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House Tour: Custom Contemporary Oasis in Chicago

Chicago will be perpetually known as the city of the skyscraper. High-rise living is the rule, not the exception for most city dwellers — so when a single-family detached residence just minutes from downtown hits the market, it is considered the rarest of finds. A recently listed custom-built contemporary stunner resting on the edge of Chicago’s River West neighborhood falls under this category. Listing agent Chaz Walters of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Lincoln Park calls the singular property “a private oasis in the city.” Between its monumental size — 10,000 square feet — and the privacy it affords with its enclosed compound-like structure, the residence could be an ideal getaway for a celebrity, professional sports figure or high profile individual who wants the luxury of anonymity as opposed to unexpected run-ins with neighbors or the heavy gaze of a doorman. It is exactly the way the home’s owner and builder, Paul Berlin, envisioned it.


“Even the nicest buildings in Chicago are not comparable to this house,” he says. “You can pull right into the three-car garage, and have total privacy.”

Berlin, a successful life insurance executive with a passion for art and architecture, spent two and a half years building the massive five-bedroom home. He wanted to create a functional, family home that could also accommodate large-scale entertaining. “I designed it so the kids’ bedrooms are on one side of the house and the master bedroom is on the other side of the house,” says Berlin. “A lot of thought and energy went into every detail.” Adds Walters: “The design is extremely well planned. It has a very airy, hotel-like feeling to it. With over 30-foot ceilings in the main living areas, it feels very grand — like you’ve just walked into a phenomenal boutique hotel.”


Berlin oversaw every other aspect of the design. Part of his challenge was balancing his desire to create a sophisticated contemporary space with his love for a historic city that draws its character from weathered, industrial buildings. He eventually settled on a unique juxtaposition between modern-meets-art-deco interiors and an exterior of richly oxidized Cor-Ten steel touched with limestone. “Once you are inside, you don’t know if you’re in Chicago, Florida or California,” says Berlin. “But the Cor-Ten steel is all Chicago.”

Even the most discriminating visitors are awed when they walk into the residence for the first time. Soaring ceilings in the main living area give way to abundant natural light. The living area encompasses a sunken living room with floor-to-ceiling windows, radiant heated limestone floors, a fireplace and a Macassar ebony wood bar with seating. Berlin enlisted Archisesto to design the main and secondary prep kitchens with beautiful sleek cabinetry, a dramatic red island with seating, Miele appliances and a custom-crafted breakfast nook. Above the living room, a lofted open seating area — part of the master bedroom — offers a bird’s eye view of the activity below. The master ensuite itself is a haven with grand double doors to the lofted area, a luxurious spa-like master bathroom with freestanding tub and steam shower, double walk-in closets and a private terrace overlooking the courtyard and pool area.


Nestled into the courtyard, the heated pool provides another “wow” moment for most guests. “When you sit in the backyard by the pool, you have no idea you are two minutes from downtown Chicago,” he says. Adds Walters: “This is a very unique feature for Chicago.”

In the winter months, visitors can treat themselves to a movie in the private screening room or chip away at some golf balls in the lower level driving range. (There’s a putting green too.) “He really thought of everything,” concludes Walters. “Now one lucky buyer is going to have an opportunity to enjoy the oasis that Mr. Berlin so carefully and meticulously created in a city he loves.”

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House Tour: Custom Contemporary Oasis in Chicago

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