This Architect’s Home Is Full of Vivacious Colors and Midcentury Modern Details

When he decided to design his own house on a newly subdivided lot in Chicago’s West Andersonville neighborhood, architect Jean Dufresne put himself through the same process he does with his clients, reviewing and discarding hundreds of inspiration images, materials and fabric samples.

The result was a modern home with crisp lines and minimal details. The lively exterior is clad with salvaged cypress and recycled red aluminum.

jean dufrense exterior
Added during the pandemic, a perforated bench offers a spot for passersby to sit and chat with the owner, architect Jean Dufresne, as he sits on his swing by the front door. All photos by Mike Schwartz.

Unlike many of his clients, resale value was not a consideration. “This house doesn’t check a lot of boxes for a single-family home,” he says, “but I’m fine with that. I designed it for me and plan to live here for a long time.”

jean dufrense front
A mailbox from Etsy and house numbers from Rejuvenation complement the home’s exterior, which consists of cypress and recycled red aluminum. The black chairs are by GDF Studio. 

The 2-story abode has no basement, for example, a cost-cutting move that made sense to Dufresne because he’s a minimalist who doesn’t need extra storage. 

With no plans for children, the sculptural center stairway in between the foyer and living areas has only one metal railing, giving it a super-clean look.   

“This was an exercise in distilling down the essence of what I need in a house,” says Dufresne, who is a principal at the firm Space Architects and Planners.  

jean dufrense stairway
Designed for adults, the home’s sculptural floating stairway has only one simple metal handrail and no balusters.

Creating private outdoor areas was another top priority: The front facade encompasses the entire lot, concealing a pergola-shaded dining area from passersby. There’s also a fire pit between the house and garage, and a secluded second-floor patio off of the office. 

That said, Dufresne can often be found on the covered recessed porch’s old-timey swing, hoping neighbors stop for a chat. “That’s what makes a neighborhood,” he says.  

Painted in a blue hue that flows throughout the interior, the front door opens to an open, light-filled space with heated concrete flooring, white walls and custom built-in cabinetry. The cabinetry is also painted in a blue shade that echoes throughout the interior.  

“I wanted to have some fun with color,” Dufresne says.   

THE KITCHEN AND DINING AREA

jean dufrense kitchen
A rose-gold, ceramic backsplash by Virginia Tile beautifully complements the custom cabinetry and quartz countertops in the spacious open kitchen. The pendant is from Circa Lighting.

In the kitchen, blue cabinetry is accented by a recessed niche that houses the range. Inside that niche is a rose-gold, ceramic backsplash and supplemental walnut cupboards. 

jean dufrense breakfast area
A modern pendant by Rejuvenation illuminates a dining table by CB2 and cheerful yellow chairs by West Elm in the sun-drenched breakfast area.

Underneath a shapely black pendant, yellow metal-framed chairs with matching upholstered seats brighten up the open dining area.  

THE LIVING ROOM

jean dufrense living room
Bumping out the fireplace wall created niches for cabinetry and recessed shelves in the open living area, where a channel-tufted leather sofa and a contemporary rocking chair, both from CB2, surround an old trunk repurposed as a cocktail table.

Vibrant throw pillows likewise pop against the neutral furnishings in the open living room, which is furnished with a leather channel-tufted sofa and a contemporary rocking chair atop a patterned area rug.   

THE PRIMARY SUITE

jean dufrense primary bedroom
Dufresne’s schnoodle, Higgins, feels right at home in the primary bedroom, where artwork, color and pattern energize the white walls. The rug is from Rejuvenation, and the bed is from Room and Board.

The formula also defines the second-floor primary suite, its white walls punctuated by punches of color: a rug, ceramic table lamps, pillows and artwork.   

jean dufrense hallway
Built-ins in the upstairs corridor provide storage. Though, the minimalist  homeowner says most of the drawers and cabinets remain empty. 

In the corner, a drum-like metal pendant softly illuminates a midcentury chair, its blue upholstery juxtaposed by a bright yellow pillow.   

jean dufrense primary bathroom
Warm wood cabinetry complements both the floor tile and the wall tile, by TileBar, in the primary bathroom. The sconces are from Circa Lighting.

Blue also defines the primary bathroom, which has complementary blue floor and shower tiles.  

THE LOWER-LEVEL BATHROOM

jean dufrense bathroom
Disguised as a powder room, the lower level’s bathroom sports painted black walls and three-dimensional matte black shower tile from The Tile Shop. The cabinetry, countertop, sink and hardware all coordinate with the dark scheme.

The other bathrooms are distinguished by their lack of color. The lower-level bedroom’s ensuite bathroom is rendered almost entirely black. Since it also serves as the first-floor powder room, “I disguised it as one,” Dufresne says.   

Built in seven months and completed early last year, Dufresne is overjoyed by how well the house lives. The light changes throughout the day just as he imagined it would when he designed the window fenestrations. When he hosted his first big soiree on a warm autumn afternoon, guests moved easily back and forth between the outdoor areas and the great room.   

And people have stopped by to chat with Dufresne when he’s relaxing on the covered front porch, often sharing their unsolicited feedback.   

“Some people love it, and others have said it stands out like a sore thumb,” he recalls with a laugh. He doesn’t care too much what other people think: “I totally adore my house.”


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Tate Gunnerson

Tate Gunnerson is a Chicago-based freelance journalist with an equal appreciation for natural beauty and good design.