For my very first blog post I want to focus on the outside. A brutal, cold Chicago winter is finally coming to an end and I can feel all of us itching to get outside and count down the days until we can do some Spring gardening. So here are some tips for you to start brainstorming as we patiently wait a couple more weeks until the risk of frost is behind us!
Though our patio season is short, I love how Chicagoans make the most of it. Whether it be running by the lake, enjoy friends in a beer garden or my personal favorite- sitting in your own little oasis in this great City. I am fortunate to get to work with my Clients on their outdoor spaces, and help them create a unique design to call their own. Whether it’s a sprawling yard, a tiny balcony or a private urban terrace; the three L’s are what I rely on: layout, lighting and landscaping. Execute each one of these and you will have a little piece of the outdoors that will help you get through winter by dreaming of summer nights. Here are some tips for each one of these important elements!
This is the most important in my opinion. You can do so much with numerous options to achieve a look whether it be modern and dynamic or whimsical and romantic. Think about using wax coated LED candles on a timer, so at the same time every night they automatically turn on. Or a string of bistro lights wrapped around the railing or strung overhead like a sparkling canopy. One of my favorite design details is landscape lighting. Uplighting a tree or step lights mounted in the side of the planter all create striking and ambient light. Pile lanterns on the floor in the corners to distribute light around the space and even consider an overhead chandelier!
I like to create as many separate spaces as possible. This, to me, always makes a space feel larger. On my 400 sf rectangular shaped terrace I have dining on one side then a sectional on the other side tucked into a corner. When I relax over there I feel like it’s a completely difference space with its own style than the dining area. Different groupings of furniture make little vignettes, and you will be surprised how much you use every piece at different times. When entertaining it makes for a fun party as it encourages numerous conversations rather than one focal area to gather.
You don’t need a green thumb or a yard to achieve a lush landscaped outdoor space. Here are a few tricks I have. Think vertical! Create an area for some green vines to climb by using a lattice or screen and use tall planters to create separation in your space (note layout section above!) and always have varying height in your plants in the same pot; tall accents with draping vines and mid height flowers. I also like to come up with a floral concept first and strictly stick with it. A favorite of mine is black and white (black petunias, white diamond frost and dark sweet potato vine) or bright green, hot pink and yellow blossoms with textural succulents. Always take into consideration the amount of sun when selecting your plants and don’t be afraid to use trees even if you don’t have a yard, there are great varieties that do really well on patios. This goes for a garden too. I love to do container gardens in the odd spaces of the deck that would otherwise go unused. Place varying heights of pots and planters and grow your own lettuce, blueberries, herbs, peppers and even lemons!