Colleague spotlight: Casagrande Architects

I am so fortunate to know many incredible vendors in the real estate space, especially interior designers and architects. So today we are starting a fun new series on the site, highlighting my talented friends and their businesses. Today I am pleased to introduce you to Philip Casagrande of Casagrande Architects!

Please share a little about your design philosophy.
Architectural design must respect that there are practicalities to creating great buildings, like  client needs, building codes, zoning regulations, budgets, the laws of gravity, and too many other factors to mention everything in one sentence.  Balancing those facts, we endeavor to design great looking buildings that one can live in and flow through with a sense of ease and pleasure. Before that can happen, the process of designing must be worked through.  If the process is enjoyable, it will be reflected in the end result!  We don’t do cookie-cutter design, since the circumstances surrounding the practical aspects are never the same on any two projects.

Can you share a few photos from a recent favorite project?
The interior photo is a loft-style open plan from a 3-flat conversion to single family (shot as a panorama) – note that the separate formal living and dining room have been eliminated – read more about this exciting trend below.  The façade is a rendering of a new single family house, which is in the Mid-North Landmark neighborhood of Lincoln Park; I’m really excited about this project, and it will be the only new house on the block!

What are your favorite of-the-moment trends?
We have noticed lately people are willing to give up formal living and dining rooms in favor of more informal spaces within which to live.  We’ve worked on a few houses where the main living space is wide open without any separate formal living space at all.  When I take people in to see them, their eyes light up!  I also love the freestanding bathtubs that have become the focal point in master bathrooms.

What are your predictions for the next big trends we’ll see?
Heightened interest in constructing high performance homes will definitely accelerate. With the current administration’s lack of concern with pursuing renewable energy resources as well as a backward approach to keeping our air and water clean, I’m hopeful the trend will be to make up for this by incorporating solar and geothermal heating and cooling systems. 

Battery technology will need to improve to make solar more practical (fortunately Elon Musk’s Tesla is advancing rapidly on it) and charging stations for plug in cars are becoming a standard feature in our garages.  LED lighting is a big energy saver, and I predict these bulbs will become more sophisticated with better dimming and color rendition in the future.  In terms of architectural design, we will see more clean lines and very simple sophistication reminiscent of Art Deco, though even more toned down, what I might call “classique”.

What are your go-to classic design favorites?
For house exteriors, I love to look at historic American house styles that were adapted from our European roots. I also love the French styles in particular (French Second Empire, Norman, Châteauesque), as well as Italian styles (Italianate, Renaissance Revival), and English (Cotswold Cottage, Norman). 

And we love Art Deco, though there are very few historical house examples. We don’t like to copy any of these styles, and instead choose to draw on them for inspiration, then adapt and simplify them and incorporate elements of the past in new ways.  This is important because people want to feel connected to something stable and solid, so it conveys a sense of peace and continuity. At the same time people are interested in being part of the progress in a world which is constantly evolving and changing, and hopefully improving.

What are you favorite local shops for appliances and decor?
We regularly send our clients to shop for appliances at ABT, plumbing at Studio 41, who acquired our old favorite Clark & Barlow for hardware, and Materials Marketing has been our stand-by tile supplier (and design contributor) for many years.  The German Kitchen Center on Halsted is a newcomer that has a great showroom!  

Do you have any tricks for making rooms look bigger/more open?
Yes, there are ways to create a sense of width or length using optical illusions.  For example placing beams on a ceiling side-to-side, will make the space look wider.  Another trick is counter-intuitive: I like to design framed openings or divisions between spaces – the foreground creates a background which then visually recedes, and makes it appear like the room is more spacious.

What is your favorite Chicago neighborhood, and why?
There are so many under-appreciated neighborhoods in Chicago.  The easy answer is Lincoln Park because it has been really good to me, as have Lakeview and Graceland West, and then there’s Lincoln Square, Bucktown and Wicker Park, as well.  I’ve been to so many areas in the city working on buildings and looking at actual and possible projects: Pilsen, Bridgeport, Hyde Park, South Shore, Old Irving, Edgewater, Andersonville (I live in West Andersonville), Bowmanville, Rodgers Park, and even Englewood.  The potential of this city is phenomenal, and I’ve always cheered for the underdog, so rather than declare a favorite, can I just say I’d like to see the marginalized areas of the city revitalized, while somehow remaining affordable for its citizens--that part is a really important and difficult challenge!

What types of services do you offer?
We work mostly on residential projects of various sizes (whether single family or multi-unit) and small commercial projects, and have done new construction as well as renovations, many with additions. 

We offer complete architectural design services for exterior and interior construction, which includes structural, plumbing, electrical, and mechanical design work.  We also like to work on detailed architectural design of interiors, millwork drawings, stairs and railings, as well as exteriors, especially limestone and brick facades (front, back, and garage), ornamental iron fences and landscaping components. 

For projects which require Zoning Changes or Variations, we are very experienced with how to handle those kinds of tricky situations.  We also have offer complete construction management services (similar to general contracting), where we handle every aspect of a project, starting with design and seeing it through in construction on a daily basis until completion and occupancy. We find that this method of design-build leads to the best results, especially for our homeowner clients.