Inspired Outdoor Living
Turning backyards into stylish retreats for family fun and entertaining
Landscape Architect Mike Kehl of Bruss Landscaping in Wheaton and Anchor Spa & Pool in Huntley
Photo courtesy of Bruss Landscaping
Visiting a resort locale with all its exotic beauty can make us yearn to bring those experiences back home. For some, vacation destinations offer inspiration for making the most of their own outdoor spaces. For others, it can be memories of favorite places in their pasts, or the style and design of their homes that help shape their dream backyards. On the following pages, three area homeowners share how local landscape firms, whose projects have won top awards, turned their dreams of stylish outdoor living and entertaining into a reality.
MAKING A SPLASH
When they moved to their Wheaton home three years ago, Rebecca and Greg Denman immediately envisioned a pool in their backyard. “My wife and I are pool people,” says Greg. “We love pools.”
They wanted a pool design with a larger shallow end and a depth range of only three to five-and-a-half feet to accommodate their growing family, so a diving board was out. They also had in mind a herringbone paver pattern for the pool deck, which they had admired at The Gwen Hotel in Chicago. Above all, they wanted a backyard that would be welcoming to friends and family for years to come.
To pull all the elements together, the Denmans hired Bruss Landscaping in Wheaton. The result is a project that won the Best Outdoor Living Space Award for 2018 from Unilock, a leading manufacturer of pavers and other landscape materials.
According to Mike Kehl, landscape architect with Bruss, the first step in any large project is to draw up a master plan for the landscape to ensure that all the elements will work together in the proper proportions. In this case, an aging patio had to go to make room for a larger patio with a dining area and outdoor kitchen under a pergola, a fire pit with plentiful seating, and the pool and spillover spa. Kehl worked with the pool design/build firm chosen by the homeowners, Anchor Spa and Pool of Huntley, to blend the pool with the overall design.
For the hardscape, Unilock materials were selected for their natural stone look and a paver texture that provides a safe surface for swimmers’ wet feet, which were then arranged to define each space by a black border. Kehl describes the garden as low maintenance with “a lot of evergreens for all-year-round interest with flowers a little bit more at a distance,” in keeping with the Denmans’ desire to keep bees away from the dinner table.
Four-season containers add interest as focal points. The outdoor lighting installed gives the yard nighttime charm, with lights along the paths and steps, post lights on the pergola, and tree lighting. A heater on the pergola adds weeks to its comfortable use, and a sound system and outdoor TV make the entertainment area complete.
Shortly after the project was completed last summer, Rebecca gave birth to their second child. The first — just two and half years old — is “an absolute fish,” her father says. “She loves the water.”
Since then, they have hosted family and friends for cookouts and swims, roasting marshmallows over the wood-burning fire pit, and watching Bears games. “We entertained like crazy last year.”
MAKING A DESIGN STATEMENT
Landscape Designer: Lindsay Buchalski of Hinsdale Nurseries in Willowbrook
Nothing says Midwest home like a farmhouse, and nothing says high-style contemporary like the “modern farmhouse” in Hinsdale, bought by Deb Hauck and Reed Murphy as their second home about a year ago.
The prior homeowners had the custom home designed and built in 2017 to their own specifications, informed by their experience with their interior design business. They wanted the landscape to complement the bold lines of the home and hired Hinsdale Nurseries of Willowbrook to make it happen.
Landscape construction, which was underway while finishing touches were made to the house, was completed in June 2017. Although the original homeowners have since moved to the city, the new owners appreciate the unique design sensibility.
The landscape design mirrors the home’s sleek look and bold architecture.
“The peak of the roof line inspired the diamond-shaped pattern” of the planting areas, says Mike DiCristina, landscape division manager for Hinsdale Nurseries, who served as the project manager. “The 45-degree angles are unusual,” he says,
but reflect current trends. “More people lean toward that design aesthetic,with straight, clean lines and a very simple plant palette.”
Working within the confines of a tight lot and a detached garage was a challenge, but landscape designer Lindsay Buchalski was able to make everything fit within the stringent village guidelines for surface area coverage.
The outdoor living spaces in the back include an expansive patio with a retractable awning for comfort, a copper fire feature, and a spot for the grill. To provide screening from neighboring homes without taking up too much space, columnar hornbeams were selected, complemented by boxwoods and white roses for low maintenance and high impact. The project won an award from the Illinois Landscape Contractors Association in 2018.
Hauck and Murphy bought the home to be closer to his work and their children and grandchildren. “We like everything about the home,” says Hauck. “I said, ‘Let’s get something we can call home, and I fell in love with it.’”
They recently ordered new outdoor furniture from the Knoll 1966 line to add to the contemporary look. “We will be entertaining,” says Hauck, adding that even when the weather doesn’t cooperate with outdoor activities, “It’s just delightful
to look at, very pleasing to the eye, and very soothing to look out from our family room.”
RECLAIMING THE BACKYARD
Kings Landscaping in Lemont
Like many in-town homes, the Huttons’ compact backyard in Hinsdale had a small patio, a little grass and was little used. An awkwardly placed bay window and a small door to the back yard “screamed for French doors,” says Joanne Hutton. “We were redoing the main floor kitchen area and great room, and I thought, ‘Let’s just take it out.’”
With a wider exit in place and indoor construction complete, the landscape makeover began the following week, which involved the removal of the lawn and patio. The Huttons hired King’s Landscaping of Lemont to execute and build the design that they had developed with another firm.
Joanne’s upbringing in England informed her design choices, such as the slate appearance and the shape of the fireplace, which anchors one end of the yard and gets used from spring through fall. On the other end, a pizza oven and outdoor kitchen make entertaining a breeze.
“We had a party last year where we invited a winery from Napa and hosted 30 people,” she says. “We do a lot of pizza parties.” She explains that two of their four children adhere to a gluten free diet, so her husband Mark makes the special pizza dough and sauce from scratch. He and the children also plant a small garden plot behind the fireplace to provide fresh vegetables and herbs for the pizzas. The new landscape, she adds, “is probably the best thing we’ve ever done.”
For extra stability, the patio with its pergola is mortared to a concrete pad, explains Megan Weiss, landscape architect for King’s Landscaping, who oversaw the project, which was a Unilock award finalist in 2016. The Unilock pavers have a
bluestone look and bluestone caps grace the pergola supports. The plantings were designed to be low maintenance, with screening provided by mature trees and the addition of aspen trees. “The use of boxwoods defines the formal living space with pockets of opportunity to put in shade-loving annuals in summer,” Weiss says.
“We get a lot of use out of it, even if it’s just Mark and me with a glass of wine at the end of the day by the fireplace,” Joanne adds. “There’s nothing better.”Edit Module