Project Type: Patio
Location: Elmhurst, IL
Services: Hardscape Construction, Landscape Design, Landscape Lighting, Water in the Garden
During an initial site consultation I start off by asking the homeowners what exactly they are looking for. Then, instead of trying to write down everything they say verbatim, I like to sit back and listen to them describe their ideal space. I have found that if I really listen and pay attention, the homeowners actually tell me a lot more about their desires than they realize. Yes, it is important to hear what they are saying, but if I pay attention to how they say it, I can find out such things like: what their styles are and what aspect of the project is most important to them. After they finish telling me about what they want, I ask questions to fill any holes or misunderstandings that I may have about their description. Then it is important to inspect the yard to look for any hurdles, and start discussing some initial ideas to make sure I am on the right track.
In one instance, I was meeting with a couple in Elmhurst who were interested in replacing their deck with a new patio. These clients had a list of wants to go along with a list of stipulations. Some of their requests were: to have adequate seating for large gatherings, a pergola with a trellis for screening and growing hops, a fire place or fire pit and the patio to be at ground level. Some of the stipulations were: they did not want to take up too much lawn, did not want to block the lawn, and needed to figure out where they should install a new backup power generator so that it could be disguised from the patio. In addition to the patio, the homeowners also wanted to address an unsightly neighboring garage and an area along the side of the house where no grass would grow.
While listening to the homeowners talk about what they wanted in their patio, I was able to come up with a couple of ideas that they did not directly talk about, just by hearing how they explained everything else and by looking at how the inside of their house was decorated. I had a sense that they would like to use a natural material, but one with a contemporary look. Thus, I suggested using bluestone for the floor of the patio and a light colored, contrasting wall material for the vertical aspects. I could also tell that the couple would prefer a patio with more of a curvilinear look to it, but I knew that in order to maximize space, it should be more linear. So, I suggested using a combination of both. The homeowners loved both ideas, and they weren’t items they had previously thought about but realized to be important decisions.
In regards to supplying the couple with the wants and needs they discussed, it just took some thought. In order to have adequate seating for large gatherings, I suggested the use of seat walls in addition to enough space for a large dining table and another sitting area. Seat walls are a great way to add ample seating without having to make the patio even larger, thus leaving more of the lawn open for their children to play in. The seat walls were also located on the side of the patio, in order to keep the ground level patio open to the lawn. We accomplished having the patio at ground level by constructing some steps directly out of the back door. These steps mimicked the shape of the patio, in order to keep everything cohesive.
The addition of a pergola with a trellis on one side provided the homeowners with three of their wants. It provided shade, screening, and a structure to grow hops on, as they are home brewers. However, the addition of the pergola became a significant challenge to being able to fit in a fire feature. Due to city codes, in order to get the fire feature the correct distance from the pergola, it would have taken up too much of the lawn. Thus the homeowners decided the pergola was more important than the fire feature. So, I suggested to them that we build a custom water feature that they could sit candles on. Being able to build this within the original shape of the patio, they loved this idea.
Finally, I was able to address their other request with the use of landscaping. I was able to incorporate the generator into a planting bed and surrounded it with decorative grasses that will disguise it as they mature. A positive to using grasses as a screen is if the generator ever needs maintenance, the grasses can be cut down to make way and will grow back. Additionally, I used arborvitae to screen the garage next door. They will grow tall enough to screen the garage, but will not get so wide that they will take up too much of the lawn where their children play. In regards to the side with no grass, I planted it with shade tolerant plants and installed some bluestone steppers. The steppers helped to tie it in with the patio and keep everything cohesive.
The design process becomes so much easier if you just LISTEN and PAY ATTENTION!