Every field of endeavor, whether it’s engineering, cell technology or even landscaping, has a set of current trends.   While our pace of evolution might not be as swift, landscape design styles and landscape element change as well whether it’s a backyard in Chicago, Naperville or Frankfort.

What’s hot right now in the residential landscape?   Fire features, pergolas and separation of social spaces are the landscape trends in the Chicago market.   

Fire Features

Fire features are still the most requested item I hear from homeowners when I do a consultation.   Gas fire tables, gas fire pits, natural wood-burning fire pits and fireplaces are integrated into at least a third of back yards I design.   

Maybe it’s reconnecting with our primordial instincts but I feel that gathering around the fire is driven by the desire for family time that is truly ‘together time’.  Roasting marshmallows or sitting around the fire with hot chocolate on a crisp October evening doesn’t require a cell phone or iPad to make the time pass.   

In many ways fire features have replaced the old Philco radio and fireside chats from the 1930’s.    Real conversations happen and so fire in the landscape still remains hot (forgive the corny pun).


Also trending heavily in backyard landscape design are wood structures, mostly pergolas.   Pergolas meet our need to define our space with a sense of security and they perform that function nicely.   Installing large trees for shade may not be realistic based on space or may not provide the immediate shade desired.  If the beams, joists and rafters are woven tightly enough, pergolas are ‘instant shade’.   

Pergolas are still mostly a custom built item and cedar is the preferred material of choice by most designers and architects.   While a bit more expensive than treated wood, cedar structures look better and last longer.

Separation of Space

And finally, design that provides separation of space has become a homeowner request that is trending upward.   What exactly does that mean?  Oversized patios that are built as multi-use tools are out.   

Individual patios for dining, relaxing, or sitting around a fire are definitely in.   Those individual spaces may be connected by walkways or stepping stones, but individual outdoor rooms that are can easily be identified make much more sense.   

It relates back to the inside of your home. If you had one big space on the first floor and you could see from the kitchen into the living room and beyond into a library it might work, but would certainly be an odd visual.  That’s why individual outdoor rooms have become increasingly popular.