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A Rock `N’ Roll House With A Programmed Mind Of Its Own

August 06, 1995 | By Kathy Kaplan, a free-lance writer. (Click here for original article from the Chicago Tribune.)
Mitchell Gerson has his own version of the great escape. It’s a 4,400-square-foot house that virtually runs itself.
After a long day in the high-pressure world of real estate development, Gerson finds comfort in his home, which is equipped with state-of-the-art custom home automation.
Freed from many of the rituals of household management, Gerson has plenty of time to devote to music and literature, his true passions. A guitarist, he calls his high-tech, award-winning abode his “rock ‘n’ roll” house: “It’s all about music-alive and full of energy,” much like the punk and rock music he favors.
“What I wanted to create was an open, unrestrained atmosphere,” Gerson says, referring to his home’s unusual doorless, unenclosed layout-his own design. With only one interior door, a “port-a-john” door on the downstairs bathroom, and just two rooms on each of the three floors, the free-flowing interior is meant to be experienced.
And what an experience. To fully enjoy the home without feeling overpowered, Gerson installed a customized home management system and multimedia room designed and engineered by ISR Inc., a commercial and residential electronic integration firm based in Naperville.
He can choose from any of five environmental modes-”home,” “away,” “wake up,” “nighttime” or “guest”-and let his home run on its own to coordinate with his lifestyle. Programmed heating, lighting intensity and a whole-house audio/video distribution system tie certain activities to specific styles of music in every room throughout the day.
When Gerson leaves for the day and opts for the “away” mode, the temperature of each room systematically changes to conserve energy, the security system is activated, the music is turned off and the lights adjust. A simple phone call at the end of the day readies the house for his return home.
Gerson likes coming home to “nighttime” mode. “Things get soft, lights are low and the downstairs is warm.”
But the house is at its best in “guest” mode, says Gerson. “Different music is going all over the place, lights are fairly high and the heat is down,” he says. “In ‘guest’ mode all hell breaks loose. It’s almost like a theme-park atmosphere.”
Given the dynamics of the house, visitors expect to be overwhelmed. They are not. For moderation, Gerson chose a two-tone color scheme of Segovia red and dark gold he describes as “soothing.” Curved walls and soft lighting add a subdued quality to the home.
Abundant windows, courtyards and decks are strategically placed so that Gerson has plenty of light, but never looks out at his neighbor’s home.
Building such an exclusive home within the restrictions of a 25-foot-by-125-foot city lot was the greatest challenge, claims Gerson. “Everyone thinks you need a double or triple lot to achieve space,” he says. “I wanted to show there’s enough room on a single lot to accomplish the same things without building a dark, vertical tower.”
“I wanted to feel as though I could be anywhere in the world-not necessarily in the middle of Chicago-hence the three European-style courtyards,” he explains. (Two courtyards are off the first floor; the third is off the third floor.)
With all this, there is an unexpected quality about the house, too. “Its classic, understated exterior suggests a small, quaint home,” he says. It is anything but that. Once inside, “it explodes on you and beckons you to walk around, to touch, listen and look at everything.”