Pocket Patio Transformation: Small Backyard Inspiration in Oak Park

Designing a small backyard can present unique challenges. However, the beauty, functionality, and sustainability of any small outdoor space can be maximized through creative and thoughtful use of plants and materials.

Gayle Riedmann, a resident of Oak Park, Illinois and a Nathan Wright Landscape Design client since 2016, transformed her compact yard from an uninviting and under-utilized space into a vibrant and inviting “pocket patio” to which she loves coming home.

Maybe you are looking to enhance your small outdoor space? Or, maybe you value sustainable landscape design? We hope this story provides you the inspiration to take the next steps toward creating an outdoor space perfectly suited to your needs and lifestyle.

Before and after of Gayle Riedmann’s pocket patio in Oak Park. Gayle recently shared, “When I come home, I am brought complete joy walking through the back patio, seeing the pavers, the brick, and the stone used. It is such a delightful little space.”

Design Priorities
Creating the outdoor space you want begins with you and clarity on what matters the most to you and your family.

During our design intake process, we learned that one of Gayle’s primary goals was to incorporate sustainable and eco-friendly solutions into the creation of a ‘pocket patio’ where she could enjoy nature and the benefits of outdoor living.

Gayle was particularly interested in using permeable pavers, rainwater harvesting systems, and other design elements to collect, direct, and use natural rainfall to water the landscape.

She vividly remembers wishing for a yard full of “the birds, the bees, and the butterflies”.

In a nod to local history and her family heritage of work in the block and brick industry, Gayle also wanted to reuse old street bricks she uncovered in the yard as pavers for the patio.

Most outdoor spaces have at least a few ‘problem areas’. Two such areas presented unique design challenges for Gayle’s project: a decommissioned pit latrine and an unsightly cable box.

With clarity on Gayle’s priorities, we set out to design a pocket patio that incorporated the recovered brick and low maintenance plants that would serve as a haven for wildlife. This design would also address the decommissioned latrine and cable box, and a short list of questions and opportunities Gayle raised during design initial meetings.

Creative Collaboration
When Gayle was looking for a landscape design firm in Chicago, it was important that she work with one that was locally owned and aligned with her values and aesthetics.

Following a conversation with Nathan, she was pleased to discover that he shared her enthusiasm for sustainable landscaping practices and naturalistic design, and that he encouraged a high level of collaboration throughout the design process.

Through a schedule of regular conversations, Nathan and Gayle discussed ideas like covering the pit latrine with plexiglass to capture the history, where to find matching Purington bricks, and what to do with an old sidewalk Gayle had been considering for removal.

Gayle appreciated Nathan’s support of her determination to build a sustainable pocket patio and that the entire Nathan Wright Landscape Design team was “always really responsive and always listening.”

This level of conversation and collaboration during the design process is critical to creating the outdoor space of YOUR dreams and not your designer’s dreams.

Design Decisions
The pocket patio transformation was everything for which Gayle had hoped.

Permeable paver patio complete… It’s planting day!

Matching bricks were sourced from the ReUse Depot, a company that salvages valuable artifacts from demolished homes. The bricks were installed with the molded name facing up, a design choice that added a streetscape vibe and meaningful touch to the space. Ultimately, the paver design and patio installation provided a permeable surface that not only looked beautiful but also contributed to the sustainability of the space.

Rainwater HOGs were installed to capture rainwater, strategically positioned prairie grasses successfully hid the cable box, and other plantings were selected to add a variety of color and interest while attracting birds, bees, and butterflies.

After flirting with the idea of adding a plexiglass cover, Gayle opted to have the decommissioned pit latrine filled and leveled and a decorative bowl planter installed to add seasonal color. Larger natural stone was added and arranged at varying heights to create visual interest and functional seating.

Nathan helped Gayle choose furniture that complemented the space – creating a comfortable and inviting place to relax. The addition of flowering trees that bloom in the spring and transition to vibrant red in the fall added a dynamic element to the space, providing for year-round interest.

Containers are the perfect way to add seasonal color to any space.

Paradise Found
In a recent update conversation with Gayle, she said, “When I come home, I am brought complete joy walking through the back patio, seeing the pavers, the brick, and the stone used. It is such a delightful little space.”

Gayle’s journey in transforming her small backyard is a testament to the power of Nathan Wright Landscape Design’s unique collaborative, personalized, and thoughtful design process.

One of our greatest honors is bringing a client’s vision to life. We thank Gayle for allowing us to share her story.

If you are in the Chicago area and are looking for full service, client-centered landscape design, landscape installation, and landscape maintenance services, we’d love to help create your outdoor oasis this year. Contact us to schedule a complimentary Introduction Call.

Planting complete and ready to enjoy!