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High Style

A carefully chosen palette of plants and materials plus top-notch amenities create the ultimate backyard experience for a Lincoln Park family—with a better view.

“The rooftop is great during the day, but better at night when the city sparkles,” says architect Kevin Toukoumidis. An extra-deep built-in sofa and fire pit make for a cozy spot to enjoy the skyline after sunset.

Great location, fair price, classic design—any one of those is a good reason to buy your dream home. But for Matt and Lisa Rome, the catalyst for the purchase of two penthouse condos in Lincoln Park was the raw space above waiting to be interpreted to fit their needs.

“I felt if we hired the right design firm, we could create a rooftop that was the backyard equivalent of living in a single-family home where the kids could play outside,” says Lisa, a physician who, along with her husband, Matt, and their two young children, enjoys unobstructed views of the lake and city most of the year.
Enter dSPACE Studio, the architecture and design firm that created a 3,400-square-foot oasis for the family to entertain, relax, play and even work.

“We created different zones that make you feel like you’ve gone to a new room in your house,” says Kevin Toukoumidis, architect and dSPACE founder who worked on the project with dSPACE’s Matt Saurman and Kate Callan.

On one end, a fire pit with built-in seating and custom cushions beckons for cocktails and conversation, while the other end seduces with a modern kitchen complete with custom cabinets that store utensils and dishes, white Corian countertops, stainless steel appliances, a grill and a dining area. A steel pergola with cedar louvers shields the sun. “Just like in a house, everything has a place, and every inch is utilized,” Toukoumidis says.

A graceful steel pergola provides shade over the eating area and beautifully frames the view.

Multiple decks offer lounge seating—some extra-deep—and a children’s rubberized playground hosts trampolines, a golf net, inflatable swimming pools, an outdoor shower and the possibility of a basketball court later on.

“We created lots of intimate spaces on the roof,” says Toukoumidis, “but you can also have parties of 100.” Occasionally, Matt, who works in finance, treats it as his personal office, aided by Internet boosters.

“We used a very edited palette of materials to unite the various elevations on the roof,” says Toukoumidis. To wit, Garapa Brazilian hardwood was chosen for its durability and natural warm silver patina, along with gray oversized porcelain tile pavers from Italy.

The dSPACE team also specified all the plantings, which needed to satisfy a building requirement of 900 square feet of green roofing. They include wild oregano, salvia, allium, elegant grasses and ground-hugging sedum. Dappled willow creates a green-screen wall and hides unsightly features such as the elevator shaft, while fast-growing Heritage river birch trees create privacy. “Plants are a critical design of the roof,” explains Toukoumidis. “They help create a sense of scale and balance, and a calming environment.”

Equally important is lighting, and the design firm thoughtfully integrated layers of architectural lighting controlled by a smart system. LED linear lighting demarcates the roof’s edge, where a parapet wall stands sentry, while indirect accent lighting highlights trees and other plants.

Both the Romes and Toukoumidis agree that the new outdoor living space is great during the day yet offers a different but equally fulfilling experience at night.

“The roof transforms at night,” Lisa says. “The fire pit is romantic, and the roof deck has the perfect amount of lighting so it doesn’t look like a Las Vegas hotel. It feels like a spa retreat.”