This project was intended to convert a tiny, dated and shapeless “back yard” in Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood into a sleek, efficient and modern garden space for our Interior Decorator client and her young family. The design pushes functionality for the space, incorporating modern elements and treatments to achieve the client’s goal, and provides a refreshing counterpoint to the prevailing Old Town design ethos.

The extremely modest nature of the space – measuring 18’ wide by 25’ deep – proved tricky from a construction standpoint. Crews were small. Tiny amounts of materials and tools were staged on site. And the densely urban nature of the street, scarce parking and a single entry point to the garden proved additionally challenging.

The design team approached this project by addressing the client’s request for functional space that was clean and minimal. An existing concrete stairwell that was parallel to the house was back-filled and replaced with an extended stairwell perpendicular to the house for ease of access. The stairway leading up to the new deck, also perpendicular to the house, allowed the garden to reclaim its presence in this narrow space by focusing on its basic function of entry and exit. The space was elongated by using strong linear lines, reinforced by deep brown tones expressed in the stained cedar fencing. The patio space contrasts the character of the vertical surface by using a clean white Turkish marble that brightens the space and allows for a feeling of simplicity with an elegant touch. The sound of water allows for a hint of white noise to drown out the city’s everlasting presence.

The design team complemented the space with a basalt water basin, wire antique urns and a clean, contemporary dining table by LCC Itali, with chairs and stools by Emu. The lighting plan incorporates uplights and down-lighting effects for nighttime ambience and enjoyment. All plantings are micro-irrigated.

The net result is a clean and simple modernist garden perfect for its limited space.