Screened Porch Steps Up to All-Weather Wow

When Rob bought his Wilmette home, he was already envisioning the “after” images in his mind. “When I saw the screened porch, I thought, ‘This room is so great, it should be an all-year space—and it needs a fireplace,'” recalls Rob. He’d also already pinpointed a few other upgrades, including an updated bathroom, and building out a new fitness room and office in the basement.

“Even my dear friend, who is a designer, thought I should live in it for a while. She thought that I’d eventually love the screened porch,” he adds. “She thought the room might be too small for a fireplace, and that the 200-square foot area might not justify the work.” But he never really got attached to the “before” version of the house. Instead, a plan to build up from the existing stone wall was developed.

The process wasn’t always straightforward. The 2.5-foot wall wasn’t insulated, so a variety of solutions were explored. “The village suggested we cut out the center of the stone and insert insulation, but we eventually found other ways to bring the R-value up,” explains Rob. A lower ceiling, carefully chosen windows and radiant heat under the bluestone floors offset any challenges with the low stone wall.

Less seen by visitors to the home but just important to the family, are changes to the basement. One fun touch is a door concealed by a bookshelf in the office. “I worked with Pickell on a house about 10 years ago,” says Rob, “And Orren came in while we were trying to solve a tough design challenge and said, ‘Have you thought about this?’ and sketched out a solution on a napkin. The same thing happened with this—he stopped by and said, ‘You know what would be cool?'”

Now that the work is complete, the sun room has become his kids’ favorite place to sit and study. Because the original exterior doors are still in place, the room can be sealed off or opened up into the family room. It’s also a popular spot when entertaining, “It’s not quite the draw of a kitchen, but when I put the bar out there, it’s close,” notes Rob. Even the designer friend has had to concede that it was a good call.