For decades, Lake Geneva has been drawing Chicagoans in, luring them north with the appeal of fresh air and relaxation that is often in short supply in the city. This break from city life can be much needed, like it is for one prominent Chicago attorney and his family. Indeed, the Montgomerys rely on this balance between work in Chicago and relaxation in Lake Geneva. It keeps their lives on an even keel.
Barry and Shauna Montgomery’s anchor in Chicago is a three-bedroom condo on the 56th floor of the Trump International Hotel and Tower. From there, Barry can walk to the Willis Tower offices of Williams Montgomery & John Ltd., the commercial litigation firm he co-founded in 1967. The condo also serves as Shauna’s base of operations as mother to their two children, Knox and Meredith, and as stepmother to Brooke, who has two children herself, and Jennifer, who has five. The Trump condo also serves as the site of much of Shauna’s philanthropic work for Lurie Children’s Hospital, the Joffrey Ballet, the Garfield Park Conservatory, and Films Without Borders.
The reality of their lives, says Shauna, is Chicago, where the views from their 3,000 square foot condo are “absolutely exquisite.” With a panorama that includes the Chicago River, the Magnificent Mile, and Lake Michigan, the couple can take in the Chicago Air and Water Show, the dyeing of the Chicago River for St. Patrick’s Day, and the river’s regular kayak and boat parade.
“It’s a great place to live,” says Barry, who cites access to the hotel’s amenities, the plethora of outstanding nearby restaurants, and the unit’s privacy as the primary reasons he and Shauna love the condo. But despite the insulated nature of the condo and its magnificent city views, living in the middle of the action means needing, occasionally, to raise anchor and settle in calmer waters. “Down in the city, it’s helter-skelter all the time,” Barry explains.[metaslider id=”3383″]
For the last four decades, Lake Geneva, has been Barry’s destination of choice whenever he needs a hiatus from the city and the relentless demands of his law practice. Lucky for him, Shauna has come to love Lake Geneva as well.
“Lake Geneva is far enough, yet close enough, to the city [and it’s] a totally different world,” says Barry. “It’s a wonderful respite when you live in Chicago.”
Born in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and raised in Pittsburgh, Barry was introduced to Lake Geneva as a young lawyer while working at Jacobs & McKenna in Chicago and living in Lake Forest. His friend Jim Abbott, his frequent golf and squash partner, had grown up spending summers at his mother’s house in Lake Geneva. Barry began playing golf with Abbott at the Lake Geneva Country Club in the 1960’s, and in 1980, Barry himself became a member.
In 1992, Barry purchased Whippoorwill, a lovely home about four miles from the club, on Geneva Lake’s south shore. Within two years, he and Shauna had started their family. But as Knox and Meredith grew older, Whippoorwill’s downside became apparent. “I felt like I was running a jitney service back and forth to the club for the kids,” says Barry.
He and Shauna sold Whippoorwill in 2002, and the family began taking trips abroad to France, Italy, and Croatia. Despite the romantic allure of those places, something was lacking. “We really missed Lake Geneva,” says Shauna.
So, in 2003, Barry and Shauna purchased a 50-year-old home in the 700 Club. The main attraction was the property’s location relative to the Lake Geneva Country Club; it was a football field’s length from the front door to the clubhouse. The house, however, was in desperate need of a makeover.
The Montgomerys decided to tear down the structure and build a home that suited their tastes and their need for a large entertaining space. Working with Barry and Shauna over the course of a year, Chicago architect Chip von Weise came up with a design that Barry described as pods connected by an atrium. “It’s like a glass house,” explains Barry. “Every room in the house is like you’re living in the outdoors.”
Inspired by architect Hugh Newell Jacobson, the 5,000-square-foot home features exterior materials commonly associated with New England summer homes: white clapboard, bluestone, and cedar shakes.[metaslider id=”3388″]
The Montgomerys asked Suzanne Lovell to design the interior. “Suzanne captured our ideas on light and views,” says Shauna. “I wanted everything to be really open. Each pod is a room,” she explains. The home’s windows allow its inhabitants to see “all the seasons.”
Slide and Fold doors open the house to the outdoors and the pool area. With Geneva Lake visible from every room, Shauna did not want window treatments to intrude on the view. The master bedroom’s Philippe Stark bathtub, for example, is “right there in the woods” where cardinals and hummingbirds make their homes.
Shauna’s philosophy is that a home’s personality comes from the people in it, so she wanted, “a really clean palette” that she described as “white, white, and more white,” while blue accents represent a nod to the lake. All of the elements within the house were kept simple and natural to create, “a serene, peaceful, and calming retreat.”
“The house is a gathering place,” says Shauna. In the fall and winter, the family gathers in front of the massive bluestone fireplace to watch the Bears games. Indeed, the Montgomerys spend most of the summer and nearly every weekend together in Lake Geneva, with the Fourth of July marking the traditional weekend when everyone comes together.
Barry is proud to say that his children and grandchildren all grew up in Lake Geneva. “It’s bucolic, with a beautiful lake,” he explains, “and yet there’s so much to do there.” For Barry, however, the real advantage is being able to do as much or as little as he chooses. To him, Lake Geneva is the perfect place to rest and recharge. “I hunker down for the weekend,” Barry says. “I’m not always interested in going out for dinner. I just want to relax and go play a round of golf.”
Barry and Shauna are pleased that their Lake Geneva retreat will soon expand to accommodate the next generation of the Montgomery family, since Barry’s daughter Jennifer and her husband Sean have purchased the Lake Geneva home, with Barry retaining a part-interest. After renovation for the next generation, Barry and Shauna will have their own suite, allowing them to continue retreating to Lake Geneva, for more gatherings with the whole family.
As Shauna says, “Chicago is our reality, but “Lake Geneva is our serenity.”
By: Susan W. Murray
Photography by: Bob Coscarelli