We love this view of The Box House:
This view, not so much:
Isn't that bizarre? It totally looks like one of those fake Old West buildings from a John Wayne movie. Looks real enough straight on, but peek behind and you realize it's just a fake front.
That's because the roof of The Box House is not flat; we're not as entirely box-shaped as I've led you all to believe.
Traditionally, Chicago winters see a lot of snow. That's a lot of weight to be sitting on a flat roof. So the early designer sloped the roof toward a gutter on one side so the water would drain off. And it works very well. But it ain't pretty. I imagine the intent of the parapet was to block the view of the sloping roof, giving a clean, straight line to the front of the building.
I took these pictures last fall during our inspection. Note that the holes in the membrane were fixed by the P.O. prior to close; I look forward to seeing how they held up over the winter.
That's a pretty big slope, isn't it? If you're far enough along the roof, you could be standing up there and folks on the sidewalk would probably not notice you:
That's Ted (in profile) with our inspector. We've used this guy on two properties so far, three if you count when our condo association hired him for an envelope inspection, and he freakin' rocks. If you're in the Chicago area and need a recommendation, drop me a line and I'll get you his contact information.
So, back to our Wild West facade:
The gray siding encloses a set of porches that lead down to the basement. (The only way to get to the basement is via the porch access; each level has an interior door.) The porches are original to the building, but I'm not sure exactly when they might have been enclosed. They are unheated, so I suspect we'll only use them part of the year unless we get them insulated. The siding is made of vinyl.
We'd like to make this side of the house prettier. During the summer, the trees in the parkway will be flush with leaves and block the view, but for three quarters of the year this weird facade will be visible. It will be even more visible when we take that fir tree out; as much as I hate removing a tree that big, it is growing about a foot away from the foundation. The P.O. already warned us about roots coming into the sewer system that need to be removed every year. (Don't fret, we'll be planting several more trees in the yard, just not so close to the house.)
Do you think growing ivy on it would help soften and hide the vinyl? I like the ivy growing on the neighbor's house, which is visible in the photo with the inspector. But I'm not sure if ivy can adhere well to vinyl. Does anyone have experience with it?
I'm not sure what our other there options are for improving this view. Any suggestions?