room and look out at the lake. I really like the view from the living room.”

Scott likes how the lake view varies with the seasons. “It’s always changing,” he said.

The Andersons expanded an existing small patio, added a walkway and a deck in front of a gazebo they refer to as a boathouse. On the side hangs a nautical life preserver decoration that humorously proclaims it the “Lake Lincolnshire Yacht Club.” All three bathrooms are newly remodeled. “We’re still trying to stay true to the architecture,” Donna said.

In fact, any time the Andersons have considered making changes to the house, they have consulted with Hardwick. “So that’s helpful with keeping what we do in line with the original concept of the house,” Scott said.

Although the master bedroom originally had a large opening on the side facing the living room, the first owners added glass to reduce noise.

The house protects them from any southwest winds when they’re spending time outside, Scott said. “We sit out here and have lunch all the time,” Donna said. “On the weekend, we sit down there a lot, and the trees and structure give us shade in the morning hours. I like it when people are in the paddleboats or fishing. It’s a very resort feeling here.”

For the Andersons, it really is all about the view both inside and out.