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The Winnetka Home With a LiveWall
By Eric Braun, Chalet

The Winnetka Home With a LiveWall

One of the gathering spaces of this residential project in Winnetka, Illinois, includes a simple and elegant built-in stone and glass firepit and seating area. The surrounding plantings are accented with uplights to create an intimate nighttime setting for a small group. Beyond the gathering space lies open lawn space for the client's four-legged friends.

If form follows function in architecture, landscape form and function can effectively follow architecture.

Integrating a property's interior and exterior ultimately extends and enhances the living experience for homeowners, as they seek total beauty and comfort in their surroundings.

Such integration was the goal of the landscape team at Chalet as they completely overhauled the landscape for one of their clients in the northern suburbs of Chicago, who had renovated their home in a California-style, minimalist manner. The landscape team at Chalet, a 101-year-old business and brand that also incudes a growing farm, nursery and retail center, worked with the homeowners to create and execute a vision for their property that included areas for entertaining, quiet reflection and recreation.

"Ultimately, the goal of the landscaping was to take a cue from and complement the home's sleek, contemporary style," explains Eric Braun, director of design for Chalet. "This is a unique home and it called for a unique landscape redesign."

One of the first challenges was transforming the area from a veritable mishmash of landscape elements, with a heavily wooded front area and stark plantings around other parts of the house, along with a crumbling patio and a dated pool.

The Winnetka Home With a LiveWall

The Winnetka Home With a LiveWall

The prominent wall panel as you entered the property was a high-visibility space but lacked welcoming visual appeal so a LiveWall® was installed. The redesigned wall panel and front entrance now feature welcoming plantings including a birch grove, evergreens and subtle splashes of perennial color that guide you around the turn to the front entrance. The wall features seasonal plants that are replaced throughout the year.

Chalet's team of landscape designers and professionals added new plantings and a host of features, including stone hardscapes and water features, in the same vein as the simple lines and modern architecture of the house. The subtle, neutral color palette, evident in the outdoor furnishings, wood decks and bridges, array of natural stones and rocks and in plantings spanning evergreens to hydrangeas, underscores the mindful simplicity of the surroundings.

The water features at the front and rear entrances to the home set the stage for a soothing, welcoming and laid-back contemporary style. The water features correlate with the house's linear design and also provide a place for respite and mediation.

Connectivity in a linear space was provided by natural stone walkways, which soften any potentially hard or angular visuals and link together access points to the home and multiple gathering areas. Also lending visual lushness and texture to those walkways are pockets of plantings embedded between steps.

Chalet designers tackled another high-priority item on the owners' wish list: spaces for entertaining. An elegant and eye-pleasing built-in fire pit is one gathering area. A separate seating area off the back of the home is often used for al fresco dining and casual get-togethers.

The Winnetka Home With a LiveWall

A stone stepper walkway, accented by steppable perennials, connects the two backyard gathering spaces as well as the custom backyard water feature (right-side of photo). In the front of the house, accenting the garage wall, is a LiveWall installation featuring various plants that are replaced seasonally.

The Winnetka Home With a LiveWall

This custom water feature, surrounded by green plantings and placed at the front entrance, creates a calm, serene welcoming to the home. The trickling sound of water flows into the home as well as through the front landscape. The backyard water feature lies along the same axis as the front yard one seen here.

The landscape reflects form and function in other ways, namely in the homeowners' fondness for their three dogs. A broad lawn provides ample space for running and retrieving, in the case of some of the dogs. It was important to the owners to have areas of their backyard that are friendly and conducive to their pets as part of the family living experience.

When it came to plantings, Chalet's landscape team selected a palette in keeping with the owners' interest in styles and colors (including pops of vivid pink and purple) that evoke some of the favorite places they came across in their travels in SoCal and Spain. While the northern climate won't support plants found in those warm-weather locations, Chalet's team selected trees, grasses, shrubs and a mix of perennials and annuals that are hardy, highly textural, verdant and in keeping with the owners' interest in adding greenery in nooks, crannies and in spaces near the home structure. A live wall at the front of the house was another way to incorporate European and West Coast design while also accommodating the seasonality of the Midwest locale.

From a functional perspective, Chalet's team addressed drainage issues and irrigation needs in the outdoor space. Also fusing form and function is the outdoor lighting, which guides the family and their guests around the area at night and imbues soft, inviting character into the space. The landscape lighting helps bridge the home's exterior and interior, which is filled with intimate lighting in front of the expansive windows and glass doors.

"It might be inspired by California, but this property is intriguing throughout the four seasons here," says Braun, citing the diverse colors and textures of fall, the starkly beautiful ice and snow effects in the winter and the distinct and welcome emergence of the green palette in the spring.

As seen in LASN magazine, November 2018.

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February 17, 2020, 1:32 pm PDT

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