By Jean Murphy Daily Herald Correspondent

Susanne Tauke is founder and president of New American Homes. She is in the LIFEhouse model in Antioch's Newport Cove subdivision. Paul Valade | Daily Herald Staff Photographer

Susanne Tauke is founder and president of New American Homes. She is in the LIFEhouse model in Antioch’s Newport Cove subdivision.
Paul Valade | Daily Herald Staff Photographer

Boaters, water skiers, fishermen and others who simply enjoy the lakefront lifestyle are finding a slice of the Atlantic coast tucked away in unincorporated Antioch. Newport Cove, a 67-lot community located on Bluff Lake in the Chain ‘O Lakes, is staying true to the spirit of its name with a colorful coastal style architecture reminiscent of Newport, Rhode Island, or the Outer Banks of North Carolina and a 105-slip private marina.

Newport Cove is the brainchild and passion of Susanne Tauke, president of New American Homes, Inc., based in Antioch. About a decade ago Tauke purchased an old marina, a camper/trailer park, two bar/restaurants and some adjacent vacant land, assembling 42 lakefront acres. Over the intervening years she has transformed the area into a premiere planned unit development housing community which is attracting transplants from Chicago, Bolingbrook, Lake Forest, Darien, Barrington and Palatine, to name a few.

“Newport Cove is divided into three neighborhoods,” Tauke explained. “We have 21 waterfront lots where we are building custom homes starting in the $600,000s; 15 off-water lots which we are calling ‘The Estates’ and these custom homes start in the low $400,000s; and 31 lots in ‘The Cottages’ where we are building four different floor plans, three of which are ranches and the fourth is a 1½-story plan. They range in size from 1,465 to 2,300 square feet and in price from $274,000 to the mid $300,000s. Landscaping and snow removal is provided for these homes.”

Residents of Newport Cove have the right to lease or purchase boat slips at the marina which allows them to access the entire Chain ‘O Lakes with its plethora of water-related recreational opportunities. They also may enjoy an 8-acre waterfront park complete with outdoor cooking facilities, a gazebo, Frisbee golf, softball facilities and more. Green belts of community open space also meander throughout the community, making every individual lot feel larger than it actually is, Tauke said. There is even a community garden.

“Ours is a very green, natural community and while we have flood plain, none of the homes are located in it. That is reserved for community open space and features lots of native grasses,” she explained.

“We have people living here who range from toddlers to 87, but the most common age seems to be young empty-nesters who move here because they want their adult children to visit and that strategy seems to be working for them because I see lots of the adult children here boating, tubing, water skiing and fishing every weekend,” Tauke revealed.

About 40 lots remain, with a selection in each of the neighborhoods, she said.

“I think the thing that sets New American Homes apart from the competition is the fact that even with our standard plan homes, we are willing to make custom changes like moving a wall or re-purposing a room. And our standard quality is high. For instance, all of our doors are 8 feet high; we use lots of maintenance-free products on our exteriors; and I incorporate universal design in all my homes with wider doorways and hallways to accommodate everyone,” Tauke explained.

“My sister is an architect and a professor at the State University of New York (SUNY) in Buffalo and her specialty is universal design. During the recession, she and I took one of our standard plans and reworked it using universal design. In 2012 that design won the National Home Builders Association’s ‘Best of Fifty Plus Home Designs’ award,” she said.

“I don’t want to build commodity housing. The truth is that I am willing to sacrifice profit for aesthetics because I want to be able to drive through my communities in 20 years and have them still look really good,” she stated.

Tauke began her professional life as a journalist, transferring her efforts to Chicago area homebuilding (the avocation of her Iowa parents) in the early 1980s. She incorporated New American Homes Inc. in the early 1990s.

“I like lots of variety in my work and don’t want to be stuck behind a desk every day. I like the fact that, as a builder, I am concentrating on design one day, marketing the next and financing on another day. No two days are the same and I also like the creativity involved in home building,” she explained.

Tauke said that she attributes her survival of the recession to a great piece of property, a great investor and a great bank.

“It also helps that I have been working seven days a week since 2008,” she continued. “But it was absolutely heartbreaking when I had to let two-thirds of my staff go and had to watch many of my longtime subcontractors go out of business. I don’t think that many people realize what a tragedy that recession was for our business. I am very active in the Home Builders Association of Greater Chicago. Before the recession we had over 2,500 members. Now our membership is down to just under 200.”

“In addition, the average age of a construction worker today is over 50 and that just wasn’t true back in 2006 and 2007. Only the guys who were running the crews and had the most seniority stayed in the business and most of them are back to actively practicing their trade instead of supervising others,” Tauke added.

She has also been unable to ignore the huge change which has taken place in financing since the recession. Tauke said that the average buyer is much more cautious, for obvious reasons, so it is taking much longer to put together sales. Buyers won’t start building a house until their current home sells, for instance, and usually have to arrange for temporary housing while their new home is built.

In addition, so many people’s credit was harmed by foreclosures, short sales, late mortgage payments and even bankruptcies and they have to wait seven years before they are once again eligible for a mortgage. Many of those people are still renting and, consequently, are out of the housing market.

Even those who are buying have changed their requirements. They are taking less square footage and fewer extravagant amenities, but they are insisting on higher quality construction and finishes and more open floor plans in exchange for those sacrifices.

Once Tauke completes Newport Cove, she said she would like to concentrate on smaller infill projects and is willing to look in the city of Chicago, the closer-in suburbs and the Chain ‘O Lakes area that she has come to know so well.

New American Homes, Inc. can be reached at (847) 726-2727 or by visiting

Copyright Daily Herald.


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.

Copyright Daily Herald.



What makes someone decide to move, to buy a new home? The residents of Newport Cove have one answer: Water. Newport Cove, with its lakefront location, planned community and coastal style architecture, makes residents feel they are living the good life 12 months a year. “We like living in Newport Cove, said Pat Vogler who, with her husband Don, built a waterfront home there, moving in just over a year ago. “It is always enjoyable looking at the water. It changes morning to night and with each season. Newport Cove is a great place to entertain friends and family. We feel we are on a permanent vacation.”

The 42-acre community overlooks Bluff Lake, one of the deepest lakes on the Chain ‘O’ Lakes. The single-family-home development features custom-built homes and offers its residents a private 130-plus-slip marina complete with water and electricity, a private eight-acre waterfront park, and paths meandering throughout the community and bordering its 1,800 feet of shoreline. Anchoring the waterfront park is a large pavilion with outdoor kitchen and restroom facilities. Forty percent of the community is open space, much of it landscaped with native plants and wildflowers.

““Newport Cove is unique in that we have new beautifully constructed homes in a lakeside community setting”,” said Joe Rippel. He, his wife Toni and their two college-aged children moved into their new home last year. “After a hard day of work, there is nothing more refreshing than a walk down to the lake, or an evening fishing on the pier and enjoying the beautiful sunsets. It’s better than going on vacation since you live where you can enjoy your life every day of the year.

Zoned for 67 single-family residences, the community offers three distinct “neighborhoods, each appealing to a different customer demographic. Award-winning custom builder New American Homes is building residences priced from the $300,000s to more than $1 million. ““Although we have a wide range of prices, we find that all of our customers have the same goal: To live where they play”,” said Susanne Tauke, president of New American Homes. “”Family time is important to most of our buyers. Almost every one of them has told me they want to live in a place their children and extended families can enjoy.””

The first neighborhood, the Cottages at Newport Cove, includes a cluster of 31 maintenance-free homes designed for the empty-nester or weekend homebuyer. Ranging in size from 1,500 to more than 2,400 square feet (plus full basements), the Cottages have low-maintenance exteriors of fiber cement siding and stone, first-floor master suites, large open living spaces with designer kitchens, two to four bedrooms and tech centers.

Amenities such as hardwood floors, extra-tall interior doors, extra-tall Pella windows, extra-wide trim, stainless steel appliances and solid-surface countertops are standard. All four Cottage models come with two-car garages; in the larger models, the garage also has room for a golf cart. The Cottages are priced from $335,000.

On the waterfront is a neighborhood of 21 large home sites designed for custom, build-to suit homes, all accommodating walkout lower levels. Prices for the waterfront lots start at $375,000. Buyers can bring in their own builder, or have New American Homes build the home for them. New American’s waterfront home and lot packages start in the high $700,000s.

Finally, a neighborhood of 15 estate home sites is located just off the water. Again, the buyers can design their custom home and have it built by an approved builder, or use New American Homes. Prices for the estate home sites start at $120,000; New American’s house/lot packages start in the $400,000s.

While most of the houses on the Chain depend upon individual septic systems, Newport Cove has its own state-of-the-art community sewer system, ensuring a clean “green” environment for its residents. Water comes from individual wells.

““Newport Cove is planned to ensure a pleasant, attractive environment for years to come”,”said Tauke. “Strict architectural guidelines govern the building of each home. For example, all trim must be white and all roofs the same color. The developer’s architectural review committee must approve all plans. And, strict covenants ensure that residents can enjoy a serene, peaceful lifestyle.

““We are fortunate to have a high site several feet above flood level with a rolling topography. Extensive landscaping, much of it featuring native plants and highlighted by white fencing and stonewalls, enhances the waterfront look”,” Tauke added.

New American Homes, through its primary lender Home State Bank of Crystal Lake, is offering below-market 30-year financing or a program where the developer will pay several months of the first year’s mortgage.

“”We find a pent-up demand for new homes”,” said Tauke, “”but in today’s environment customers are afraid to make the purchase until they have sold their existing house. These programs help fill in the gap.””

The Fox River’s Chain O’ Lakes is the second largest inland water-oriented recreational asset in northeast Illinois (number one is Lake Michigan) and ranks second in popularity in the entire United States. It includes more than 7,100 acres of water with 15 lakes, 40 miles of river and 450 miles of shoreline. Boaters can easily travel from lake to lake via a system of canals.

In recent years, land and home values on the Chain have rapidly escalated as the area has attracted boaters and water sports lovers who desired a destination close to Chicago. Numerous rustic cottages on the Chain have been replaced by large, modern homes. Another reason for the increase in property values is the massive strides the federal and state government has made in improving the water quality of the Chain’s rivers and lakes.

Newport Cove’s sales center is open noon to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday or by appointment.

To visit from Interstate 94 and Lake Cook Road, proceed north on I-94 approximately 23 miles to Route 172,west (left) about eight miles to Route 59, south (left) about two miles to Grass Lake Road, west (right) about one mile to Bluff Lake Road,
north (right) to the sales center.

To visit from Rand Road (Route 12) and Lake Cook Road, proceed north on Route 12 approximately 18miles to Route 59,north (right) about six miles to Grass Lake
Road, west (left) about one mile to Bluff Lake Road, north (right) to the sales center.