I’ll bet I’m not the only one who is looking forward to spring and
spending more time outside in our own backyards! As the days get warmer and longer, we will all be celebrating that magical time of year: spring in Chicago. Is your backyard ready? Do you need some fresh inspiration? To get you started, I have gathered some gorgeous photos of a project I recently completed for some wonderful Chicago-area clients. Check them out, and then contact me if you want to get started on a backyard update for 2023! The Big Picture
My clients — doting grandparents with three young grandchildren — recently commissioned me to redo their upscale suburban Chicago backyard, transforming it into a resort-like setting with an exclusive vibe that is still comfortable and kid-friendly. We kicked off design work in April and wrapped up installation by September. And the result? A backyard that enhances the lives, health and well-being of my clients. They spend more time outdoors relaxing, socializing, swimming and making memories. They especially wanted their backyard to appeal to their grandchildren as they grew into teens and young adults. Items on their wish list included:
An “outdoor theater” that would allow them to enjoy movie moments with the grandkids
Improved functionality for their pool house/kitchen
Lots of seating at the kitchen bar
A “wow” factor
Multiple comfortable and inviting seating areas
Design elements that can extend the season from early spring to late fall
Decor that felt as luxurious as their home’s interior
I knew that the pool house/kitchen was going to be a focal point of the backyard, so it was extra important that we got all of the details right! In addition to choosing all of the outdoor furnishings, the clients asked me to review and revise blueprints for their new combination pool house/kitchen with an eye toward enhancing its functionality.
ou can just imagine the snuggles and together time the clients and their grandchildren enjoy on this luxurious sectional couch! The outdoor rug helps define the space, and the umbrella keeps the area from getting too hot on days when the sun is really shining. Thoughtfully-placed tables mean there’s plenty of room to set down a juice box or a favorite book without waking up a napping little one
The clients wanted multiple seating areas for different activities — lounging and relaxing, having a conversation, playing a game, or having a snack. Here’s an example of two types of seating areas I created — each provides its own functionality with a style that complements the rest of the space. The Details
Let’s take a closer look at some of the specific elements that make this backyard space work so well — and so beautifully!
Summer Classic provided these fireside lounge chairs that flank the Trevi 42” fire pit. The Ashland Teak Lounge chairs in Oyster Teak are as comfortable as any chair inside the client’s house — not to mention the fact that they’re highly sustainable, as teak grows without artificial fertilizers or heavy irrigation, making it an eco-friendly choice. These thickly cushioned chairs encourage the clients to linger near the fire on chilly nights. And the clients won’t have to discard and replace these chairs anytime soon; teak furniture is built to last!
I opted to use these 30” Athena bar stools in black walnut for the pool house/kitchen area. These weather-resistant wicker chairs feature an all-aluminum frame, making them light but durable — and “green”, as aluminum is an endlessly recyclable metal!
When thinking about seating, I knew we needed products that could stand up to sun, chlorine, and even an occasional melting popsicle! These poolside chairs (and the accent pillows) are crafted from an attractive yet practical, high-performance outdoor fabric. Lighting
Over the bar, I featured pendant globe lights from Palacek — their sockets are enclosed in glass globes, making them suitable for outdoor use. The chandelier over the dining table is from CAI Lighting (Lite Art) and is a powder-coated metal frame covered with hand-woven, all-weather slate brown rope.
Lighting inside the bathing and changing area of the pool house is just as important as lighting elsewhere — and when it came to the vanity lighting in the pool house powder room, I didn’t want to cut any corners. This three-light fixture is part of the Bridlewood Bath Bar collection by Minka-Lavery. I used a similar four-light fixture in another area of the bathroom.
The 65” Imari LED Fan from Ferguson Enterprises — satin black with weathered white walnut blades — complements the other lighting in the kitchen area without competing. Not only does it help provide better lighting for food prep tasks, but the ceiling fan keeps the air moving, helping ensure things don’t get too toasty while the clients make dinner. Cooking
It’s essential to have plenty of space to work and play in an outdoor kitchen, so having ample countertop space was vital. I revised the kitchen blueprints, making the bar L-shaped instead of a pass-through, which created a conversation-friendly space. The outdoor kitchen’s prep counter was also fabricated and installed by Tithof Tile & Marble. I chose quartz in beach medium gray with a polished finish to ensure beauty, durability, and easy cleanup.
It was important to create an outdoor kitchen that was elegant and functional. I commissioned my tile gurus Tithof Tile & Marble to supply, fabricate, and install the feature wall above the grill, the counters below the feature wall, and the L-shaped bar top. They used Dekton Trilium and porcelain and included cutouts for the hood vent and TV hookup to ease their installation.
The cabinets in this outdoor kitchen provide the clients with ample storage space for everything they need to enjoy a day outside with their grandchildren — without needing to head back into the house for more snacks and supplies. The kitchen and bar cabinets are from NatureKast in the color weathered dockside. I procured the kitchen cabinet pulls from Build.com. Dining
I wanted something extra-special for the dining room table for this area, so I had a custom dining table created by Wood Statements. They provided the custom teak base, which uses three individual pieces of sustainable teak to create a beautiful, environmentally-friendly piece. A 54” gray quartz top from Tithof completes the look.
With young grandchildren around, we needed chairs that would be sturdy enough for little ones to easily climb into without toppling over. Summer Classic was my source for these Haley teak side chairs in natural teak.
As anyone with children (or grandchildren) knows, not all of your family’s dining happens in the actual dining room! With that in mind, I needed to give the clients plenty of options for enjoying a bite or a beverage regardless of where they are in their backyard. The poolside coffee table and set of stacking tables — which both feature UV- and heat-resistant travertine — are from Summer Classic. Special Touches
I’ve been in some pool houses that look elegant on the outside but quickly lose their oompf when you walk in the door. Wanting the “utilitarian” area of this pool house/ bathroom to have the same wow factor as the outside, I opted to use the same cabinets I used in the outdoor kitchen, switching up the brushed nickel hardware for a flat black. Additionally, I revised the pool house blueprints to establish three private areas instead of two — with a shower/sink, powder room, and changing area, multiple people can use the space but still have privacy.
How can you tell you’re an interior designer? You get irrationally excited about umbrellas! 😉 Tucci provided this Ocean Master Max 10’ square cantilever umbrella. I chose a Sunbrella charcoal grey for the top canopy fabric, then used customer-provided fabric for the bottom canopy to create a one-of-a-kind piece. The base is in a teak finish, complementing other pieces throughout the space. The umbrella provides necessary sun protection while helping extend the amount of time the clients can stay outdoors.
Just because you’re outside doesn’t mean you should miss the big game — or your grandchildren should have to miss their favorite Disney classic! I had this big-screen television installed above the sink/bar area opposite the cabana, where it can be used and enjoyed without being the entire focal point of the backyard space.
Ready to get your backyard space in tip-top shape for spring? Get in touch !