“Shhh… Artists at Work,” gently suggests a hand painted entry sign to Ragdale. Located near downtown Lake Forest, Illinois, this magical place serves as a peaceful artist retreat.
Once the summer home of Chicago based Arts & Crafts architect, Howard Van Doren Shaw (1869-1926), Ragdale now offers 2 – 8 week residency programs for over 200 artists a year. In 1897 Shaw designed and built Ragdale for his extended family. For three generations, creativity was essential to Shaw family life. Today through the stewardship of The Ragdale Foundation, the creative tradition endures.
In 2005 one of the two remaining original buildings, the Barnhouse, underwent significant renovation with the addition of an accessible studio. The Barnhouse is composed of an 1830s farmhouse, and Shaw’s 1897 barn and wagon shed. In the 1930s Shaw’s youngest daughter and her architect husband joined the buildings and turned the assemblage into a single structure for their family home. Currently the Barnhouse contains the Ragdale Foundation’s offices, a living room, a dining room, a large kitchen, artists’ sleeping quarters, studios and a conference room.
David Woodhouse, Founder of Woodhouse Architects served as architect for this award-winning project. “David is a master of renovation, that still looks fresh… and he [has] a great philosophy about not making an accessible studio look like a hospital room,” praised Susan Tillett, Executive Director of Ragdale. David retained the integrity of the Barnhouse while giving new life to the space.
David’s respect and creativity are exemplified in the transformation of the wagon shed into a conference room. Copies of original blueprints, proved helpful in planning the challenging renovation of this “pole” building. Without dismantling the exterior or removing any siding, a foundation was added where none existed before. “The original roof was supported by cedar poles buried 2 to 3 feet in the ground. So the existing roof was shored up from the inside and a new foundation was excavated and poured from the outside,” recalls Jack Danch, Director of Properties.
Winter Park Pendants were specified to provide a fresher modern take on Arts & Crafts style. The pendants’ more industrial feel works perfectly with the exposed trusses. The Aged Verdigris Patina Finish plays off the outdoor bronze sculpture, copper weather vanes and the original historic copper lantern at the main entry. “We have received many compliments on the award-winning project, but the most by far are for the lights in the Barnhouse Conference Room. They have the perfect mix of materials and functionality,” Susan told us.
Chosen for their authentic Arts & Crafts style, Bungalow Lanterns light the exterior of the Barnhouse and also provide path lighting throughout the grounds. “We had done a national search for appropriate fixtures and found the best by far at Brass Light Gallery…they were very flexible in helping us customize some lantern styles to reflect Shaw’s own lantern more closely.” recalled Susan.
Lighting was integral in creating an intimate, non-pretentious environment in which artists could flourish. Brass Light Gallery was proud to provide lighting for this project. “I believe Brass Light Gallery was a good fit for Ragdale…” remarked Steve Kaniewski, Brass Light Gallery’s President and Founder. “We have been hand crafting high quality light fixtures in the Arts & Crafts style for over thirty-five years. The project aligned with our core values and sensibilities.”
The next big project at Ragdale is the restoration of Howard Van Doren Shaw’s 1897 home. This fine example of Shaw’s early work in the English Arts & Crafts style (shown below) is a national historic treasure worthy of preservation. Learn more about Ragdale.
Hayes, Alice and Susan Moon. Ragdale: A History and Guide, 1990, Open Books, Berkeley California and the Ragdale Foundation, Lake Forest IL