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Area communities offer up homes to get you in the holiday spirit
By Sherry Giewald | Daily Herald Correspondent

The Kastenmeiers - Aileen, Dan and daughter Nadia - are opening their 1927 bungalow on Wille Street in Mount Prospect.


Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

Kurt Kresmery bought the former Ackemann's department store in downtown Elgin and repurposed it to a stunning three-story loft.


Christopher Hankins | Staff Photographer

Handmade German Christmas adornments accent the Lisznianski home at 613 Creekside Drive in Geneva.


Rick West | Staff Photographer

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Published: 11/28/2009 12:00 AM

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Holiday house walks


What: Christmas House walk, Holiday Boutique and Luncheon, sponsored by St. Joseph Women's Guild

When: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 2

Where: St. Joseph Koenig Center, 121 E. Maple Ave.

Tickets: $25 at various merchants, St. Joseph parish office or at each home the day of the event.

Details: Tour five homes, with lunch and shopping at St. Joseph Koenig Center. Shopping will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; lunch is 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and costs $8.

Call: (847) 212-1392.


What: Cup of Cheer House Walk and Holiday Market, sponsored by the Naperville Garden Club

When: Thursday and Friday, Dec. 3-4; hours are noon-4 p.m. Thursday and 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday

Details: Tour four homes (downtown, White Eagle, Pembroke Commons and Stillwater) and visit the Holiday Market (cash or checks only) at the Harold and Eva White Activities Center at Benton and Loomis, across from Pfeiffer Hall.

Tickets: $55 for limited-availability preview Thursday; $35 for Friday.

Call: (630) 983-1616 or e-mail or visit

Mount Prospect

What: 22nd Annual Holiday House Walk, sponsored by the Mount Prospect Historical Society

When: 3:30 to 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4

Where: Pick up programs at St. John Episcopal Church, 200 N. Main St.

Tickets: $20 in advance; $22 day of event

Details: Highlights first blocks of North Pine and North Wille streets. Features seven homes highlighting historical significance, renovation work and distinctive decorating. Refreshments, exhibits, raffles, cookie walk at St. John Episcopal Church. Sew-Bee-It quilters will be selling wall hangings and pillows made of tapestry fabric, Christmas potholders and other items.

Call: (847) 392-9006 or visit


What: Geneva's Christmas Walk and House Tour, sponsored by the Geneva Chamber of Commerce

When: Home tours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, Dec. 4, and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 5. The walk starts at 6 p.m. Friday with Santa Lucia arriving by horse-drawn carriage

Where: The First Congregational Church, 327 Hamilton St., Geneva

Details: Five homes in downtown Geneva; not all within walking distance of train

Tickets: $28 Thursday; $30 thereafter

Call: (630) 232-6060 or visit


What: Homes for the Holidays Tour, sponsored by North East Neighborhood Association of Elgin

When: Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 12

Registration: Elgin Professional Building, 164 Division St.

Tickets: $10 in advance; $12 day of event

Details: Five homes including two lofts, the Dawson model at River Park Place and two condos at Fountain Square. Coincides with Winter Wonderland sponsored by the Downtown Neighborhood Association of Elgin.


Oh what fun it is to look at homes all decked out for the holidays.

Get in the spirit and join the fun as several area house walks showcase homes in a variety of styles decorated for the season. Some tour homes have historical significance, while others have notable architectural features, distinctive decorating or some memorable aspect such as exquisite window treatments, unusual kitchen design or spectacular setting.

Some of the house walks include other activities such as tea or lunch, boutiques, carolers, visits from Santa Claus and even a live Nativity scene. Several coincides with the communities' holiday festivals.

Here, we feature homes on three house walks, in Mount Prospect, Geneva and Elgin. Details on other house walks can be found inside.

Mount Prospect

Mount Prospect's 22nd Annual House Walk sponsored by the Mount Prospect Historical Society highlights the historic first blocks of North Pine and North Wille streets.

Luminaries will guide visitors to the 1927 Henry and Caroline Katz Bungalow on Wille Street. Now owned by Dan and Aileen Kastenmeier, the home was a rare find for the couple that purchased the home three years ago.

"The house was exactly what we dreamed of," Dan said. "And it was perfect for our Victorian style furnishings."

The home, which features original molding, hardwood floors, fireplace and stained glass, showcases many treasured antiques including family heirlooms and items picked up at estate sales.

Dan, owner of Heavenly Pianos in Arlington Heights, restored the gorgeous Louis the 15th mahogany grand piano in the parlor. Built in 1919 by the Apollo Piano Company in DeKalb, the piano boasts its original ivory keys.

In the dining room, the Drexel dining room set and the Noritake china has been in the Dan's family for many years. "It was in my aunt's house dating back to the 1930s, and I remember it from Thanksgivings at her house in Wisconsin," Dan said.

The guest bedroom features his grandparents' old Victorian walnut bedroom set. The piano bench in the room appeared in the movie "The Road to Perdition," which was filmed in Chicago. Paul Newman and Tom Hanks sat together on it.

The huge oil painting by Filipino artist Benjamin Alano, titled "Tulung Tulung," which translates to "Helping Each Other," was first owned by Imelda Marcos, the former first lady of the Philippines, known for her extensive shoe collection.

"It's our pride and joy," Dan said. It's a rare one-of-a-kind painting - the artist's masterpiece." Alano is renowned for painting workers, particularly fishermen. The painting was sold at auction in the mid-1980s.

The showpiece basement features a 1940s-era Wurlitzer Gazelle jukebox reproduction, handmade oak bar topped with granite, pinball machine and pool table. Also, there's a 1970s Las Vegas Bally slot machine, chair made from a pew from the church in England where Shakespeare is buried and many items from estates.

Part of the original house, the 300-bottle wine cellar was used by the Katz family as a cold cellar for preserving food. They also had a wine press at one time.


Geneva's 42nd Christmas Walk and House Tour showcases five distinctive homes dressed in holiday fare by local Geneva designers.

Slawomir and Anna Lisznianski purchased their traditional home in 2005 and are the second owners. Visitors will see the talents of Anna, who is also a decorator and owner of Minta Interiors in Geneva.

This grand home is filled with classical quality furniture, beautiful contemporary artwork, Oriental rugs and elegant silk window treatments.

"My business is doing window treatments, and windows are very important to me," Anna said. "This house has beautiful windows and views, and when we looked at the home, I could see my window treatments on those windows."

Holiday decorations feature mostly white with blue and gold and a whisper of red. Three Christmas trees, several beautiful fresh flower arrangements - including winterberries and dogwood, blue hydrangeas and white tulips - will highlight the home. Fresh flowers and greens will be brought in the day before the tour.

"It is not overdone because I want people who walk through the home to see what's in the house year-round not just during the holiday season," Anna said. "Everything will work together and complement the house.

"The green, brown and pastel color palate throughout the home makes it easy to accessorize for every season."

Artwork includes a lot of architectural sketches, old European graphics and several original sketches depicting castles in Poland that provide the children a connection to their European heritage.

The showpiece great room features a floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace and magnificent windows that serve as a backdrop to the beautifully decorated Christmas tree.

A deep tray ceiling and crystal chandelier crown the master bedroom that shows Hickory Chair furniture and designer fabrics. An elegant art piece depicting the fish-shaped city of Venice hangs above the bed. Hardwood dark oak walnut-stained flooring and travertine granite gleam in the private bathroom adorned with silk roman shades.

The kitchen with dark oak flooring features maple cabinets with an almond caramel-color finish beautifully complemented with Venetian Gold granite countertops. The Henredon china cabinet adds a lot of elegance and detail. Below is a tiered breakfast deck and party patio against the backdrop of the beautiful backyard designed by Anna.

Upstairs, a bridge connects each side of the home and overlooks the two-story foyer and two-story family room. It has an airy look, and with the huge chandeliers, the home has more of a castle feel, Anna said.

Anna will have an assortment of European goodies for visitors, including traditional Polish holiday bread, all freshly baked the morning of the tour.


With a Past, Present and Future theme, Elgin's Home for the Holidays Home Tour features five private homes, including the Kurt Kresmery loft, which shows adaptive reuse of space.

In 1909, the Elgin Daily News reported on the downtown holiday scene: "the sound of sleigh bells, the feathery flakes falling intermittently - stores beautifully decorated for the holiday season." One of those stores was Ackemann's, one of two large department stores in Elgin at that time.

Eleven years ago, Kresmery purchased Ackemann's and the adjacent McBride Building, which had been acquired by Ackemanns and used as storage space until the store closed in the 1980s.

The building was originally square, but when the railroad came through, it was cut into its current triangular shape. "I looked at the pie-shaped piece of property and said, 'What the heck are we going to do with this,'" Kresmery said.

"I am a builder and developer by trade and have bought and sold many buildings in downtown and rehabbed them. I have little rat holes all over and try to figure out what to do with them. There's no recipe. It just kind of happens. It's fun."

A blend of old and new, Kresmery's three-story loft is a feast for the eyes. The rooftop deck has a great view of the city and riverfront.

In the great room, massive steel boiler doors open to an entertainment center. The boiler doors weigh 600 pounds each and are from one of the Borden condensed milk plants.

A safe door becomes a coffee table while the copper light fixtures on the third floor deck once illuminated a baseball field on Wing Street.

A lot of family photos and Elgin memorabilia, old framed receipts from Ackemann's, and old framed Elgin post cards create an intriguing wall display.

In the dining area, a whole wall is decorated with molds from the Woodruf and Edwards foundry. The coffee grinder made from one of the molds. A long rectangular table that seats 14 is topped with colorful place mats from Belize.

"I like it. I like Elgin. I like antiques," Kresmery said.

"So much has changed in downtown Elgin in the last few years with a lot of new restaurants opening, The Hemmens and rec center and the train right here."

For Christmas, there's no theme, he said. "Decorations are stuff that's been in my family for years."