Here in the Chicagoland, outdoor patios are a great way to increase your living space year round (Especially when you go to sell your home!) — and it brings the whole family outdoors, making your home that much better. Here are six of our favorite patio design additions to give you more excuses to enjoy your backyard. (Plus some insider landscape design tips for maximizing each addition.)

1. ARTISTIC FIRE PITS

Patio Design Outdoor Fire PlaceThe newest trend in fire pits are modern gas constructions. These are a great addition to your outdoor living space. Gas fire pits are now more popular than wood burning ones, because of the ease and low maintenance needed. Creating a focal point for those evening outdoor dinner parties, you can turn on this feature at a moment’s notice. Firepits are also a way to lengthen your patio’s use during the colder Chicago months. Unique design techniques can be used with gas fires: like using rock or glass to create a modern and clean look.

The benefits of gas over wood burning fire pits for your patio design

  1. Easy clean-up. With wood burning pits, you have to clean out the ashes after each use. Just turn off your gas as you head in for the evening. No cleanup.
  2. Longer lasting fuel. Ran out of wood? The fun is over. The evening fun doesn’t have to end just because you threw the last log on the fire.
  3. No dealing with wet wood. Depending on where you store your wood pile, snow or rain can make the wood unusable.
  4. No smoke. Wind gusts will push the fire’s smoke all around your sitting area. Switch to gas and keep your kiddos safe and your guests from coughing or dodging smoke.
  5. No water dousing to kill the fire. You have to plan ahead to get the fire to die down. With a water bucket close by, you must douse the fire many times and wait for smoke to disappear before it is safe to leave for the evening.
  6. Low maintenance. With gas, there’s no constant stoking and adding logs. Your time is better spent hosting your party and playing with your kids. With a wood burning fire, you have to constantly babysit the flame to keep it at your preferred size.


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We have built many beautiful fireplaces with masonry structures, even with kits. These kits simply require setting up blocks and pouring concrete. You can quickly add a kit fire pit to your backyard in less than a day or have a masonry fire pit created in a few weeks.

 

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2. OUTDOOR KITCHENS

Patio Design Outdoor Kitchen BBQ GrillStay connected with your guests and family by adding an outdoor kitchen to your backyard patio design. From small installments to larger setups, you can have a bar, grill, refrigerators, everything but the kitchen sink! (In fact, you can even add one of those.)

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Depending on how intricate the setup is, you can have your own outdoor kitchen build in as little as a few days. One of our clients in Barrington wanted a “man cave” but outdoors. We gave him an alcove built of beautiful stone work and made his grill the feature. With bar stools and a blue stone counter top hung over so his guests could pull up a chair as he prepared his BBQ.

 

3. SEATWALLS

Patio Design Outdoor Entertaining SeatwallsThese simple additions create sitting space for groups to mingle and sit on during parties that are away from the traditional outdoor dining table. Because outdoor dining tables come with their own seating for a select amount of people, having the seatwalls allow extra guests to join.

Seatwalls are also great for kids! Lots of families with kids request to have seatwalls added to their outdoor living space. Kids can sit on the seats with a plate and eat their dinner in between playing in the backyard, while the adults have their organized space at the official dining table.

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We get a lot of requests for seatwalls built ins. When we create some structured walls around your patio design, we can easily add stone seating all along or in select areas between pillars as accents. It helps to define different areas in the backyard. For just the bricks of your patio and seatwalls, you could use a natural stone such as a blue stone, or go with a typical concrete paver. Both are good options depending on what type of look you’d like, how you will be using the space, and your budget. Both landscaping stones hold up well to the Chicago northwest suburb winters we get. 

 

4. PERGOLAS

Patio Design Outdoor Entertaining PergolasPergolas add an aesthetic value and outdoor livability to your patio by adding shade in sunny areas. They are beautiful roof structures that hang over and allow plants and flowers to climb. With the right plants you can add fruit or blossoming flowers overhead, all season long to your outdoor living space.

You can also add a ceiling fan to your pergola for added airflow. This gives breezes and promotes air flow during hot summer months in Chicagoland.

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We recommend adding a Clematis and training it to wind up the pergola posts. Sweet Autumn is a progressive soft little white flower variation that creep pretty far along per year for faster growth than the traditional Jackman Clematis.

We are also in love with the Wisteria plan for beautiful cascading lavender flowers and the climbing grapes called Vitis Vinisera or the common grape vine. We have an Inverness client that wanted to pick grapes straight from their pergolas each summer with these! It was a great success.

Another client in Geneva requested a metal roof to his pergola so he could listen to the sound during rain storms. How romantic!

 

5. NATURAL SCREENING

Patio Design Outdoor Entertaining Border PlantsTo soften the patio and pergolas, you can also add a garden of plants and flowers to surround the structures. This helps to screen your patio so you don’t feel over exposed.

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By adding blossoming rose bush garden around the patio, you will have flowers all season long. To bust the myth that roses are hard to maintain and finicky, we have our preferred rose shrubs we love to use for fragrance and aesthetic. There are certain varieties that are ever blooming and low maintenance.

Give even more landscape screening to your property line by adding evergreen trees. We recommend adding Arborvitae due to their tall and narrow build.

 

6. KID-FRIENDLY SPACES

Using the patio for kid playtime is nicer than killing the grass with toys and play tables. Grass withers and dies when kid tables and sand boxes are left too long. With a patio design, you can customize a kid-friendly space and give them their own child-size picnic table, sandbox, water table, or toy storage area.

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Being able to hide toys, cushions, water hoses and tools in custom benches and storages is an easy way to go from everyday use to spontaneous outdoor entertaining.

 

BONUS TIP: PROTECT AGAINST SETTLING

One of the ways we protect your investment in an outdoor patio design is by simply moving the space slightly away from the house’s foundation. Over time, houses settle and create moving brick pavers and backed up water flow.

Avoid costly repairs and sunken bricks by setting your patio design out into the yard a few feet.  Have a walkway leading from the back door up to where the patio starts and create a row of bushes, flowers, and plants as you enter the space. You can also more fully appreciate the beauty of your patio when there is some lush greenery framing the space when you look out from your back window.

 

Curb Appeal Before and After

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