How one family built a new home in old Curtis Park
By Cathryn Rakich
The family of six was “busting at the seams.” Living in a small house in Oak Park, Micah and Emily Baginski and their four children needed a bigger place to call home.
But there was a catch. The couple wanted to build a new home in the established neighborhood of Curtis Park, where vacant lots are few and far between. After a year of searching, the opportunity finally presented itself.
A home on a two-parcel lot came on the market. “The family that owned the house used the extra lot as their side yard,” says Micah, part owner and agent for Grounded Real Estate based in Oak Park.
Grounded purchased the house with its two parcels—and the Baginskis bought the extra lot from the agency. “This was an opportunity to have a brand-new house in an old neighborhood,” Micah says.
The architecture for the 2,583-square-foot two-story home came from the Bungalow Company in Bend, Ore., which provides plans for craftsman-style homes. “They are specifically designed to fit on small lots,” Micah notes.
In addition to the four-bedroom, three-and-a-half bath main residence, there is a separate 357-square-foot in-law cottage in the back.
As a general contractor, Micah oversaw the project. “But my wife really ran the job,” he says of Emily, a teacher who home schools their four children. “She was here when I couldn’t be.”
Micah got the inspiration to create a modern farmhouse-style home from Joanna Gaines, star of the popular HGTV series “Fixer Upper.” “There are elements of an old turn-of-the-century farmhouse,” he says, such a shiplap siding. “But it’s also a craftsman-style home—so it’s a mish-mash.”
The finishes and color schemes are “part of the farmhouse vibe,” Micah adds. The fireplace is almost an exact replica of one he saw on Pinterest. “I’m a builder so I know how to translate that image into an actual piece of construction.”
Micah designed the fireplace mantel using a 4-by-6 plank of reclaimed redwood he salvaged from a home in Fair Oaks. “I can piece it together in my head and tell someone else to build it who has better skills than I do.”
One striking feature is the solid hickory flooring throughout the ground level. The couple got a “phenomenal deal on ends and pieces” of staggered lengths, Emily says, with beautiful color variations.
The couple also chose bright white for the walls, built-ins, moldings, window and door frames, and kitchen cabinets. The décor is minimalist for “less visual clutter,” Micah says. “It was refreshing and mentally clarifying to move in here.”
The kitchen island features a galvanized steel top that mimics an antique farmhouse workbench, which resides in the living room. “A good designer will tell you to pick one thing as the inspiration for your house—this was it for me,” Micah explains.
The kitchen’s white marble countertop and tile backsplash are repeated in the bathrooms. Shower stalls have white subway tiles. California hickory was used for the half-bath vanity and staircase. The mudroom floor sports slate tiles in a herringbone pattern.
The house has two master bedrooms—one downstairs and one upstairs. The master bathrooms have shiplap walls, custom beechwood cabinets and angular freestanding tubs.
Because of Micah’s background in real estate, the couple was fortunate to have several subcontractors they could trust. “Our subs had been working with Micah for years,” Emily says. “They were very sweet and accommodating. Some would come on weekends to finish things out.”
Local master carpenter Yuriy Maksimchuk built the staircase, floating vanity in the half bath and sliding countertop drawer in the kitchen to hide small appliances. Ivan Lezin created the built-in cabinets in the library off the dining room and a banquet table with benches in the kitchen where the family gathers for meals. Local welder Ben Skelton fashioned the staircase bannister.
Does Micah have tips for people planning to build or renovate a home? “Start with a good plan, otherwise your budget will be blown and it will take six months longer than you thought.”
The March “Home Insight” erroneously identified John Packowski as an architect. Packowski is a building designer and not licensed in California as an architect.
To recommend a house or garden for Home Insight, contact Cathryn Rakich at firstname.lastname@example.org.