Think Big, Think Bold

How Transforming Your Outdoor Space Can Change The Way You Live Outdoors

There’s something all of us have in common (if we’re here reading this): we love the outdoors. Maybe we don’t love the heat or the cold or the bugs, but we love the feeling of being outdoors. We love seeing the sun as it sets on the treetops. We love hearing laughter, shared among friends, escaping into the night sky. We love the smell of a bonfire and the sweet taste of a perfectly toasted marshmallow. We all have different reasons for loving the outdoors, but, regardless of the particular circumstances, nearly all of us are looking to satisfy a few very similar desires when we step outside. In fact, I would wager that we are hard-wired to seek two objectives when we venture out: we’re looking for comfort and we’re looking for connection. Considering nearly every place we inhabit outdoors is designed in some (if not every) way, how exactly we manage to satisfy each of these desires is exactly where landscape design enters the picture. By thinking boldly and creatively about our outdoor spaces, we can manage not just to reshape the spaces we inhabit but to reshape the experiences themselves. Let’s take a closer look at these goals we’re all seeking and see how landscape design can serve to create not just the views we want to see but the experiences we long for.

I don’t know about you, but I like to be comfortable. When it comes to outdoor spaces in Chicago, comfort often relates to temperature. Most of us are landscape Goldilocks: we don’t want spaces to be too hot or too cold. When designing to manage temperature in your outdoor space, it’s important to consider when you plan on using the space. Do you plan on working from your rooftop deck on a summer afternoon? You’re going to need shade. Shade can come from a tree, from a pergola, even from vertical screening (in the afternoons and evenings). If you’re hoping to use your space early or late in the season, that same pergola (providing shade in summer) can house screens for blocking blustery winds or serve as a structure for mounting heaters to provide extra warmth. Thinking about when you use your space informs the design of the space and can ensure it works to keep you comfortable in all seasons. And, ultimately, if you’re comfortable in your outdoor spaces, you’re more likely to use them regularly as extensions of your indoor home. So don’t forget about comfort; your guests will thank you.

There’s one additional goal many of us are looking to achieve when we venture outside. We are often, even when we don’t realize it, looking for connection. More specifically, we’re looking to disconnect from our lives spent on screens and sitting at desks to find a reconnection to our friends and families and to nature. Space and time for friends seems like an easy fix (see paragraph on comfort above- see also a bottle of wine, good cheese, and some gluten free crackers), but finding ways to connect with nature is more nuanced. As someone who has lived in the city for quite some time now, I know how hard nature can be to come by. Nature can feel like some far-off place that we need to spend days driving to find. But, by making careful choices when we design, we can bring nature to us. Sure, we can’t often recreate the wild nature we might be dreaming about, but we can always find small moments to bring nature to us. A tree. A flower. A meal for a pollinator. A home for a songbird. Small moments are every bit as natural as the grand moments, and, here’s the thing: we can find ways to build those small moments into any space. Even if all you have is a balcony, you can welcome in a little nature. The ramifications for our health and wellbeing are huge. We need these connections as much as we need to feel comforted. And, the amazing thing about landscape design is that we get to play with how nature enters our space. We can find flowers that brighten our days and leaves that fill us with the joy of childhood. By opening our spaces to nature and carefully considering how we want to interact with it in our built spaces, we can consciously choose the world we want to inhabit. A world of lush beauty. A world of simple refinement. We are here to help you choose how you want to connect to the natural world that sits right outside your door.

This is what thinking boldly about landscape design is all about. After decades of experience designing and building landscapes, we’ve learned that thinking boldly about how a space is designed can yield tremendous results. Not only does it produce beautiful spaces, but, just as importantly, it produces functional spaces. Spaces that function for you. Spaces that function for the world around you. We aren’t masters of our domain, but we are masters of our craft and our craft is finding ways to keep you happy and outside as much as possible.