Overview

Chicago architects continue to pay tribute to the legacy of world-renowned architects of yesteryear who made their home in the city. Architects like Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright set the standard with pragmatic, environmentally focused designs. While the city’s easily accessible suburbs provide opportunities for historic rehabs and new green-focused construction, the real trend is an influx of people moving into the city, seeking an urban oasis in trendy neighborhoods like Lincoln Square and River North. Major renovation projects are giving the city’s row homes and condos new life. Chicago’s new urban designs blend modern and classic elements and focus on sustainability, privacy, natural light, and simple elegant spaces. The following 10 architectural firms are ranked according to their prestige, accolades, industry recognition, and forward-thinking designs.
 

This list includes both licensed architects and residential designers who can both design stunning homes but differ in other services offered. Architects are trained in design, engineering, and project management and have passed a licensing exam. Residential designers typically don’t manage projects and plans will need to be approved by a structural engineer. Whether you choose to hire an architect or a residential designer will depend on your project needs and complexity.

Top Architects

Becker Architects

Architects:
Richard Becker
Nancy Becker

Awards:
AIA Chicago Design Awards,
Highland Park’s Historic Preservation Commission Awards

Address:
595 Elm Place, Highland Park, Chicago, IL 60035

About Becker Architects

Founded in 1982 by Principal Richard Becker, AIA, LEED AP, award-winning Becker Architects has worked on rehabs, additions, and new construction projects throughout the Chicago metropolitan area. It has received numerous awards and notes in publications such as AIA Chicago, the Driehaus Foundation, Remodeling, Chicago Home, Better Homes and Gardens, House Beautiful, and Traditional Home. The firm has also been featured in a number of HGTV productions, including the 13-week reality series Dream House. With a focus on preservation, the firm has also received many awards from Highland Park’s Historic Preservation Commission.

Featured Projects

Becker’s intensive rehab project known as “High Above Chicago” is a 3,400-square-foot apartment found in a downtown high-rise, with a stunning view of Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. The condo opened up the tightly compartmentalized space, merging the living and dining room areas. Lacquered doors separate the master bedroom from the living room, allowing the master suite free access to the main living space.

Blender Architecture

Address:
2215 West School St., Chicago, IL 60618

About Blender Architecture

Blender Architecture is the product of Maria Segal and Richard Blender’s five decades in the architectural industry. Both founders specialize in residential projects with a unique structural approach. The detail-oriented architects are very meticulous with the materials they are working on because they want their designs to be elevated by well-crafted resources. The firm sets itself apart by designing multi-sensory projects that are uniquely made for each client. These are projects that utilize materials that play on light and have unique textures. The goal of every Blender Architecture project is a space that will promote a healthier lifestyle inspired by its surroundings.

Featured Projects

The Resurrection Home is a unique project, because the site was a former funeral parlor. What was left is a dilapidated building that was fully gutted but there were still remnants of the original facade. Blender Architecture wanted to design a modern home that had an old gothic charm. For its entryway, the original facade of the funeral parlor was refurbished back to its former glory but the interiors were given a brand new contemporary look. The living room is an homage to the former gothic charm of the space. It has a black and white color palette and it has a very minimalist design. This stand-out home remodel received an American Institute of Architects (AIA) Chicago Honor Award last 2012.

Booth Hansen

Architects:
Laurence Booth

Awards:
AIA Design Awards

Address:
333 South Desplaines Street, Suite 100, Chicago, IL 60661

About Booth Hansen

Established in 1980, Booth Hansen’s projects include commercial, cultural, educational, multi-family, and single-family designs. The firm has received over 90 design awards; 36 of those were from AIA. Principal and founder Laurence Booth, FAIA, leads the conceptual development of all the firm’s projects. With degrees from MIT, Harvard, and Stanford, Booth has maintained close ties to the academic study of architecture and engineering. He is a clinical professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Richard C. Halpern/Rise International Distinguished Architect in Residence at Northwestern University. Previously, he also served as a visiting professor for Harvard, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Illinois.

Featured Projects

This Beverly Shores residence received a 2014 AIA Chicago Distinguished Building Honor Award, as well as the Grand Award for Best Custom Home at the 2016 Gold Nugget Awards sponsored by Builder Magazine. Found in the dunes on the south side of Lake Michigan, this two-story home is mostly glass, connecting to its natural environment. The 4,200-square-foot home occupies only nine percent of the property, leaving over 76 percent of the site undisturbed dune grass and woodlands. Its sustainable focus doesn’t end there, however. The residence uses a geothermal ground source heat pump, in-slab radiant heating, and high-efficiency forced air for a low-carbon footprint.

Brininstool + Lynch Architecture Design

Architects:
David Brininstool
Brad Lynch

Awards:
AIA Design Excellence Awards,
American Architecture Awards,
Architectural League of New York Emerging Voice in Architecture

Address:
1144 W. Washington Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60607

About Brininstool + Lynch Architecture Design

In 1989, David Brininstool and Brad Lynch established the eponymous Brininstool + Lynch Architecture Design. During its early years, Brininstool + Lynch was named an Emerging Voice in architecture by the Architectural League of New York. It has since amassed over 50 major design awards; 28 of those are from the AIA. The architectural firm has a wide range of clients from the commercial sector, but it is best known for the gorgeous private homes it has designed.

Featured Projects

The firm’s Wood House received a small project award from AIA, the Residential Architect Design Award, and the American Architecture Award. The firm was guided by the principles of privacy, sustainability, and indoor-outdoor continuity. The focal point of the L-shaped home is a private rear courtyard. Despite its name, the 2,400-square-foot home is built with brick and copper and balanced with a floor-to-ceiling glass wall, an open floor plan, and glass exterior doors that lead into the courtyard.

Burns and Beyerl Architects

Architects:
Gary Beyerl
Edward Twohey

Awards:
Chicagoland Real Estate Forum Gold Key Award,
Luxe Interiors and Design’s Gold List

Address:
1010 S. Wabash, Chicago, IL 60605

About Burns and Beyerl Architects

Burns and Beyerl Architects specializes in high-end single-family residences that range from urban townhouses to lakefront cottages. Gary Beyerl, AIA, co-founded the firm in 1993 with his now-retired partner Steven Burns. He was joined by Edward Twohey, AIA, in 1994, who was named principal five years later. The firm focuses on creating sustainable homes that consume the least energy when built. In 2011, the firm won a Gold Key Award from the Chicagoland Real Estate Forum for their design of a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Chicago home. In 2017, the firm made the Luxe Interiors and Design’s Gold List, a guide of architects, designers, and home builders whose projects were featured in the magazine.

Featured Projects

The firm proved they can work from modern to classic with their single-family residence known as the Classic Georgian. Inspired by Georgian homes in London, this stately home features a brick façade, using an English bond pattern. Inside, an elliptical stairwell joins the home’s four levels. The home was built for the Middlefork luxury Home Builders based in the Loop. It won an AIA Citation of Merit in 2016.

Collective Office

Architects:
Jeff Klymson
Carlo Parente

Awards:
AIA Citation of Merit

Address:
9 E. 24th Street, Chicago, IL 60616

About Collective Office

Collective Office was founded by Principal Jeff Klymson, a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), to focus on both practice and research for residential and commercial clients. Through his practice, Klymson attempts to create “a more intuitive connection for people in the built environment.” He also teaches at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) where he received his own Master of Architecture degree. Collective Office specializes in residential projects that have a connection with their physical environments. Its residential portfolio has a signature contemporary look that is unique to the firm; this is why its works are often featured on architectural websites like Dwell and Curbed.

Featured Projects

A retired couple commissioned Collective Office to design a prairie home on grassland overlooking Lake Geneva. This contemporary interpretation of a prairie home was divided into three. The clients wanted a bungalow that looked like it was emerging from the crest of the prairie. From afar, the three sections have a classic gabled silhouette. This welcomes natural light from under the vaulted ceilings. Each volume has independent functions. The first section is located near the pool house and has bedrooms and bathrooms, while the middle area is for the living area and the kitchen. Lastly, the third section has a garage and screened-in porch that has an amazing view.

Kipnis Architecture and Planning

Architects:
Nathan Kipnis

Awards:
Chicago Magazine Green Award,
Natural Home Magazine Home of the Decade

Address:
1642 Payne Street, Evanston, IL 60201

About Kipnis Architecture and Planning (KAP)

Kipnis Architecture and Planning was one of the first firms to sign AIA’s 2030 Challenge, which calls for all new buildings, developments, and major renovations to be carbon-neutral by 2030. The firm is best known for exceptional sustainability efforts while taking overall excellence in design just as seriously, and designs new construction homes with modern designs to sensitively rehabilitate historic homes. The firm was founded in 1993 by Nathan Kipnis, a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects and a LEED Advanced Professional certified in Building Design and Construction (LEED AP BD&C), who earned a Master of Architecture with an emphasis in Energy Conscious Design from Arizona State University. He serves on the AIA National 2030 Commitment Working Group, as well as the Citizens Greener Evanston group. Among other notables, KAP designs have won the Chicago Magazine Green Award and Home of the Decade by Natural Home Magazine.

Featured Projects

KAP designed one of the first LEED Platinum homes in Illinois in 2011. This home in Evanston is not only LEED Platinum-certified but also aging-in-place certified. The firm used reclaimed materials that are all locally-sourced to utilize resources that are affordable, and supports small business owners. This home was designed with accessibility in mind. The single floor plan has flush floors with wide clearance doors for the hallways and doors. Some of the other features include a lap pool and a front yard with native plants designed to retain stormwater.

Liederbach & Graham Architects

Architects:
Phillip Liederbach
R. Michael Graham

Awards:
ICA Excellence Awards,
AIA Awards

Address:
500 N Wells Street, Chicago, IL 60654

About Liederbach & Graham Architects

Principals Phillip Liederbach and R. Michael Graham founded their firm, Liederbach and Graham Architects in 1991. The firm keeps its operations small in order to design and produce carefully crafted residential and commercial buildings. Both principals studied with Thomas H. Beeby, one of the “Chicago Seven,” a postmodern group of influential architects in Chicago who were especially active in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Liederbach and Graham Architects has received several Excellence in Architecture awards from the Institute of Classic Architecture and the American Institute of Architecture for their residential designs. Their work has also been featured in House Beautiful, Luxe, and Traditional Home, as well as several books.

Featured Projects

Liederbach & Graham won a 2016 AIA Small Project Award for its single-family home project on Burling Street. The residential street in Lincoln Park is known for being one of the priciest in the city. The firm designed two houses on one lot altogether totaling 7,800 square feet, five bedrooms, and six baths. The main house, standing at over 4,600 feet, won the award for its playful design. “A Little Spark of Madness” is carved into the kitchen island, serving as the home’s built-in motto.

Morgante Wilson Architects

Address:
2834 Central St., Evanston, IL60201

About Morgante Wilson Architects

Luxury homebuilder Morgante Wilson Architects was started by a couple who has been married for as long as they have been architects. Fred Wilson and Elissa Morgante have been architects for three decades, and their eponymous firm is the milestone of all their expertise. It specializes in creating luxury houses with a holistic sense. The couple works closely with its clients, Wilson often focuses on the architectural facade while Morgante considers how the design can be connected to the interiors. Their teamwork has produced numerous award-winning homes and features from national publications like Luxe Magazine, Wall Street Journal, and Modern Luxury Interiors magazine.

Featured Projects

Its most recent project is also one of its most impressive projects to date. This lake home is a three-story house that embodies the elegance of coastal living. Morgante Wilson Architects gave a modern take to the traditional farmhouse homes often found in lakeside neighborhoods.

Searl Lamaster Howe Architects

Architects:
Pam Lamaster, AIA
Greg Howe AIA LEED AP

Awards:
AIA Chicago Distinguished Building Honor Award, Builder Magazine Grand Award

Address:
500 N Dearborn Street, Suite 1050, Chicago, IL 60654

About Searl Lamaster Howe Architects

The prestigious Searl Lamaster Howe Architects has been featured in Architectural Digest, CS Interiors, Dwell, Elle Décor, and Custom Home. Its designs have earned several awards from AIA and the Grand Design Award for Renovation Project from Custom Home. Searl Lamaster Howe Architects uses intense collaboration with its clients to produce quality custom designs. Primarily a designer of single-family residences, the firm’s portfolio also includes commercial and institutional projects. The firm was founded by Principal-at-Large Linda Searl, FAIA, in 1985. Among her accomplishments is membership in Architectural Digest’s AD100, a collective of the top architects and interior designers in the world. Searl was the former president of the Chicago AIA Chapter and Regional Director of the National AIA.

Featured Projects

This Asbury Residence, located in Evanston, received an AIA Citation of Merit in 2016. The design’s roots stem from the client’s request for a blend of contemporary yet traditional Mediterranean design. The stucco-clad house is based on a 1920s Italian theme and brings in modern minimalism with an open interior wrapping around a central courtyard.

Studio Dwell

Architects:
Mark Peters

Awards:
AIA Design Awards,
Architectural Record Awards,
Congress for New Urbanism Grand Prize

Address:
1135 N California Avenue, Chicago, IL 60622

About Studio Dwell

Studio Dwell is a Chicago-based, full-service architecture firm dedicated to utilizing simplicity and light to produce quality designs. The studio’s custom design homes have won awards from Builder Magazine, AIA, Architectural Record, and Residential Architect Magazine, among others. The firm recently won the Congress for New Urbanism Grand Prize for its contribution to a neighborhood development in Detroit. Studio Dwell was founded in 2005 by Principal Mark Peters, AIA, who previously worked for prestigious firms such as Pappageorge Haymes and Hartshorne Plunkard. Peters received a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Featured Projects

Urban 24, which received a Citation of Merit from AIA in 2015, was a residential infill project. The new row-house filled a gap within the line of existing homes built in the West Loop during the 1890s. Studio Dwell was able to build an innovative new space without disturbing its neighbors. One of the biggest concerns of any row-house is light sources. The firm used skylights, vertical open rooms, and transparent walls and floors to allow natural light to filter through the home. One AIA judge called these solutions “very sensitive to the site.”

Wheeler and Kearns Architects

Architects:
Dan Wheeler
Larry Kearns

Awards:
AIA Chicago Firm of the Year

Address:
343 South Dearborn Street, Suite 200, Chicago, IL 60604

About Wheeler and Kearns Architects

Wheeler and Kearns Architects is an award-winning firm that has received distinctions for its single-family homes and wide array of commercial projects. Founding Principal Dan Wheeler, FAIA, is a professor of architecture at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Prior to starting his own firm in 1988, Wheeler acted as studio head at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill and received an NEA traveling fellowship as well as the CCAIA Young Architect Award. Larry Kearns, FAIA LEED AP, became a principal in 1990 and, among other projects, has led work on many ambitious educational projects that have shaped schools across Chicago. The firm’s services also include interior furniture and landscape design.

Featured Projects

With unobstructed views of Lake Michigan, Wheeler and Kearns designed a 4,600-square-foot, single-family residence on Lake Shore Drive. The wedge-shaped structure, with a smooth limestone façade, is peppered with large, east-facing windows and an open, glass-faced living room. The house contains many sustainable aspects, including solar panels and brise-soleil on the west-facing windows. Completed in 2011, the home won a 2013 AIA Distinguished Building Award.