When you’ve got a state-of-the art living area steps from the house, you never have to travel far to get the most out of summer.
Despite this year’s heat wave, summer is still too short for most folks in the Midwest. And, to make the most of the season, more and more homeowners are giving their backyards a second look—and a simple patio is a thing of the past. Today, our outdoor spaces can be as highly functional and well appointed as any room inside the house. And, with expert input, you, too, can make a space that gives fun in the sun a whole new meaning.
One Hinsdale family, spoiled by their years living in Northern California—where so much entertaining is done alfresco—were determined to make the most of their typical suburban property. But, before they could even think about passing the crudités, they had to address a waterlogged lawn. Happily, in turning to Wingren Landscape, they not only scored a firm that could give them the look they were after, but one that had no trouble solving their drainage issue. Wingren professionals excavated a channel along one side on the house and inserted a series of crates that act as retention reservoirs linked to the drainage system. Overlaid with gravel and pavers, and framed with a tall gateway, this area now forms a formal yet welcoming entrance to the reborn backyard.
With that problem solved, owner Jeff Wingren and his team began to assess the client’s needs. “The first thing we ask is, ‘How do you use the space now and how in a perfect world would you like to use it? Do you enjoy cooking outside? Do you entertain? If you entertain, is it for a crowd or just for immediate family?’” Jeff explains.
These residents had no doubt about what they were looking for. “We wanted to create a casual living space, a dining space, and an outdoor kitchen.” Taking a cue from the home’s construction, Wingren Landscape Architect Jay Zumbahlen used limestone as his primary material to fashion a multilevel space anchored by a fully equipped kitchen and graced with a cedar pergola. With attention to traffic flow, he ran a pathway next to the house so that people can come and go without always walking through the main bodies of the space.
Timber-clad planters help define the lounge area with its comfy upholstered seating and eye-catching fire feature. In addition to strategically placed task lighting in the kitchen, the smartly orchestrated ambient light enlivens the entire area at night. With a dining table that seats eight and room for six at stools around the granite-topped kitchen counter, the layout offers plenty of seating come mealtime. “We just had a big fund-raiser out here,” relates the homeowner, “and someone compared it to a hotel lobby, where you can go up to the bar, grab a drink, then sit by the fire and talk, or head to the table for dinner. It’s a fabulous entertaining space.”