Susanne Tauke likes transforming places that have become old and tired, remaking them into something fresh and new.
The president of New American Homes of Hawthorn Woods got her first taste of redevelopment work during her 15 years working under a Home Builders Association program to bring new single-family homes and townhouses to Chicago’s South and West Sides.
Today she is redeveloping a tiny corner of the far Northern suburbs in unincorporated Antioch.
Tauke has purchased 42 acres next to Bluff Lake, one of the Chain O’ Lakes, and is building a community called Newport Cove.
“We took land that once had on it a couple of restaurants, a marina and a trailer park and are transforming it into a nautical-themed community with 67 home sites,” Tauke said.
When completed, Newport Cove will feature 31 cluster-style single-family homes called The Cottages, as well as 15 sites for custom estate homes and 21 sites for custom waterfront homes.
The focal point of Newport Cove is a new marina, which will have space for 192 boats.
There also will be an 8-acre waterfront park, which will include a pavilion and a walking path along Bluff Lake.
Her dream house: “I love the Midwest, so I would want a home somewhere in the Midwest on the water, but also within walking distance of restaurants, a little grocery store and my church. It would be a minimalistic and clean contemporary home with great gardens outside and a minimum of furniture
and knickknacks inside.”
She is especially excited about the “Life House” project by the State University of New York’s architecture idea lab. The university is working with builders all over the country to design homes that will work for anyone as they age.
“We are adapting one of our cottage models to accommodate people as they age,” she said. “It will have room for a potential elevator, hidden ramp access to the front door, wider hallways, three levels of lighting for different tasks, memory niches for keys and other items near every door and much more.”
Favorite new home amenity: “I love the new technology that is available. I love the fact that I can read my e-mail on my plasma TV and control the music that is playing throughout my home.”
Philosophy: “Homes should be built one at a time, and it is important to match the home with the person. That is why we try to offer very flexible floor plans. Everyone lives in a home differently, so I don’t like to label the rooms on my floor plans because one person’s dining room might be another person’s study.
“I also believe that a neighborhood should be designed to accommodate lots of different types of people from a variety of age groups and income levels. Too often I find that most homes are designed for people between the ages of 30 and 50 and everyone else is expected to fit themselves into those houses.”
Details, details: Tauke’s firm builds approximately 10 homes per year ranging from $300,000 to $3 million. Her firm also does some commercial work.
Tauke wears many hats, but she is particularly involved with marketing, design and searching for new deals. In addition to building Newport Cove on Bluff Lake, Tauke has been active building and renovating homes in North Barrington’s Wynstone community. She has built 16 homes there and renovated five others.
“People find it hard to believe you can renovate a 15-year-old house, but I have found that building trends, particularly on the upper end of the price spectrum, change almost as fast as women’s fashions, thanks to HGTV and stores like Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware.
Best part about being a builder: “We are more design-oriented than most builders, especially on the lower-priced homes, because I like bringing new ideas into homes. We really try to work with our customers and give them the homes they want.”
Biggest changes she has seen in the business: “In the past 25 years, I have seen the average home really increase in size. But I expect that trend to start reversing itself. I think that we may have peaked out on house size for awhile,” Tauke said. She also noted the growing number of women in the business.
“It used to be that I would be the only woman on the job sites and even at closings. I now have a woman superintendent and the other day I saw a woman doing rough carpentry. And when you go to a closing, most of the people there are women. I guess it is just a natural evolution because women overall do seem to care more about houses than men do.”
Future plans: Newport Cove will be the company’s major project for the next three or four years, plus some commercial work and off-site large custom homes, Tauke said.
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