Former Butcher Shop Gets Modern Corten Addition


The renovation and modern Corten addition to a circa 1905 former butcher shop in Ukrainian Village is complete!

The existing two-story masonry building was an outlier on the street of mostly single and multi-family buildings. Clearly a former shopkeeper building with a retail space on the ground floor and a residential apartment situated above; this is just the building type we enjoy working with – an odd building that needed a second life. During our research, we discovered that the ground floor was most likely a butcher shop complete with a Bromann Brothers cooler which had been preserved. The cooler is a free element that acts as a divider for our clients shop space, separating the work area from the rest of the living space. The main program centered around adding a master suite to the second floor of the existing floor plan consisting of two bedrooms and one bathroom. The solution was to form a cantilevered, modern Corten (aka weathering steel) addition at the rear of the structure with a double height bedroom, bathroom and a private deck.

From left: Corten wrapped cube addition and masonry exterior; detail of modern Corten addition rainscreen.

Reading / TV nook in master suite

View to master deck

Double height master bedroom

Grilling on a spring evening in the yard. New rear patio doors and windows protected by master bedroom addition overhang. 

All finish photos by Carmen Troesser.

Building Massing for Shade and Rainwater

The form of the addition was driven by the orientation of the building on the site. The existing rear porch and stair was removed and then we formed the addition to shade the windows and collect rainwater.

Building massing in three easy steps

We wanted to add a balcony off of the master suite, so we created a recess in the modern Corten addition cube to provide shade during the summer months and allowing the sun in to passively heat the space during winter. The clerestory windows located on the north side of the building provides even light throughout the year. The roof of the cube pitches back to the north to facilitate water collection on the main roof, where it drains into a collection area for use in the garden.

Modern Corten Addition Siding

A favorite siding material at moss, Corten cladding was applied to the addition as a rain screen. Meaning the water and vapor barrier (we used VaproShield for this project) is applied directly to the exterior wall board. Furring strips were attached to the exterior face so the Corten could be attached to the strips. This system allows for the water that seeps behind the Corten siding to have a drainage plane to get out from behind the wall, instead of inside the building. Aside from the beautiful aesthetics of Corten, which we have written about here, the material naturally forms a protective layer of rust that blends nicely over time with the Chicago Common brick on the rest of the building, highlighting the natural warm hues.

Steam Shower and Other Design Details

In-shower steamers have evolved over the past several years, to the extent where we are comfortable using them without concerns about moisture intrusion in the shower. The steamer has three basic parts 1) The generator that can be installed remotely from the shower itself which creates the steam; 2) The linear steam head where the steam enters the shower and; 3) The control panel that regulates the temperature and timer. Several details about the shower also have to change to ensure the moisture is controlled. First, the ceiling of the shower has to be tiled over Durock (cement board) and the shower glass needs to extend from floor-to-ceiling to create a tight enclosure. For this project, we used the Mr. Steam residential system. In the master bath, we installed a modified herringbone pattern subway tile with a dark grout.

From left: Master vanity with West Elm pendant and Ergon Stone Project black floor tile; Kohler brushed gold shower set and steam shower. 

From left: Custom blue stained wood vanity, Richelieu pulls with brushed gold Kohler faucets, quartz counter; Kohler brushed gold tub spout and cross handles.

From left: Found blue waiting room bench, white oak floor and handrail along staircase; reclaimed wood doors and transom to bedrooms. 

The former building had two separate apartment units and the stair was enclosed with a unit entry door at the top of the second floor landing. In the converted single family home, we were able to open the stair to allow natural light in and we redesigned the hallway and guardrail. The new custom designed guardrail is made from blackened steel angles and white oak rails.


Photos of existing conditions at the rear of the building and interior stair, along with captures from photoshoot day.

Clockwise from top right: Cellulose insulation blown into walls at master bedroom clerestory; master suite demolition; existing crusty rear porch and stair; existing interior stair 

Clockwise from top right: Carmen on the neighbor’s garage roof to get the perfect shot; some deer; Carmen now on the property’s garage roof. 

The Corner Store

There was a time in Chicago, and most cities, when a corner general/grocery store like an A&P could be found on just about every corner. Back in the day, the project building served the neighborhood as a general store and social gathering spot. According to an eyewitness in the neighborhood, they claimed to have frequented the store to buy meat and other sundries. The antique, mirror covered cooler wall (pictured below) is still in place on the ground floor level of the building. It was protected over the years and still exists today in it’s original form and adds to the character of the space.

Possibly, but probably not, a photo of the butcher shop that was in the building. The cooler is the same though. Photo courtesy of Chuckman’s Chicago.

The restored cooler wall dividing the workshop from the main living space on the first floor.