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Some of the wealthiest suburbs in the nation are in Chicago’s exclusive North Shore communities. There are five cities in the Prairie State that are in the top 5 percent of the average US household income. With so much wealth, the exclusive neighborhoods and communities along Lake Michigan and throughout Chicagoland feature some truly amazing homes. Places such as Lake Forest, Glencoe, Winnetka, and Highland Park are known for their gorgeous mansions and estates. And the posh urban neighborhoods in Chicago — celebrated addresses such as Lincoln Park and the Gold Coast — also feature multimillion-dollar, architecturally distinct residences.
This is a list of the custom home builders in Illinois with the elite skills and vast experience to build such world-class homes. These 15 firms all specialize in high-end, upscale, complex, and expensive new homes and remodeling projects. These are the contractors who win awards for their work, who have earned superior academic credentials, and who have built the best custom residences in the state.
15) NEWLOOK Development
907 Ridge Road, Wilmette, IL 60091
This residential contractor has been designing and building homes in Illinois for more than 20 years. The firm’s highly skilled team of architects, designers, and craftsmen has been working together for decades, and they boast more than 100 years of combined experience across the construction industry. Newlook specializes in high-end new homes and remodeling projects, as well as multifamily residential and commercial projects. Newlook is located in Wilmette, IL, where they have a residential showroom featuring top-end materials and design ideas.
The home building company is led by Principal and Director Michael Freiburger. He holds an engineering degree from Ohio University and a degree in Masters of Architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology. In 2018 he was named to Professional Builder Magazine’s prestigious 40 Under 40 List. Freiburger has already been working in the residential contracting field for more than 25 years, starting in childhood. NEWLOOK has won more than a dozen awards in the past three years alone, which includes 10 Key Awards, including 3 consecutive Crystal Key Awards from the Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago (HBAGC) for a one of a kind North Shore Custom Home, Modern Urban Residence with a pool on the roof, and luxury Michigan Ave. penthouse as well as multiple Winnetka Historic Preservation Awards.
14) Sexton Development
49 Sherwood Terrace a100, Lake Bluff, IL 60044
A family-owned custom home builder in Illinois, Sexton Development builds high-end residences and large-scale renovation and remodeling projects throughout the North Shore suburbs of Chicago. The Lake Bluff, IL, firm has been building new homes in Chicagoland since 1932. Led by industry veteran Drew Daniels, the construction company takes on upscale projects ranging from$500k to $5M. The company is certified under the US Department of Energy’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program.
Sexton has won many awards from the HBACG, including the 2016 Crystal Key Award for Custom Home of the Year. The firm’s work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Professional Builder Magazine, and Forest & Bluff Magazine — a style magazine for the exclusive and wealthy Lake Forest and Lake Bluff communities. Forest & Bluff also named Daniels its Custom Home Builder of the Year in 2014. In addition to building luxury homes, Sexton Properties offers real estate consulting, wind energy consulting, and construction-material recycling services.
13) Reynolds Architecture & Construction
1765 Maple Street, Suite 200, Northfield, IL 60093
Doug Reynolds, founder and leader of Reynolds Architecture & Construction, has designed and built more than 150 luxury homes in the wealthy North Shore suburbs of Chicago. He has also built beautiful, “historically inspired” homes in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Colorado. Founded in 1995, the firm offers high-end architecture and construction services, as well as custom millwork and cabinetry, residential renovations and additions, and commercial design and construction.
Reynolds is a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) and has a bachelor’s degree in architecture from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. He also studied at the École Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture de Versailles in France. The firm has won numerous awards for its homes, including a 2017 Crystal Key Award for Single Family Home 7,001 to 10,000 square feet, which they describe as a “Modern Beaux Arts Residence.” The company has also been honored for its designs by Modern Luxury|North Shore Magazine.
12) Provencal Construction
| 50 Burr Ridge Parkway, Suite 101, Burr Ridge, IL 60527
This custom home builder in Illinois has been working in suburban Chicagoland since 1956. The residential contractor builds homes, home additions, remodeling projects, multi-family residential projects, and condo developments throughout the region. The company has also developed its own upscale communities, including the Oak Ridge Creek of Burr Ridge, and the Equestrian Woods subdivision in Lemont. President and Principal Owner Harry Liesenfelt took over the business in 1970. Mike Candela, a construction industry veteran with more than 20 years of experience, is the firm’s vice president.
The company has won Nearly 100 Key Awards from the HBAGC, including a 2017 Platinum Key Award for Custom Home Suburban Home 11,000 to 13,000 square feet, and a Silver Key Award for Single Family 10,000 to 13,000 square feet. The company builds large and luxurious homes in upscale, exclusive settings, and works in a wide range of styles. Provencal also has considerable expertise designing and building deluxe features such as home theaters, indoor and outdoor pools, custom cabinetry, and home automation systems.
11) Glenn Gutnayer Custom Homes
162 Prospect Avenue, Highland Park, IL 60035
Glenn Gutnayer grew up in a family of home builders. He was mentored for more than a decade by his father, architect and builder Josef Marion Gutnayer, who was a draftsman for Le Corbusier. Glenn Gutnayer started his own firm in 1994. He has a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, and he also spent time studying art history and European architecture in Aix-en-Provence, France.
Based in Highland Park, the builder provides design construction, remodeling, and historic preservation services in Glencoe, Winnetka, Wilmette, and throughout the North Shore area. The company has won the Highland Park Historic Preservation Award and Best of Highland Park Awards for General Contractors. As it’s based in Highland Park, it’s not surprising that some of the firm’s designs are inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright. Gutnayer has built homes in many other architectural styles as well, including English manor, English Tudor, transitional, midcentury modern, and French-inspired. The company’s work has been featured in Modern Luxury|North Shore, Luxury Home Quarterly, Sheridan Road Magazine, and the Chicago Sun Times.
10) A. Perry Homes
| 220 Washington Avenue, Wilmette, IL 60091
Tony Perry, CEO and founder of A. Perry Homes, has designed and built more than 400 homes over his 30 years in the industry. A graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago with a bachelor’s degree in architecture, Perry has travelled throughout Europe studying architecture and historical buildings. He has several times been a featured speaker at the National Custom Builder Conference, and his designs have been published in several national magazines, including Luxe, House Beautiful, and Better Homes and Gardens. The firm’s president, Kent Derus, has a master’s degree in architecture from the University of Oklahoma and has designed more than 250 homes throughout the country.
Perry Homes specializes in luxury residences, condominiums, historical restorations, remodels, and commercial work. The company has offices in Washington DC, South Florida, and Wilmette, IL. Both Perry and Derus have appeared on HGTV, and their projects have been featured in numerous local and national publications. Readers of Chicago’s Make It Better Magazine named the firm Best Architect & Builder from 2013 through 2017.
9) Cesario Home Builders
| 17 W 601 14th Street, Oakbrook Terrace, IL 60181
A leading Chicago design-build firm, Cesario Home Builders has been constructing deluxe residences for some 40 years and counting. The firm builds new homes and remodel projects using energy-efficient materials and cutting-edge technology. The company is a member of the National Home Builders Association (NAHB) Builder 20 Club, an elite group of the top high-end home builders in the nation. The residential contractor is an NAHB Certified Green Builder and is a partner in the national Energy Star program. Dedicated to green and sustainable building as well as luxury, Cesario’s projects are water conscious and constructed with renewable and recycled materials.
President and Founder Anthony Cesario grew up learning from his father, a European cabinet maker. He has served as president of the Illinois Home Builders Association (HBA) and has won several Silver and Gold Key Awards from the HBAGC. The company builds in many of the region’s poshest and most exclusive communities, including Glen Ellyn, Glenview, and Hinsdale. Ceasario has also developed and built homes in many luxury home developments, including Corporate Woods, Regency Woods, and Arboretum Woods.
8) SeBern Custom Homes
36W995 Red Gate Road, St. Charles, IL 60175
Partners Ken Bernhard and Tom Detelich run this custom home contractor in St. Charles, IL, a design-build firm specializing in refined and elegant homes with top-shelf features. Julie Bernhard is the company’s executive director. The residential contractor builds throughout northern Illinois and the Chicago area, including the Central Fox Valley and the northwestern, western, and southwestern suburbs. Working in styles from traditional to transitional, the firm offers one-of-a-kind swanky details, such as antique clawfoot bathtubs, stone fireplaces, slate roofs, and smart home technologies.
The company’s homes range from $550k to over $1M. They are designed and constructed by a team of highly skilled architects, interior design experts, carpenters, woodworkers, and construction professionals, all provided in-house by SeBern. The firm’s amazing properties also regularly include rooftop observation decks, pet playrooms, heated bathroom floors, movie theaters, outdoor kitchens, elevators, and indoor pools. SeBern also takes on remodeling projects, from exquisite kitchen and bathroom renovations to whole-home remodel projects and additions.
7) Orren Pickell Building Group
| 1799 Willow Road, Northfield, IL 60093
This Illinois custom home builder is a family-owned company with more than 40 years of experience. Founded by husband and wife Orren and Tina Pickell, the firm specializes in luxury home building and remodeling throughout the upscale North Shore area. The couple’s daughter, Lisa Pickell, is the firm’s president. She has worked in the industry for more than 20 years. The HBAGC gave her its Remodeler of the Year Award, and Professional Remodeler Magazine listed her on its 40 Under 40 list. The firm also has a design arm called Orren Pickell Design Group. The design side’s president is John Forehand, an AIA member who worked for Chicago architectural firms Darcy Bonner and Associates and Booth Hansen Architects before joining the Orren Pickell Building Group.
The firm has won nine HBAGC Crystal Key Awards and some 60 Gold, Silver, and Bronze Key Awards since 2003. In 2017 the company won a Gold Key Award for Custom Home 6,000 to 7,000 square feet, a Platinum Key Award for Custom Home 3,800 to 4,500 square feet, and a Crystal Key Award for Single Family Home 5,000 to 7,000 square feet.
6) Barnett Homes
450 Skokie Boulevard, Building 600
This Illinois builder works on high-end new homes and remodelling projects in some of Chicago’s top neighborhoods, including Lakeland, the Southport Corridor, and Wrigleyville. Founded in 2009 as a division of Barnett Capital, the residential contractor builds luxury homes featuring Beaux Arts and Neoclassical elements, as well as providing custom millwork, rooftop outdoor spaces, and exquisite, impeccable finishes. The company’s homes also feature radiant heat, new hardwood floors, limestone steps, and quartz countertops.
Ranging from $1M to $3M and up, the company’s homes have been featured in the Chicago Tribune and other publications. President Ken Fixler is a graduate of Indiana University with a bachelor’s degree in business management. Jonathan Fixler, the firm’s vice president, also graduated from Indiana University, and he played AAA professional baseball before moving into home building. The company’s lead architect is Matt Kustusch, a graduate of Miami University, who was the principal of his own firm for more than 15 years before joining Barnett. Neil Power, the company’s head of construction, started building at age 18 and has many years of experience building and managing high-end projects.
5) Heritage Luxury Homes
1741 Harding Road, Northfield, IL 60093
A family-run home building company founded in 1990, Heritage Luxury Homes has constructed more than 120 homes in Chicagoland, including in Winnetka, Glencoe, Kenilworth, Highland Park, and Milwaukee, WI. The firm’s deluxe mansions range from about $3.5M to nearly $14M, which was the cost for a 17,000-square-foot, eight-bedroom, nine-bathroom, lakefront home in Winnetka. The company designs and builds in various classical architectural styles, including French and French Colonial, Nantucket style, and American Colonial.
The firm’s residences are typically large and sprawling, featuring top-end materials with the price tags to match. For example, one new 15,000-square-foot lake home the company constructed in Winnetka recently sold for $8.9M. The home, which is a typical build for Heritage Luxury Homes, has eight bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, and 133 feet of Lake Michigan shoreline. The company’s work has appeared on NBC, as well as in magazines such as Florida Design and Luxe. Their homes have also regularly been featured on the Chicago Luxury Home Tour.
4) Dior Builders
116 W. Northwest Highway, Palatine, IL 60067
A respected leader in the Illinois residential construction industry, and with a European sensibility, Dior Builders has been building and remodeling sophisticated luxury homes for nearly 40 years. The company’s homes and estates can be found in upscale and exclusive neighborhoods and developments throughout the Northshore area, including Wilmette, Winnetka, North and South Barrington, and Burr Ridge. A local newspaper recently reported that Northshore realtors often advertise a home as “Dior Built” — so great is the firm’s reputation for luxury and craftsmanship.
The company specializes in custom stonework, exquisite millwork, smart-home automation systems, and other deluxe features. They are also committed to green building, especially building homes with healthy indoor air. To that end, Dior Builders has worked with the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest to build several homes that meet strict indoor-air quality standards. The firm’s European-influenced homes range from about $800k to more than $5M. The residential contractor’s homes have been featured in Traditional Home, Luxe, Chicago Home Book, and the Chicago Tribune. The company has won many awards from the HBAGC, including a 2017 Gold Key Award for a Traditional Custom Home from 5,200 to 6,000 square feet.
3) Middlefork Development
One North Wacker Drive, Suite 4125, Chicago, IL 60606
This custom home contractor builds million-dollar-plus luxury homes that fit perfectly into Chicago’s poshest neighborhoods. The company’s president, Andrew Bowyer, has more than 20 years of experience in architecture and finance. Its Sr. Project Manager in charge of construction, Kyle Young, has a background in commercial and residential construction, as well as a degree in construction management. The firm teams with some of Chicago’s most respected residential architects to work on the designs of its homes.
Members of the HBAGC. NHBA and a 20-Club Member, Middlefork Development won 2016 Crystal and Gold Key Awards, as well as a 2017 Crystal Key Award for a new, Beaux-Arts-style mansion on N. Howe Street in Lincoln Park with a limestone façade and wonderful open interiors. The 6,400-square-foot, six-bedroom, five-bathroom home has a glass-enclosed wine cellar and a 1,200-square-foot rooftop deck overlooking the city.
Another Middlefork home on Howe Street is a gorgeous, 6,600-square-foot, seven-bedroom, six-bathroom stunner that features a circular stair moving through four floors to a rooftop deck. One whole floor is occupied by the master suite, which can also be reached via elevator. The firm’s work has appeared in Modern Home Builder Magazine, Chicago Magazine and Michigan Avenue magazine.
2) Environs Development
3060 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago, IL 60657
Ken Brinkman founded this luxury-home, design-build firm in 1991. Brinkman studied architecture at the University of Illinois and Versailles, France, and earned a master’s in finance from the University of Chicago. Before starting his own firm, he worked for JMB, a commercial property development company. He has built more than 170 residences in some of Chicago’s most celebrated and exclusive neighborhoods. The firm’s second partner, Chris McKinnis, has an MBA in finance and real estate from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. The firm offers high-end architecture, interior design, and construction services and builds gorgeous and detached single-family homes with stone-and-glass exteriors and luxurious interiors.
One of the firm’s current projects on ultra-posh Howe Street, in Chicago’s Lincoln Park area, is going for $7.5M. The 10,000-square-foot palace, which is typical of the homes that Environs builds, has seven bedrooms, seven bathrooms, a three-car heated garage, a five-stop elevator, a penthouse roof deck, and his-and-hers master bathrooms. Environs Development won two of the NAHB’s prestigious Best in American Living (BALA) Awards for their residential construction projects.
1) BGD&C Corporation
875 N. Michigan Avenue, Suite 1314, Chicago, IL 60611
This custom home builder in Illinois constructs beautiful urban mansions in Chicago’s most expensive neighborhoods, including Lincoln Park, Gold Coast, Lakeview, and Streeterville. The firm won a 2017 Best in American Living Award from the NAHB and a 2017 Diamond Key Award from the HBAGC for a stunning 12,000-square-foot home in Lincoln Park. WIth a French-inspired design and a limestone facade, the home features and indoor swimming pool on the lower level, complete with changing rooms, showers, and lockers.
The firm excels in designing and building European-influenced city homes, whether Mediterranean, English, Parisian, Venetian, Tuscan, Greek Revival, or French. President Rodger A. Owen, a graduate of Indiana University and the MBA program at the University of Chicago, is a member of the Society of Architectural Historians and has studied and traveled extensively in Europe. Partner Charles R. Grode has been in real estate and construction for more than 30 years. He has degrees from Indiana University and Pennsylvania State University and studied at the Institut de Francais, Villefranche-sur-Mer in France, and at the Art Institute of Chicago.