By Joan Steele

The great American landscape architect, Daniel Kiley, frequently referenced “appropriateness” and “poetry of space” when referencing the landscape in the context of its surroundings.

This Chicago ranch, built in the 40’s, adheres to those basic principles of his design process in relating the landscape back to the home, the client and the extended landscape.  Nestled in the Peterson Park area of the city, the home has a distinct Asian influence to the architecture in the simplicity of its lines.

To develop a plan they could implement in phases, homeowners Jennifer Ju and Brian Gary hired award-winning landscape designer John Algozzini of K&D Landscape in Joliet.

Algozzini noted that client directives were few, other than to hope for a landscape that complemented the lines of the home, developed a spirit of liveliness with an emphasis on color and……”no trees”!

Yet, there was one additional requirement:  That the landscape and brick patio would be open for the kids to play during the week and also function with flair for occasional entertaining on weekends.

Ultimately, they were asking for two different landscapes in the same place.

“Normally I view landscape design as an open-ended problem with multiple solutions”, Algozzini commented.  “But in this instance there appeared to be many questionable solutions and the right one(s) were escaping me.

And then the simple answer hit me.  Since they were asking for two different landscapes then the design response would be to develop two completely different ideas that could work in the same space.  They just wouldn’t be featured at the same moment in time.”

Primary Design Solution

Phase one of the landscape design was planned and implemented as a garden space that could stand on its own,  yet meld with phases two and three, whether they were installed one, two or five years later.

The primary solution involved developing a central clay brick patio and building everything around it.   Traditional clay brick was selected to better blend with the age of the home and the neighborhood setting.

A large cedar pergola nicely obscures the blank garage wall.  Under most circumstances a small wicker loveseat is tucked under the pergola to complete the design thought.   A small wooden bench, painted cranberry to match the house trim also adorns the perimeter of the patio.   Those are the only day-to-day furniture pieces.

Fencing was designed to create a small enclave that privatizes the space effectively without making it claustrophobic.   The fence, also constructed of cedar, has open panels that intentionally mirror the window mullions on the home.

A cedar trellis with Clematis along the walk to the back door obscures another blank wall and is the primary view from the kitchen table.  It features the same offset design pattern as the back of the pergola.

Landscape beds are on the patio perimeter and relatively small, but are packed with color.  Over twenty containers with assorted rotations are changed out twice each year to assist with color diversity and liven up the space.  Those containers work in harmony with a wide assortment of Hydrangea, Clematis, Viburnum, Hosta and Sedum to create a frenzy of urban color.

Small, bluestone accents are dovetailed into the clay brick and the back step into the home is also constructed of bluestone.   Homeowner Brian Gary said, “It is such a small detail, but details like these are what help pull the whole thing together for me.”

Kevin Manning, owner at K&D, provided lighting design to enhance the landscape and extend the useable hours the homeowners can enjoy the space.   Most of the lighting is either accent up-lighting on the fence posts, pergola and trellis but there is also downlighting from the pergola and a smattering of path lights.  Manning noted, “Good lighting design works from all angles to warm the space, but lighting should not be ‘Vegas-like’ in a residential setting.”

Implementation of construction was not difficult, but all urban settings provide limited work space and require good planning and good logistics to move the process effectively along.   Algozzini noted that outside of city traffic, the process was about as smooth as possible based on expert planning by site superintendent, Mario Ruiz.  He also offered that great clients make the process infinitely more productive as well!!

Encompassing less than nine hundred square feet, phase one of the landscaping is open, lively and complements the lines of the home.  It has a central patio, and a planting that provides some wow moments with color and texture in both the beds and the containers.  There are no trees except for the existing Magnolia so the sun keeps the space bright and cheery as the client wanted.

This is the landscape the homeowner lives with most of the time.

Secondary Design Solution—The Sequel

While the primary landscape works ninety percent of the time to meet the family needs, there was also the homeowner request for ‘more flair when entertaining’.

This is what led to a second solution that uses the identical space, but adorns it quite differently.    Algozzini selected assorted site amenities to fill the space, but the additional items are stored either in the garage or a locked storage shed that is tucked out of the way.  In less than forty five minutes the homeowners can transform the patio into a social space that still coalesces with its surroundings yet meets the needs of the moment.

Olive jars, painted to match the window trim sit along a half-moon slate table that hugs the house wall.   A café table is tucked into one corner of the patio and the balance of the wicker furniture is assembled as a complete grouping.

The pergola, normally home to the solitary loveseat becomes a convenient grilling station in the short term.  Even a few extra pieces of pottery are added and the existing containers are relocated as necessary to complete the design thought.   Orange cushions, red olive jars and the purple café table make bold, eclectic statements on the patio while the planting works in concert on the perimeter.    The landscape and design changes are why the designer references this project as ‘Urban Frenzy’.

Homeowner Jennifer Ju beams, “All our expectations were exceeded in terms of design, construction and follow-through.   It is difficult to let go, but the best thing we did was to surrender the process to John and his team.  The landscape embodies what we had hoped for and then some.”

Phase two of the plan is scheduled for 2014 installation and will include a small greenhouse for organic production of vegetables.   Both homeowners are fitness conscious and Brian is a heavily credentialed professional trainer so the greenhouse is a natural fit for their lifestyles.  Although not originally part of the plan, the design is being modified to include the greenhouse as an integrated feature.

Design solutions are myriad but the most important thing according to Algozzini is that the design components meet the needs of function before meeting the needs of creativity.  Dan Kiley would like the rhythm of this project.  It is appropriate.  It has poetry of space.