Season 24: Lake Forest, Illinois
This project premieres on PBS
February 13, 2003
For the first time ever, This Old House let viewers choose the project. A nationwide Dream Kitchen search culminated in an online vote, with the Smith family of Lake Forest, Illinois, garnering the most votes. The challenge: Find more space in an old, cramped kitchen so homeowners Mike and Heidi Smith and their 5-year-old triplets can cook and eat in comfort. Plans for the 1928 Tudor include installing new custom cabinets and appliances, relocating an ill-placed powder room, and turning an old greenhouse into a new eating area at the front of the house. To allow the family to live in the house during the renovation, Richard Trethewey helps sets up a temporary kitchen on the sun porch, while Norm and Steve discuss design options with project architect John Krasnodebski. To contain dust and debris during demolition, the kitchen is sealed off from the rest of the house.
The day begins in Lake Forest's historic Market Square. Built in 1916 by Chicago architect Howard Van Doren Shaw, the square is America's first drive-up shopping center. Back at the project house, demolition is already a distant memory as project manager Jim Eimerman shows Norm and Steve the plumbing and electrical rough-in, the new bath stripped and reframed, and the brickwork associated with moving windows underway. Steve and homeowner Heidi Smith visit a converted 1920's carriage house belonging to design/builder Kris Boyaris and her husband, architect John Krasnodebski. Steve and John discuss the challenges of squeezing a powder room into a former dead space along the hallway. Demolition has revealed several pipes wrapped in asbestos, so Norm catches up with an asbestos abatement team to see an alternative to removal: stabilization and containment.
The Lake Forest project is well underway, as Norm works in his temporary garage workshop making the bracketed posts to be used on the breakfast room's exterior. Steve meets up with project manager Jim Eimerman for an update: the dip in the floor has been addressed with a steel beam in the basement, the floor resheathed with plywood, new windows have arrived, a new concrete floor has been poured in the breakfast room, and the drywall is up. In a flashback, Norm sees polyurethane foam insulation blown into the walls. Steve and Heidi visit kitchen designer Eileen Thurnauer at a showroom not far from the airport, in Hinsdale, IL. Back on East Atteridge, Heidi puts some countertop materials through a stress test, and Norm, Jim, and Steve work to install the posts and beam on the front section of the breakfast room.
Steve and Norm arrive in Lake Forest to find local carpenters braving the cold, crafting custom cedar siding for the exterior of the kitchen addition. In the former greenhouse, Richard shows Steve how he saved the homeowners valuable real estate by putting radiant heat under the floors, and in the walls of the new eating area. Local historian Paul Bergmann shows Steve a shoreline mansion built in 1911 by one of Chicago's top architects, Benjamin Marshall. A reminder of a bygone era, it's for sale for $25 million. Project manager Jim Eimerman shows Norm the new steel beam in the basement, added to level out and support the kitchen floor above, and how the solution to this problem was the cause of another: the floor jacking caused substantial cracks in the plaster in other parts of the house.
With temperatures hovering near zero, Steve brings Tom Silva to Lake Forest for the first time. Before heading to the project house, they decide to check up on project manager Jim Eimerman at one of the other jobs that he is running. Architect John Krasnodebski shows Steve and Tom a few ways to minimize the transition from drywall to brick in the new eating area. Steve tells Tom about a visit he and Norm made to Chicago's Museum of Science & Industry to see planes, trains, and a captured German submarine from World War Two. In the Dream Kitchen, the new prefinished oak floor is installed as homeowner Heidi Smith and interior designer Suzanne Cederlund reveal the emerging plan for the kitchen design.
Steve visits the Charles Glore House in Lake Forest to see what it's like to live in a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Built in 1951, the Prairie style house's ongoing renovation is a labor of love for its current owner. Back at the project house, the cabinets have arrived in record time, and Norm recalls a recent visit to the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country to see them being constructed and finished. In the front hall, painting contractor Ben Evangelista begins repairing the cracks in the plaster caused by jacking the kitchen floor. As promised, it is a quick fix with tape, mud, and texturing. With only two weeks to go, project manager Jim Eimerman says he's already working weekends, but predicts he'll finish the job on time.
On the way to the Lake Forest job site, Steve visits a stone fabrication shop to see where our Dream Kitchen countertops (an Italian sandstone known as Pietra del Cardoso) came from. Jim Kapcheck, a fourth-generation countertop fabricator, shows Steve what's hot in countertops and how his shop combines automation with hand-craftsmanship. At the job site, with only six working days left to go, project manager Jim Eimerman gives Steve a rundown of his punchlist. The countertops go in, Steve lends a hand setting the cast iron farm sink, and Richard installs an elaborate faucet system containing a retractable sprayer head and an undercounter water filtration unit.
After only 12 short weeks, the Dream Kitchen is complete, and Heidi Smith and the triplets are already moved in and cooking up treats for the wrap party. Steve sees how a decorative painter treated the inside of the new kitchen cabinets and learns how a new control device will coordinate over 40 individual lights to create different lighting "scenes" for the kitchen. Acclaimed Chicago chef Rick Bayless arrives to take the new kitchen for a test drive and, to answer the question "How does a pro cook at home?", shows Steve the inviting, functional kitchen he created in his house on Chicago's North Side. Homeowner Mike Smith reveals that the job cost around $85,000 -- which doesn't include all the donated products. In the real world, such a transformation would have been $200,000 and taken much longer. As the wrap party begins, Steve and Norm commend all involved on a job well done and heartily agree that from location to contractors to homeowners this was a "dream" project indeed.