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Located in a north Chicago neighborhood, the Ardmore House sits on a rather difficult site: a long, slender property that is bordered on two sides by alleys. “Our real-estate agent highly advised against us buying this land,” says architect Alison Von Glinow, who designed and developed the house with her husband, Lap Chi Kwong.

Ardmore House.

The entrance opens onto a curved “interior courtyard”, a corridor in effect that runs past the bedrooms. The main living space (top) is elevated, on the second level, where it receives ample daylight. Photo © James Florio, click to enlarge.

But the property was affordable, and it provided a rousing challenge for the founders of Kwong Von Glinow, a young firm known for “smuggling” architecture into unexpected settings. For this project, the couple created a 3,100-square-foot wood-framed, gabled-roof dwelling that adjusts to its urban context in imaginative ways.

Most notably, the traditional floor plan has been flipped upside down. On the ground level, which typically holds the public zone, you find a trio of bedrooms. The sleeping areas are arrayed along a gently curving double-height corridor that runs alongside one alley. Wide and bright, and punctuated with niches, this circulation area was envisioned as an interior courtyard—a space where kids could play or an adult could snuggle up with a book.

Ardmore House.

Gray accoya wood clads the exterior. Photo © James Florio

A central stair leads to a flexible basement, which could serve as an in-law suite, and to the home’s upper level, which is turned into a delightful common space that feels both airy and cozy. While open in plan, specific areas are delineated by a series of exposed wood trusses. Bands of windows, one stretching 56 feet, usher in daylight while also offering views of the urban terrain—telephone wires and all.

Although the architects plan to sell the house in a more propitious time, they and their family are currently living and working there. “The amount of light is so uplifting,” says Von Glinow. “It’s a very peaceful place to be.”

Click plans to enlarge

Ardmore House.