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The Great Outdoors

We’ve uncovered the latest trends, new products, beautiful spaces and expert advice to create your own outdoor oasis. get inspired to make the most of the season, but most of all, get outside!

An integrated pool with built-in tanning decks anchors the spa area of this expansive yard. 

Space wasn’t an issue, but aesthetics and usefulness were. Enter Schmechtig Landscapes, who created an outdoor spa and entertaining space for this family home north of Chicago.
Tasked with creating the feeling of a destination vacation, the team at Schmechtig Landscapes divided this large yard into zones: the spa and pool deck with built-in tanning ledges, a fully equipped outdoor kitchen, a dining room with a retractable awning and an intimate fire pit with lounge seating. Concrete tumbled pavers, bluestone coping and Brazilian Ipe wood decking were used throughout for continuity, while a lannon stone retaining wall complements the plantings plus provides extra seating for large gatherings. Furnishings are a mix of chaise lounge chairs and side tables for daytime pool parties along with tables, chairs and umbrellas for more formal dinner parties. Regardless of the occasion, the party tends to end up at the fire pit—the perfect spot to take it all in and be transported to a different place. 20860 W. Indian Creek Road, Mundelein, 847.566.1233

What’s the most important thing about maintaining a container garden on a balcony?
“Watering is the most important and also the most overlooked. Containers need to be watered until water seeps out of the bottom of the pot and the entire root ball is soaked. Soil additives like Soil Moist can help extend the time between watering, and using a thicker-walled nonporous container like Fiberglas or wood that won’t dry out as fast as terra cotta or thin-gauge metal will help keep moisture in. Even if it has rained, the rain doesn’t always permeate the entire pot, especially with broad-leaf plants that may prevent water from dripping down into the pot.” Caroline Scheeler, creative director, Jayson Home, 1885 N. Clybourn Ave., 773.248.8180

With Gloster’s new Voyager LED lantern, the joy is in the journey. Part of the Voyager outdoor furniture collection, which was inspired by travel-ready campaign furnishings, the rechargeable, remote-controlled lantern features a light teak frame and carrying handle, creating stylish illumination wherever you need it. $620, 222 Merchandise Mart Plaza, Ste. 1572, 312.321.1093

Indoors or out, a bar cart’s ability to seamlessly switch from sideboard to cocktail station makes it an essential. Room & Board’s stylish Crescent bar cart rolls the same way, with a handcrafted powder-coated aluminum finish and modern lines, nodding to the ’60s-era trend. Made by a family-owned company in Minnesota, it’s available in a variety of finishes as well as an extra-long version, making it a convenient piece of alfresco entertaining decor. From $699, 55 E. Ohio St., 312.222.0970

New plantings and brickwork that blends with the home’s facade create a romantic escape.

The quickest and easiest way to bring the comfort of indoors out is with a rug, and the collection of weather-resistant styles from Ralph Lauren is the perfect amount of pep. Nautical-inspired stripes in rich tones of green and navy act like neutrals in an outdoor space, adding instant polish. From $300, by special order, 750 N. Michigan Ave., 312.280.1655

Aldo Cibic and Cristiano Urban designed the Riviera table for De Castelli using copper and stainless steel because of its ability to be simultaneously thin and strong. The minimal, simple design makes a striking statement in any dining area, indoors or out. Riviera table, $4,031, and chair, $1,244, Haute Living, 222 W. Kinzie St., 312.329.9000

Made from concrete, stainless steel, marine-grade rope and lava rock, Brown Jordan’s Loop fire pit will lend a chic, nautical feel to the patio on chilly evenings. Optional add-ons, including a sleek glass screen and matching drum stools, ensure the setup is as sophisticated as it is functional. From $4,796, 222 W. Merchandise Mart Plaza, 312.321.0144

James Dolenc and Thomas Riker of JamesThomas were selected to design the sunroom at the 2016 Merchandise Mart Design Center DreamHome. Here, Tom Riker’s take on decorating an outdoor space.
“Outdoor spaces in the city can be a challenge; it’s tempting to cram too much furniture into a tight area. Sometimes a variety of potted plants—both flowering and non—is the best use of space on a balcony. In general, don’t feel that you have to match your color palette from your indoor to your outdoor spaces. We suggest keeping the two palettes complementary, but have a little more fun—popping colors onto a neutral backdrop always feels fresh for outdoor living.” JamesThomas, 2401 W. Ohio St., 312.738.7300

The new outdoor shower from Restoration Hardware features a sleek black hammer-coated finish and a minimalist pipe design. Plus, since it’s frost-resistant down to minus 22 degrees, all it takes is one simple install to enjoy refreshing alfresco showers all summer long. $7,910, 1300 N. Dearborn Parkway, 312.475.9116

A sheltering daybed for two, Dedon’s Tigmi outdoor sofa from Jean-Marie Massaud conjures images of beachside bungalows courtesy of the optional woven roof’s irresistible blanket of shade. With dual cushioning and waterproof fabric, the Tigmi is as durable as it is architecturally pleasing. Deep sofa with roof from $18,870

Designed by Antonio Citterio for B&B Italia, the new Gio series of outdoor seating and tables could fit just as well in any interior. Featuring solid teak in an antiqued gray finish, the collection is easy to disassemble for winter storage and can be configured in a variety of formations for summer lounging and entertaining. Corner sofa, from $19,700, and table, from $1,530, Luminaire, 301 W. Superior St., 312.664.9582

A River North courtyard is transformed from wasted space to secret garden hideaway.
“This is an extremely shady courtyard, surrounded on all sides by brick with the only sun coming from directly above,” says Colleen Barkley, the project architect at Mariani Landscape who oversaw this challenging reno. “The homeowners wanted a visual courtyard that looked great from all views, including looking down,” explains Barkley. The existing fountain was repurposed, while new clay paver brick in a blend of colors was installed. A gravel maintenance strip along the perimeter of the space creates visual framing while providing proper drainage. To create a calming green space, Barkley and her client went with a lush plant scheme that mixed shade-loving varietals in different heights. A new wood arbor was added to balance the existing wood gate and seating that can be moved easily makes it a great spot for some quiet time, or entertaining a crowd. 300 Rockland Road, Lake Bluff, 847.234.2172

A barren rooftop in Boystown is transformed into an outdoor living space for a young family to enjoy—now and when the kids are grown.
“This roof was nothing but synthetic decking, and hotter than a firecracker,” says Adam Miller of Chicago Roof Deck + Garden, who took on the renovation of the 600-square-foot space that his clients knew would be a worthy investment. “The husband saw it as an opportunity to get a man cave-type space and knew that if there were elements for everyone, they would all spend time out there together,” says Miller. There is synthetic turf, a baby pool, a basketball hoop and room for toys; potted herbs, plants and built-in planters for the wife’s gardening; a stone fireplace with a UL-listed TV designed for the outdoors mounted above; a kitchen with an island, fridge, ice maker, kegerator and smoker; plus heaters, fans and lighting. The space was divided into a kitchen and dining zone, family room and play area. A structural pergola provides shade, and horizontal fencing solves the issue of privacy, while the spacing between the boards prevents the feeling of being caged in. Smart design that you could call an “every-man-and-woman’s cave.” 1859 N. Elston Ave., 773.857.2277

Danish designers Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen and Kasper Ronn of Norm Architects came up with the idea for the Wire Planter series for Design Within Reach after visiting a Japanese garden, where plants were arranged at different heights to create a dynamic display. Made from power-coated steel, the minimalist pieces include removable plugs for drainage, making them perfect for both indoor and outdoor use. From $75, 755 W. North Ave., 312.585.9600

Transport your backyard dinner party to Napoli with Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet’s Artisan Fire Pizza Oven. The stainless steel hearth makes the flavor of Old World pies simple to achieve with an easy-to-regulate gas-fueled flame that mimics the cooking method and heat of a wood-fire oven. Plus, with just a 45-minute preheat time, you’ll have perfect alfresco pizzas in a pinch. $6,895, 810 W. Washington Blvd., 888.229.6952

How do you prepare your rooftop space to withstand windy climates?
“A great defense from high winds are acrylic panels or tempered glass. Both provide protection without making your outdoor space feel too enclosed. It’s also nice to have a designated area for general storage for throw pillows, lanterns or other small items that can easily be blown around and possibly cause damage.” Mike Maschmeyer, lead designer, Urban Rooftops, 3120 N. Sheffield Ave., 773.857.6411

Ora Ïto’s UFO collection for Vondom embodies the designer’s simplexity credo—the art of lending visible simplicity to complex functions. The range, characterized by sculptural lines and fluid form, comprises three new pieces: a bar stool, a chair and a table crafted from recyclable polyethylene resin, making them perfect for outdoor use. Coffee table and lounge chair from $765 each, sofa from $1,530, Orange Skin, 223 W. Erie St., 312.335.1033

As the latest luminary to design for Moroso’s M’Afrique outdoor collection, designer Marc Thorpe took to the field for inspiration. Referencing corn husks with a woven metal design made in Dakar, the throne-like Husk chair by Moroso is the season’s freshest pick for outdoor seating. $1,190, Luminaire, 301 W. Superior St., 312.664.9582