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Skyscrapers, a plethora of architectural styles, and iconic structures — these are just a few things that define the unique landscape of the Windy City. Chicago, Illinois is renowned for its bold and pioneering architecture. It proudly stands among top architectural cities in the world, full of buildings with storied and inspiring pasts. With the city’s beauty and rich culture, one would find it very hard to resist the allure of living in “Chicagoland.”
The city’s residential architecture flourished alongside its commercial counterpart. The city is pepper with bungalows from the North Side to the South Side; 80,000 Chicago bungalows encircles the city in a “Bungalow Belt”, easily comprising one-third of the city’s single-family housing stock. Other than the quaint bungalows, Chicago is also home to diverse home styles: two-flats, Greystones, workers’ cottages, courtyard apartments, and stately mansions that occupy the elite neighborhoods of North Chicago.
The best custom home builders of Chicago honor the city’s rich culture and current context in their designs while ultimately focusing on their client’s specific needs. This article lists the top 15 custom home builders, all capable of helping you build your dream home in Chicago. These firms have extensive portfolios with stunning award-winning homes and have been evaluated on their accolades, customer service, and quality of work. Many of them are members of reputable builders organizations — most notably, the Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago (HBA of Greater Chicago), and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).
15) Bloomfield Development Company, LLC
2964 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago, IL 60657
James Schueller was practicing as a real estate attorney when he began developing a few properties on the side. In 2003, he founded Bloomfield Development Company with his wife and Erik Walek, an artisan custom cabinetry maker. The combination of Schueller’s acumen for real estate and Walek’s specialization in custom cabinetry has earned the firm great success and a reputation for quality service and designs.
The company concentrates on building custom homes priced between $500K and $7M in the North Shore and in downtown Chicago. In 2012, the firm was honored by the Association of Licensed Architects (ALA) with an ALA Design Merit Award for a jewel box addition built in a Highland Park home. In 2016, the company gained national attention when two of its properties were featured on Flipping Out, a television show on Bravo TV hosted by Jeff Lewis. Schueller collaborated with Lewis and Walter E. Smithe in decorating the properties at 3716 and 3643 Lakewood Avenue.
14) Cesario Builders
17 W 601 14th St., Oakbrook Ter., IL 60181
Cesario Builders, in operation for over four decades, has earned a reputation as one of Chicago’s premier custom home builders with a focus on green building. The company was established by Anthony Cesario, who learned carpentry from his Italian father. Today, he holds several certifications from NAHB and even served as president of the Illinois Homebuilders Association from 1984-1986.
The firm is an NAHB Certified Green Home Builder and a certified partner of the national Energy Star Builder program. These certifications ensure that the firm’s custom homes have a low environmental impact and are cost-efficient, comfortable, and durable. Cesario Builders is also a member of NAHB and its Elite Builder 20 Club. Through Cesario Builders’ dedication to building sustainable and elegant homes, a project on 20 Tuscan Court in Oak Brook, IL won the Silver Key Award for Excellence in New Construction from HBAGC in 2011. At 5,836 square feet, the home is currently valued by Zillow at $1.4 million.
13) NEWLOOK Development
907 Ridge Rd., Wilmette, IL 60091
NEWLOOK is a second generation, family-owned design | build + development business focusing on luxury residential and commercial in Chicago and its North Shore for over 30 years. Recognized for custom, award-winning architecture, and focused on design | build project delivery, NEWLOOK strives to streamline the process with one point of contact, taking full responsibility and cost accountability while accelerating schedules and reducing costs.
Today NEWLOOK is run by Michael Freiburger an award-winning designer and innovator who brings a rare and valuable holistic approach to the profession. Combining construction experience with a degree in Civil Engineering and a Master of Architecture, Michael has led projects across almost all construction types. He currently sits on the board of directors for the Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago (HBAGC), and in 2018, Michael was included in Professional Builder Magazine’s 40 Under 40 Class for 2018, which lists the next generation of outstanding building professionals. Within the last four years alone the family-run business has been awarded multiple historic preservation awards and more than a dozen Key Awards, including four consecutive Crystal Key Awards from the HBAGC. At the International Builders Show 2019 in Las Vegas, NEWLOOK will be honored with TWO Best in American Living Awards (BALA) for a stunning Michigan Avenue Penthouse and West Town single family home with a pool on the roof!
One of the firm’s recent North Shore successes is a property built in Glencoe. Affectionately known as the Modern-Day Castle, the property is an updated take on a traditional manor estate, featuring three levels, with five bedrooms, a custom kitchen, a multi-sided fireplace, a private courtyard, custom iron railings and wine cellar fit for a king.
12) Sexton Development
49 Sherwood Ter. Suite #100, Lake Bluff, IL 60044
Sexton Development, a residential general contractor, builds energy-efficient homes in the North Shore communities of Chicago and in Southern Wisconsin. The firm prides itself on retention of elegant architecture and design—despite the rigorous regulations surrounding green homes—and employs different styles, such as English Country and the classic Chicago Worker Cottage.
Family-owned and operated for more than 80 years, the firm is now run by Drew Daniels, who was recently recognized by Professional Builder in its Forty Under 40 List. Forest & Bluff also named him 2014’s Custom Home Builder of the Year. Daniels’s leadership and expertise led the firm to win a 2016 Crystal Key Award for Custom Home of the Year from the HBA of Greater Chicago.
Among the firm’s varied projects, the French-Country home featured here stands out. Its timeless design is complemented by its efficiency. The 4,470 square-foot home is the first LEED-certified single-family residence in Lake Bluff. Inside the elegant French manor are groundbreaking waterproofing systems and all-in-one thermal & vapor barrier insulation designs.
11) Icon Building Group
23103 Sanctuary Club Dr., Kildeer, IL 60047
Charlie Murphy founded Icon Building Group ten years ago. The company has numerous communities throughout the Chicagoland area in which they build. They also build homes on lots they help their customers acquire, or on a lot the customer already owns. The firm’s neighborhoods and its custom homes have been featured in various publications, such as Modern Home Builder, Chicago Tribune, Midwest Home Magazine, and Northwest Herald. In addition, Icon Building Group has a remodeling division that focuses on all types of residential home updating and enhancement.
Icon Building Group is a big believer in giving back. As such, the firm is active in the community, building homes for various charitable organizations. The company built the St. Jude Dream Home in a community in Vernon Hills — a luxury home for which all proceeds were donated to benefit the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Icon Building Group also built a million-dollar home in partnership with Jared Allen’s Homes for Wounded Warriors, with proceeds directed towards improving the quality of life for wounded veterans.
10) Scott Simpson Builders
1529 Shermer Rd., Northbrook, IL 60062
Scott Simpson Builders is an award-winning general contractor in Chicago, specializes in green architecture and eco-conscious construction. The firm focuses on building new homes in the North Shore area of Chicago, with additional specialties in historic preservation. Founded by Scott Simpson in 1993, the firm has earned awards for both its custom homes and historic renovations. These accolades include “Make it Better” Best Green Builder Awards, as well as ten Historic Preservation Awards.
The firm has also been recognized for building the first LEED Gold-Certified home in Glenview. This 9,700 square foot transitional prairie-style home has the highest number of geothermal heat pumps of any of Simpson’s projects to date, maximizing renewable energy available. 10-foot ceilings provide ample natural light to the home, which has state-of-the-art comforts such as six bedrooms, a finished basement with an exercise room, a wine cellar, and a sports court.
9) Foster Design Build
2661 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60614
Foster Design Build is a full-service boutique design-build firm, with a portfolio filled with notable clientele and upscale projects. The firm’s goal is to bring first-class service and sophistication to each of its projects. The firm’s custom houses and luxurious renovations have been recognized by various media outfits, such as CBS, NBC News, Chicago Curbed, Chicago Magazine, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and Luxury Home Quarterly.
With over 20 years of experience in the construction industry, founder Robert Berg is capable of taking on various types of projects, ranging from luxury custom homes to airport renovations. His firm has completed projects throughout Chicago and the Midwest. Some of these projects include a million-dollar renovation in the prestigious neighborhood of Hyde Park and the restoration of a Titanic survivor’s mansion.
8) Summit Signature Homes
7512 County Line Rd., Burr Ridge, IL 60527
Summit Signature Homes is a design-build general contractor, offering the latest developments in design, construction techniques, and energy-efficient cost-saving ideas. The firm completes custom-build luxury homes ranging from $1 – 2 million in Chicago’s western suburbs. The company was founded by second-generation homebuilder Matt Dill, who has come a long way from humble beginnings as his father’s assistant; he is currently the President of the Southwest Suburban Home Builders Association.
Dill’s leadership paired with the expertise of his team of designers and builders has led the firm 2014 Best in American Living Award from the NAHB, the 2011 Home Builder of the Year from the HBA of Illinois, and multiple Silver and Gold Key Awards from the HBA of Greater Chicago. One of the company’s notable projects is located in the affluent village of Palos Park, just outside city limits. This 2014 BALA Awardee for One-of-a-Kind Custom Home fits perfectly into the tree-lined neighborhood. While its exterior showcases a classic cottage look, its interiors boast a more modern ambiance, with a monochromatic scheme accentuating the fireplace and high ceilings.
7) Environs Development
3060 N Lincoln Ave. Suite #1, Chicago, IL 60657
With signature project features including innovative design and practical utility, Environs Development has proven itself to be one of Chicago’s premier luxury home general contractors. The firm has completed over 150 homes in Chicago’s higher-end neighborhoods, including Lincoln Park and Bucktown. The firm is guided by its principal and founder Ken Brinkman, who founded the firm in 1991 after obtaining a degree in Architectural studies from the University of Illinois, as well as an MBA from the University of Chicago. Brinkman ensures that the firm’s team of architects, designers, and contractors works together seamlessly in each project and fosters good relationships with each client.
The firm saw great success in 2012 when it was honored with five Best in American Living Awards (BALA) at the 2012 International Home Builders Show. Five luxury homes the firm built near the North Side of Chicago received awards in the categories of Best in Region.
6) Dior Builders
116 W Northwest Hwy., Clock Tower Plaza, Palatine, IL 60067
Dior Builders was founded in 1979 when Italian-born Peter Dilorio realized his entrepreneurial skills and experience remodeling a bank might allow him to own his own business. 39 years later, the family-run company has grown in size and in services, providing the Barrington and North Shore suburbs with exceptional custom-built homes and luxury estates. The firm incorporates state-of-the-art technology into every project to “future-proof” each home. Dior Builders’ modern residences have been recognized in various publications such as Traditional Home Magazine, LUXE Magazine, From House to Home, and The Chicago Tribune. The firm also holds multiple Gold Key Awards from the HBA of Greater Chicago.
One of the firm’s notable projects has been dubbed the “Healthy Home.” Built in Long Grove, this house is the first in the nation to meet the strict 2009 building standards from the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest. The manor features the latest in sustainable technology, with a special focus on air quality and water conservation.
5) Goldberg General Contracting
3510 N Elston Ave., Chicago, IL 60618
Goldberg General Contracting is an award-winning full-service general contractor providing luxury custom homes in the Chicago Gold Coast. Founded by Jacob Goldberg, who currently serves on the board of directors of Landmarks Illinois, the firm prides itself on its expertise in modern design and in historic renovation, as well as its team of highly skilled craftspeople.
The firm’s homes have been featured in various publications, such as Luxe Interior and Design, Building Design + Construction, The New York Times, and Elle Decor. It was also featured in Home and Garden Television’s “Before and After,” “New Spaces,” and “Building Character.” In addition, the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has awarded the firm 12 awards in the last decade, and its restoration work has been honored by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The firm was also awarded National Custom Builder of the Year by Custom Home Magazine in 2010.
One of the firm’s notable projects is this ultra-modern home in Lincoln Park. It won a 2015 Distinguished Building Award from the AIA Chicago and a 2013 Custom Home of the Year National Award from Custom Home Magazine. The 10,000 sq. ft. residence features expansive windows, a custom-designed steel and glass staircase, and state-of-the-art smart home technology.
4) Riordan Signature Homes
4130 Ellington Ave., Western Springs, IL 60558
Twenty-three years after arriving in the USA from Ireland, James Riordan turned his American dream into a reality when he founded Riordan Builders in 1971. In 1989, it was rebranded as Riordan Signature Homes by his sons, Jay and Dan, who decided to continue their father’s legacy of hard work, high standards, and outstanding service. In 2014, Jay Riordan was a finalist in NBC’s American Dream Builders, a reality television show pitting top designers and home builders against each other in a high-stakes competition.
Riordan Signature Homes’ portfolio is filled with Nantucket, Tuscan, Italianate, and Dutch style homes. The firm distinguishes its work by coupling old-world craftsmanship with modern innovations. Through this combination of old and new, the firm’s projects have won multiple coveted Key Awards from the HBA of Greater Chicago in the last decade.
Among Riordan Signature Homes’ winning projects, the Dutch Colonial style home ar 4123 Grove Avenue in Western Springs stands prominently with old-world charm and elegance. This manor estate is proof of the firm’s specialty in traditional craftsmanship. It features high ceilings, custom millwork, and high-end finishings throughout.
3) Evolutionary Home Builders
200 S Third St., Geneva, IL 60134
As a third generation builder, Brandon Weiss’s passion is building healthy homes that are not defined by their price, size or location. He made it Evolutionary Home Builders’ mission to redefine what a home should be: healthy, durable, cost-efficient, and comfortable. The company has committed to using building science to ensure sustainable and environmentally-friendly outputs since its inception in 2005. The firm specializes in building passive houses, for which it has been nationally recognized by government and media alike.
Among its projects, “Chicagoland’s First Certified Passive House” in River Forest stands out for meeting the “strictest energy efficiency certification in the world.” It is the first certified passive house in Chicago and the 28th passive house in the country. It received an award from the US Green Building Council, as well as from the U.S. Department of Energy. For the same project, Evolutionary Home Builders was also honored with an ICON Award of Excellence, Home of the Year Award from Green Builder Magazine, Master Certified Green Professional of the Year and an Honorable Mention from NAHB in the Best in American Living Award category. The firm was featured on the GreenBuilt Home Tour and in Dwell magazine.
The highly-accoladed home features a green roof, solar heating, solar hot water, and an energy recovery ventilator. It was built in partnership with Architect Tom Bassett-Dilley, who heads the Passive House Alliance in Chicago. Since the passive house was built with cost efficiency in mind, its estimated annual energy cost is pegged at only $1,052.
2) Orren Pickell Building Group
740 W Fulton St. Suite #601, Chicago, IL 60661
Orren Pickell Building Group is consistently listed among top custom builders in the country, accoladed for some of the most beautiful homes in the Windy City. Established in 1975, the business traces its roots back to Orren Pickell’s modest house-painting business, opened to help pay for college. Over 40 years later, Pickell’s humble enterprise has grown into an award-winning family-run building group with an extensive portfolio in custom building and remodeling. Lisa Pickell, Orren’s daughter, is the president of the company and was recently listed among the country’s Leading Women in Construction by Constructech Magazine.
The firm has received over 350 awards, including the Best Custom Builder award from Modern Luxury Interiors Chicago, multiple Key Awards from the HBA of Greater Chicago, and the prestigious Best in American Living Award from NAHB. The firm’s work has been featured in The New York Times, Luxe, K+BB, and HGTV.
Orren Pickell Builders is behind the famous Bannockburn mansion, which was home to ex-Chicago Bull Kirk Hinrich. In 2018, he sold it to Olin Kreutz, an award-winning ex-NFL pro from the Chicago Bears. The lavish 9,270-square-foot mansion features a six-car garage with a sports court, a master suite with a sauna and exercise room, eight full baths, three half-baths, an in-home theater, a rec room, and a dance studio.
1) BGD&C Luxury Custom Home Builders
875 N Michigan Ave. Suite #1314, Chicago, IL 60611
BGD&C prides itself on building exquisite luxury homes that are “distinctly Chicago.” The firm’s well-crafted homes are mostly situated in Lincoln Park and the historic Gold Coast District of Chicago—affluent neighborhoods which have contributed to BGD&C’s place on “Most Expensive” lists in previous years. The company caters to a high-end clientele, like the retired Chicago Cub and All-Star pitcher Kerry Wood.
Personalizing service for every client, as well as avoiding building spec homes, has helped BGD&C become the top custom home builder in Chicago. In 2018, the firm was honored with a spot on the BOND Custom Top 100, which is awarded to the top 100 luxury home design firms in North America. The firm was also awarded the Best in American Living Award from the NAHB and a Diamond Key Award from the HBA of Greater Chicago; it was also voted Best Builder on Modern Luxury Interiors Chicago. They have been featured on design magazines such as Best in American Living, Sophisticated Living, Modern Home Builder, Luxe, and Elle Decor.
In August 2018, a Lincoln Park mansion built by BGD&C was sold for $11.9 million—the highest paid home in Chicago in 2018 thus far. The 8,000 square feet Mediterranean-style home features six bedrooms, a chef’s kitchen, a grill area, and a 39-foot terrace. Finished in 2013, the stunning home covers three oversized city lots.