You Can Go Home Again
Architect Alex Gorlin adapted his own Florida house for a bachelor pad in Chicago
Lisa Skolnik -- Interior Design, 1/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
For his first meeting with architect Stanley Tigerman, Robert Pollack arrived toting images of a modernist-inspired house ripped from a 1996 issue of Interior Design. A real-estate tax consultant in Chicago, Pollack had bought a vacant lot in the West Side neighborhood of Bucktown, and he proposed building something similar there. "Stanley looked at the pictures and said, 'I could design a place like this for you,'" recalls Pollack. " 'But why don't I get you the guy who did it?"
The guy who'd designed the concrete, steel, and glass cube that captivated Pollack was Tigerman's close friend Alex Gorlin. In fact, it was Stairway to Heaven, Gorlin's own award-winning house in Seaside, Florida. With a double-height living area on the second floor and alternating outdoor and indoor staircases, the structure was an anomaly in traditionalist Seaside. Yet Gorlin had met all the development's strict building codes while fulfilling his own progressive goals.
Pollack was particularly eager to duplicate Gorlin's soaring second-floor public space—but with a daring modification. Above the kitchen in the center of the double-height volume, he proposed suspending a glass-enclosed master suite. This would permit the living and dining zones on either side to rise to their full 20 feet, and the bedroom and bath would enjoy street and garden views, respectively, through the front and rear glass curtain walls. Pollack even sketched out his concept to show exactly what he had in mind.
Gorlin was intrigued. "Robert clearly had a very consistent, sophisticated aesthetic," says the architect. "I especially liked the notion of the floating cube, because it would let us blur the boundaries between the bedroom and bathroom."
During the process of designing the 3,500-square-foot house, Alexander Gorlin Architects had to meet a host of other requirements, too. "I create and record music digitally at home, and I need to be able to play it loudly without disturbing my neighbors," Pollack explained. So Gorlin specified sound-dampening solid concrete block for the the house's sidewalls. In the event that the bachelor pad ever needed to become a family home, he 'divided the ground floor into two large "children's rooms," each with its own bath. (For now, they're an office and a gym.)
Gorlin's slab-style, above-grade design made use of the vacant lot's full width, which required a zoning-variance application before construction could begin. "Chicago is still living in the days of Al Capone," Gorlin says with a laugh. "It took forever." In fact, he was unable to break ground for two years. Construction was completed in another year.
It took only a few afternoons, however, for client and architect to handle the furnishings. "I grew up surrounded by 18th-century Americana," says Pollack, whose mother deals in painted furniture, primitive paintings, toleware, and textiles under the name Frank and Barbara Pollack, in Highland Park. "But I saw Sleeper when I was a kid, and I've wanted to live in an all-white, minimalist space ever since."
Gossamer white parachute material curtains the floor-to-ceiling windows of Pollack's living area and master suite, just like at Gorlin's house in Seaside. In front of the drapery in Pollack's bedroom stands a row of built-in clothes racks of brushed stainless steel. "That way, Robert can use his elegant suits for an extra degree of privacy. And it also plays into my private narrative for the project," says Gorlin—citing the way Richard Gere lays out his clothing in American Gigolo.