The ability to find joy in the midst of great loss is a character trait that is not just hard to grasp, but one to be admired. The inspiration behind this project, located in the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago, was to honor the memory of a wife who was taken from this world too soon, and to create a space that she would have loved, nurtured and spent time in as a lover of the outdoors.
Upon the first meeting, the client had a clear vision of what he wanted the space to convey: new life, infinite love, the number 8 and plants that were valued by his late wife. Together, from a rough sketch, we developed a concept that made the space intimate, functional, unique and full of life.
An established Quaking Aspen tree, planted by the client in memory of his wife, was at the heart of the design. We chose this to be the center of the top of the number 8 that was created by cutting patterned bluestone, which blended into the main patio space. The desire for water, conveying life, and lush plantings surrounding the patio were essential to give the small space a feeling of enclosure and to take away the stark feeling that could be created by a backyard comprised of over 70% hard surface. His dog was also a main element of consideration in designing the 18 x 25-foot living space. We decided to use a permeable gravel walkway that would provide access to the west side of the house and serve as a dog run.
The client wanted to maintain views outside of the yard, but also have a feeling of semi-privacy. Vertical elements comprised of 4 x 8-foot lattice panels provided a baffle to the neighboring properties to the west and the south. Combined with a new 4-foot fence, this gave the right balance of privacy, enclosure for the dog and a neighborly approach to keep areas open for fence line conversation on smaller city parcels.
We used a variety of materials on the design to accentuate color, texture and functionality. Clay pavers in cream and brown tones were used to pick up the color of the house. This was combined with Bluestone selected in the early conceptual stages which picked up some of the brown tones and Unilock Sierra segmental wall units, which reflected the bluestone colors and provided integrated seating on the perimeter of the patio. Combined with the patio set, these seatwalls accommodate a good sized group of friends and provide separate conversation areas. Finally, red flint gravel was used on the dog path and Mexican beach pebbles were used in the water feature, both selected for their smooth texture and stark contrast in color.
An urban oasis, reflecting a love of outdoor gardening, was now complete for this client, friends and family to enjoy and to honor the memory of his eternal soul mate for years to come.