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Elisa Schmitz’s historic Glencoe home doesn’t exactly say “tech entrepreneur.” In fact, the lakefront property, built in 1924 and designated a Glencoe landmark home, says more “romantic European estate.”
Despite appearances, this is where Schmitz runs a successful digital media platform for busy moms.
“I do most of the work from the living room,” Schmitz says. “I’ve got a few paper things and a laptop and cell phone, so I’m basically working from wherever I am. I can look out at the lake and when it’s nice outside, go sit and work from the deck.”
She was in the midst of relaunching her site, 30Seconds Mom, a mobile-first parenting site with “snackable” tips and info, as she was effectively relaunching her historic Tudor-style home.
“My life and my business is very much intertwined,” she says. “We were all about making the home comfortable and my family was driving that and the business consideration just folded in.”
Schmitz and her husband spent six months renovating and remodeling the home — hardly unique among home buyers in the area, but what is unique is how careful the couple was to preserve the home. In Glencoe, and many parts of the North Shore, standard operating procedure for many homeowners these days is to purchase an old home, tear it down or gut it and then build a new, modern home, and that might be what you’d expect from someone who builds media companies. But Schmitz and her family loved the classic old-world feeling of the home and didn’t want to go that route.
“When we first saw it, it was like stepping back in time,” Schmitz says. “The sellers were such a sweet couple, but they hadn’t touched the place in a long time. It was kind of cool actually. There were a lot of vintage features that we actually really liked.”
There were also a lot of vintage features they didn’t like. It’s not hard to see why so many people tear apart 100-year-old homes: They need a lot of work, even if they have been well-maintained. Besides the aesthetic changes of installing all new kitchen appliances, ditching aging wallpaper and modernizing bathrooms, Schmitz’s home needed all new electric and plumbing — and some asbestos removed.
Not glamorous, but necessary.
They did very little to the exterior, wanting to preserve it as much as possible. The only addition was a practical one: Stairs in the back, snaking down the tall cliffside to the beach, so the family could access the water.
Instead they focused on the interior, cleaning up almost every room, but particularly focusing on the basement, kitchen and master bedroom and bathroom.
The basement was a standard basement, dark and dingy and, naturally, stuffed with asbestos. When that was gone, Schmitz converted the space into an entertainment den, with a giant media area and new bedroom and bathroom — a place for the kids.
“You go in there now and it’s a whole new floor of living space,” she says.
The kitchen hadn’t been updated in decades, Schmitz says, so it was in dire need of a facelift. Even so, she didn’t want to plunk down modern-looking appliances, so you won’t find any stainless steel here.
“We thought it would be a little jarring to walk into this old-looking house and see shiny granite and stainless steel everywhere,” she says.
She instead opted for a marble island table, vintage-styled stove with stone backsplash and a wood-paneled refrigerator.
“The ice machine is your only clue that there’s a fridge there, otherwise you’d think it was a wood-paneled wall. It’s very sort of invisible and the stove looks kind of old, even though it’s a brand new, state-of-the-art appliance,” she says.
The family room, which faces the lake, was reconfigured. She took down a fake ceiling and readjusted the flow of furniture, which used to point at a TV console, so that it faced the lake and the room’s fireplace.
The living room is lovingly dubbed the knight’s pub, after the room’s longtime resident, the knight. The previous owners had brought the full suit of armor over from Europe and left it behind when they moved.
“It’s the one thing we wanted the owners to leave behind,” Schmitz says. “And if you look closely, you can see a knight as a detail on the fireplace itself.”
The master suite was a big project. They converted the old bathroom into a laundry room and a former study into the master bathroom.
“Now the master suite is like a self-contained little universe,” she says.
Schmitz says she looked for a place to have a home office, but constantly repurposed any candidate rooms in more family-friendly ways, and now she’s satisfied with her decision to go without one, which lets her work from anywhere.
“It was such a treat to see the house transform,” Schmitz says. “We knew it was this gem in the rough. We polished up and brought back to its original grandeur — in six months.”
The deadline was a big deal: Schmitz and her husband were married on the property shortly after it was finished, joining together their families in a place that so deftly joined together vintage and modern to create something new.
“We brought this old world home into the here and now,” she says.
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