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Talk of the Town - Something old, something new December 07 2005

Grant Park home brings vintage architecture to the modern world

Mike and Caroline Dufano are a couple who pay attention to details. Their Victorian home, created from unearthed 1890 design plans from architect George F. Barber, is a highlight on this year's Grant Park Candlelight Tour of Homes. In preparation for its first public viewing, the home has been decorated with five Christmas trees, white poinsettia laurels and, of course, candles.

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And while its holiday decorations are beautiful, the home has been included on the tour because of the Dufano's dedication to creating a space that is both livable and authentically Victorian. The home they've built together after nearly five years of careful research and planning includes a facade from an original Barber design and a paint scheme from color specialist Bob Buckner, antique and reproduction Victorian furniture, hand-printed wallpaper that the couple helped design, a fully functional clawfoot bathtub from 1905 and room for the couple's four cats to roam.

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When and where did you begin cultivating ideas for the home?

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Mike: When Caroline and I were first dating I bought her a book on Victorian homes called America's Painted Ladies by Elizabeth Pomada. We both thought they were really interesting, and Caroline loved the homes with round towers. We set out to design our own. During our research we came across a book called Cottage Souvenir No. 2. Through this book we became interested in the designs of George F. Barber, which led us to a floor plan that would work really well with our lot, which is long and narrow.

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What changes did you make to the original floor plan?

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Mike: The only significant changes we've made are including more bathrooms and opening the space in the witch's hat at the top of the tower. The original floor plan called for only one bathroom, any more by 1890 standards would have been a luxury. We opened up the space in the witch's hat to create a really beautiful and more dramatic space.

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Many aspects of the home were designed and created personally. What were some of the things you created yourselves?

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Mike: I have a workshop in the basement where we work on many of our projects. Many of the wooden cutouts for the banister and the front porch were made there. We also designed and created many of the light fixtures in the house. The designs on the gasolier in the foyer were created to match with the wallpaper. It is designed to run on electricity as well as gas, which is what a Victorian home would have had. As an electrical engineer, the wiring was the easy part, but I took a class to properly design and create the other parts. Caroline hand painted and primed the 4,000 shingles on the outside of the home.

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Caroline: I had to paint both the front and back to reduce any wear and tear, but it was actually easier to do both sides.

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What future projects do you have planned for the home?

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Mike: Our most recent project was the wrought iron fence around the property and the moongate on the porch. We eventually plan to finish sections of the porch that have not been completed. We hope to create a coffered ceiling in the library and eventually a tin ceiling in the kitchen.

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The art in the home is very interesting. Have you collected it over the years?

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Caroline: The cross-stitchings were created by my mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Around the house I've included old photographs of family members. We also had portraits created of ourselves in Victorian style.

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Mike: The Victorian style clothes were invented by the artist, I was actually wearing a T-shirt when it was painted.

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cityhomes@creativeloafing.com



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